I’ve been running again for the last 5 months, it’s been so good to get back to it. I haven’t run in years, because each of the 3 times in my life I’ve had a serious stretch of it, I’ve ended up with painful, swollen bursitis in both knees and barely able to walk, let alone run. This time was going to be different, though, because I have all this on my side:
- Strength training
- A husband who is a professional Sports Massage, Myofascial Release and Structural Integration pracititioner
- The South Downs – i.e. soft grass to run on
- Decent trainers
Why I run
Before I go through each of these, just a little note on why I run. It makes me feel good. There’s lots of research on why regular exercise is good for your mental health, and I get to do it largely in beautiful countryside. It’s the perfect way to start the day.
When I’m physically fit and strong (well, fitter and stronger than usual – I’m no athlete), I also feel a lot more resilient and confident in my body’s ability to hold me up and keep me going.
And yes, comfortable in my body too. I haven’t lost any weight through running. Do I need to? Well, yes, I could probably shift a few pounds. But running won’t do that for me on its own (see below). There’s something about feeling fitter and stronger, though, that just feels good. My clothes fit just the same, but I feel better wearing them.
So let’s go through my five key helpers: Nutrition, Strength Training, an Expert Husband, The South Downs and Decent Trainers.
Nutrition and running
I am not a sports nutritionist. I know the fundamentals and keep an eye on new research, but that’s not my specialist field. What I do know is:
- I don’t need a protein shake to recover from exercise
If you’re an athlete or body builder training for a major event, maybe you do. But for us regular non-Olympians, we don’t need a protein recovery shake, even after weight training.
- I do need a small protein shake before I run in the morning
Running on empty is no good for my blood sugar or adrenals. Equally, I don’t want to be trying to digest breakfast while I’m exercising, whether it’s jogging, yoga, sit-ups… I need something light, easily digestible, sustaining and hydrating. So I have a small glass of water, and a small glass of my own Mini Supershake – recipe below.
- I don’t need extra carbs when I exercise
For perhaps the same reason that:
- I won’t lose weight from exercise alone
Increasing exercise may help you lose weight to begin with, but after a while your body adjusts its calorie expenditure elsewhere
According to Dr. Herman Pontzer, your body quickly adapts to regular extra exercise, like running, so that you don’t burn any more calories than usual. That can actually be a good thing. Because it seems one of the things we take energy away from is the kind of persistent low-grade inflammation that leads to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other chronic illnesses – which may be partly why regular exercise can be so good for your health.
It also means that over-exercising can have negative health impacts. I know when I’ve exercised too much because I feel exhausted. Not just afterwards, but for days. I’ve worked with a number of people who are so run down from over-exercising that their immune systems struggle to cope, and they get continuous colds and illnesses. It’s also well documented that women can lose their monthly periods through exercising too much.
So it’s about getting the balance right. I’m perimenopausal and have noticed some hard-to-shift weight gain – but I know that a lot of this is about the impact of my fluctuating oestrogen levels on cortisol levels. I feel like I’m keeping this stable with stress management, adrenal support, thyroid and other hormonal support, as well as regular moderate exercise. I’ve rarely been skinny and this really isn’t the time to chase skinny now! But I feel (mostly!) healthy and energised, all things considered, and that’s my barometer.
Nutrition and joint health
My joints have always been my weakness. Also my digestion, but that’s another story. I’ve had weak ankles and knees since I was a child, repeated tendonitis in my wrists and forearms throughout my 20s and still occasionally in my 30s and 40s. So I keep hydrated, follow a largely anti-inflammatory diet and have joint supportive supplements that suit me and my case history – some of which go into my Mini Supershake (see below).
Strength Training and and Expert Husband
As well as running usually 3 times a week, I also have a programme of knee, hip and ankle strength training exercises, as recommended by my Expert Husband, Andy. His magic hands also sorted out my hip injury last year, with a blend of myofascial and osteopathic work, so I could go running in the first place. If you don’t have an Expert Husband, then I suggest you do some good research around strength training yourself, and consider having some regular – or occasional treatment – to help keep your tissue in good shape. (If you are Sussex-based, I’d obviously highly recommend Andy!)
The South Downs
Running on soft surfaces has made such a difference to me. Also building up gradually with the help of the Couch to 5k app – I chose Sarah Millican as my coach, and she was marvellously motivating. And so was starting the day with views like this:
I started my Couch to 5k this year with a shockingly old pair of Adidas running shoes. When I’d been running for a month, I treated myself to a pair of Salomon trail running shoes. I’ve always found Salomon walking boots to be THE most comfortable, so I knew my feet would love them. And I had no intention of running on roads. My knees would never handle it.
Until 2 weeks ago. A spell of heavy rain made the mud really hard to run in, even in trail shoes, so I started to consider some road running. There’s a 5k I can do here that’s half road half farm track. Could a summer of knee strengthening and glucosamine have got me roadworthy? Just to be doubly sure, I got myself down to my local running shop and got some Brooks extra cushioned, extra supportive running shoes. 2 weeks and 6 runs later, my knees are better than ever. Early days, I know, but I’m confident. I’m so much better nourished and supportive than I ever was when I tried running before.
Mini Supershake recipe
Not least because I have this in my life. Every time I run, I have one of these first. The ingredients vary a little, but it always contains:
Half a scoop (so 1-1.5tbs) faba bean protein powder (I use Pulsin)
1-2tsp supergreens (I use Kean’s Supreme Greens)
1-2 capsules glucosamine sulphate (I use Viridian)
1 capsule vitamin C (I use various brands, but all pure C, no additives)
150-200ml unsweetened oat milk and/or water
All capsules are pulled apart and emptied into the shake – it’s a great way of taking them without feeling like you’re pill-popping.
I then also add 1tsp slippery elm powder (for digestive health) and whatever other supplements I want to take that morning. Sometimes I add matcha powder for extra oomph and clarity.
It’s simple, light and palatable, and gives me enough to run on without weighing me down.
NB: I’m not been paid to mention any of the products listed here. They have all served me very well – I can’t guarantee they’ll be the best for you.
So that’s my running story so far. I’m exceptionally lucky and grateful to be able to run, and to have such beautiful running routes on my doorstep. So I’m intending to stick at it. If you’ve got any great tips for me, I’d love to hear them.