As foreign travel still looks uncertain for many of us this summer, U Perform have decided to do a series of blogs over the next few weeks looking at activities you can do and places you can visit in the United Kingdom to stay fit and active, and have a great summer.
Our first blog looked at hiking in the great outdoors… the health & wellness benefits and how to stay safe. We then went on to look at two sports very close to our hearts.... cycling & wild swimming. Two activities that you will probably find co-founder Prof Greg Whyte OBE doing plenty of this summer!
Our next stop in our Summer Staycation Series builds upon everything we talked about in week 1 but this time, just a little faster. That's right... we're talking RUNNING. Everything from the benefits of running, how to get started and our tips and tricks too.
This week is also another guest blog from U Perform Fitness Expert, Personal Trainer & Qigong Expert; Arron Collins-Thomas. So, a big thank you to Arron!
Let's get into it then shall we!
If you didn't already know, running is one of the most popular forms of exercise that people of all ages and abilities can and do enjoy. With summer here, there's no better time than now to get out and on your feet and explore the magnificent countryside right here in the UK.
If you are new to running or thinking about getting into it lets look at some of the benefits to further convince you its worth getting into.
Benefits of running
First of all running is free and with the option to run outside as often as you like, this makes running one of the best and safest ways to exercise safely as we slowly lift those final social distancing measures.
At a time of financial uncertainty and with many concerns over interacting with others this is extremely important. You also don't need any fancy or expensive equipment.
All you need is a pair of decent trainers and you can run straight out of your front door. It’s also extremely time efficient, even if you only have 10min you can still get an effective workout in and it can be slotted into any time of the day.
And best of all, the whole family can get involved too. I have seen parents out doing laps of the parks and sports field with their children and the whole family enjoying it. It's a great opportunity for the family to bond and build great health and wellness habits that last. What other exercise can the whole family easily do with no equipment?
Before lockdown there were 100’s of organised events for runners all over the country and for free. Every Saturday morning you could see crowds of people, families and friends out running together in a local Parkrun event. I look forward to seeing people come together again and running in these kind of events very soon.
As well as being easy on the wallet and great for the whole family there are many physical benefits of running, including:
- Strengthened muscles
- Improved joints
- Improves bone density
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Helps you manage weight
Strengthened muscles - Running is great for a full body workout but particularly the legs and this is where your body's biggest and strongest muscles are (gluteus maximus, quads, hamstrings and calves). Find a hill and it won't be long before you feel them all burn!
Running is also great for your core muscles as they work hard to stabilise your body as it rotates with each stride.
Improved Joints - As the muscles around the joints strengthen, this helps to take the pressure off the joints themselves. Aiding longevity and stability of the joint.
Improves bone density - The gentle impact of running helps to increase bone strength and density, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Improves cardiovascular fitness - A study in 1985 found "Regular runners have slower resting pulse rates and a high maximal oxygen consumption.”
Helps you manage weight - Partaking in regular exercise such as running will help you to manage your body weight as you burn calories when you exercise. Combine that with the right lifestyle and nutrition and you will lose or maintain body weight as required.
And when it comes to the benefits of running on your mental and emotional health -
Endorphins - I'm sure you have heard of the “runner high” you will be pleased to hear, it is real! When you exercise endorphins are released by the body. These feel good chemicals help to ease stress, anxiety and depression, running genuinely makes you happier!
Sleep - Taking part in regular activity has a positive effect on your sleep patterns which have a knock on effect to your mental health and general wellbeing. Better sleep improves recovery and energy levels therefore you will want to exercise more.
Brain health - The risk of dementia and stroke is lower in people who exercise regularly as brain circulation is kept healthy. For many going out for a run, alone with their thoughts is great for clearing the mind and having time alone to think. Can be a great release of built up stress from day to day life.
Performance - When partaking in regular exercise your concentration, memory and motivation improve which has a positive impact on your day to day life and the way you perform at work and socially.
So with all these positives you would be mad not to take it up!
It's all well and good us listing all the many AMAZING benefits of running but that doesn't really help you get started, does it! This next bit should...
How to get started
The most important thing is that if you are just taking up running remember to be gentle on yourself, start easy and build it slowly up over time. Going too far or too hard too soon can put excess strain on your body and cause injury which will only put you out of exercise for a while.
Following a structured plan is a great way to get started and we have one of our own.
Our 5km U to Running Challenge has been especially designed for beginner runners by co-founder Professor Greg Whyte OBE, and will help you gradually work up towards running your first 5K in just 8 weeks!
Greg’s plan involves a few runs every week, with specific rest days, and a carefully designed, progressive training schedule for each of the 8 weeks.
Don't fancy running on your own? Another option would be to find a friend who is also new to running and start your U to Running Challenge together.
You could also find out how to join your local running club too and get involved with likeminded people from your area. Within a running club there will often be lots of different groups of runners heading out on club nights so you can run with people who are of a similar ability.
Joining the beginner group with people of a similar level can be very motivating, as well as helping you to meet people who are going through the same kind of fitness journey.
And if one day you fancy a bit more of a challenge, you could try running in a group of slightly faster runners. But be careful and don't push yourself too hard, too soon!
Alright then, so we've talked about the benefits of running and how you can get started. Now it's time for our top tips for running, showcasing some of things you can do to help you get the most out of your running adventures.
Strength training - This is definitely something that it missed by nearly almost all beginner runners but strength training is hugely beneficial for runners of all abilities.
Strength training is applicable even if you are new to running and one of the biggest benefits of strength training is injury prevention.
A huge number of people have large imbalances in their body. That can be imbalances in strength from left to right, tight muscles, structural imbalances and forgotten injuries we may have been carrying for years.
Strength training can help to rectify these imbalances and effectively the stronger you get the more resilient your body becomes. Using strength training to balance your body, improve core strength and the stability of joints will have a measurable impact on how often you get injured and how quickly you can recover from injuries if they do happen.
Focus on strengthening the hips and glutes which in turn helps to reduce the risk of injury in the hip, knee and ankles.
The right shoes - Running is a relatively cheap form of exercise to get into and you really don’t need any equipment except trainers, but I do suggest you invest in a good pair and for good reason too.
So many people have come to me with injuries from running and a large proportion of those injuries can be related back to having trainers that are not suitable for the job.
One client of mine had the same pair of trainers for 16 years and wondered why her feet hurt when she ran in them.
Your feet do an enormous amount of work when you run and importantly have your whole body-weight go through them, so it is important to look after them first and foremost.
If your feet are landing incorrectly, the ankle rolls or the arches are collapsed, it can cause further problems up the chain and lead to knee, hip, back and shoulder issues and ultimately stop you from running altogether.
So what trainers should you buy? There are a huge number of running trainers available to suit all foot types and running styles so it's worth going to a specialist and getting your feet tested and measured so you can get the correct trainers for you.
Some of you will need more arch support, some may need more cushioning in the midsole and you won't know what you need until you get that expert advice.
It can be very easy to get caught up in the marketing hype of the more expensive shoes but if they don't fit and perform for YOU, then they are definitely not worth the hefty price tag.
Perform a good warm up - Before running it's important the body is prepared with a thorough warm up. You need to perform a warm up to increase the body temperature gradually, improve circulation and mentally prepare yourself for exercise, all of which may help prevent injury
I suggest that you perform a series of dynamic warm ups at the beginning of each session, which are like short workouts in themselves to prepare you for exercise. These dynamic movements will increase your heart rate and stimulate muscles and joints, ready for the workout ahead.
Start with some walking for a few mins to start increasing the blood flow around the body and prepare your mind for exercise. After a few mins of walking transition into a gentle jog for a few more mins. After about 5 minutes of walking / running you can perform some dynamic stretches specific to running.
So there you have it; that's our definitive guide to getting out and about on two feet this summer.
There are so many beautiful places to run and walk in the UK… whether that’s a simple jog along the river or to the next town, in a forest or along the beach… or a more challenging off-road adventure run into the beautiful hills and mountains that we have in this country.
We would love to know where your favourite places to run are… share your images and tag us in them @uperformuk.
Have fun exploring our beautiful countryside… follow our advice and stay safe… and enjoy both the physical and mental health benefits that running can bring.