Meals & miles

Posted on December 9, 2012


whatsstoppingyouI picked up a Runners World book the other day called ‘the new runner’ by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield. It’s a great read full of tips and tricks to enable even the most sceptical of runners to discover that running is indeed one of life’s greatest pleasures.

The basic message is simple: that anyone with a willing spirit can be a runner. Stripped-back to the barest of elements, it boils down to wanting to run, planning to run and then … just running!

I flicked through the pages and found a great analogy in chapter 5, the anatomy of a run, in which our running is likened to a meal. Here’s the lowdown:

A perfect run is like a fine meal. It flows seamlessly from the appetiser through to the main course and finishes with a delectable desert. Although our runs vary in distance, time and speed, the anatomy of a run will always flow from the warm up to the actual running to the cool down.

The appetiser: the warm up

Required to prepare our bodies for what is to come, the warm up increases blood flow to our muscles, lungs and heart.  When driving, we don’t shoot onto a motorway without building up our speed first right? Walk a little then start to run with a slow pace. Just for five minutes.

The main course: the running session

The time spent running to an actual speed, time or intensity. This is the part of the run that has a purpose and as we all know … a run or indeed a life without purpose is worth little. Every session is like a piece of the jigsaw that adds to your training puzzle.

Steamed vegetables: rest days

These do you a lot of good even if it doesn’t seem that way. Spend a few weeks building then let up and allow your body to recover from the stress and the impact of the training cycle. Use the time out to catch up on family and friends, lovers and others.  Tackle the inbox and chase some looming deadlines. Enjoy some late nights and even later starts.

Freshly ground pepper: cross training

Cross training should be strategically placed to balance your moving muscles and to avoid overuse injuries. It should supplement and complement your running, not detract from it. Like freshly ground pepper, cross-training spices things up and adds flavour for those running muscles that otherwise get tired and fatigued, stride after stride. It activates different muscle groups and has far less impact on the body than pounding the pavements.

The desert menu: the cool down

Every good meal ends with a more-ish desert … preferably one large serving with two spoons, shared with the man of your dreams. The cool down is the desert of our training … a chance to gradually slow the pace and intensity of the session. Again, take just five minutes to decrease your heart rate and return blood circulation to its resting route.

Elbows off the table: good running form

Everyone has different form so the idea is not to try to be like anyone else but rather to move optimally for your own mechanics. Maintaining good form throughout your training and racing allows you to move further and faster with less energy expenditure. Our mums didn’t nag us to keep our elbows off the table to be annoying but rather because it forced us to sit up straight and not slump, which means we better digested our food.

The restaurant: running surfaces

The variety of surfaces on offer is like your choice of restaurants. Some are convenient but not all that good for you. Others are harder to find but far better for your muscles, tendons and joints.

Concrete is like MacDonalds. Always close by but the devils work on our bodies. Asphalt is better than concrete but still hard on the body. Dirt paths and trails, on the other hand, are like delicious gourmet salad bars. They are soft and easy on your body and the mental focus required for the mixed terrain is great for training as every step is different.

Track is good as it absorbs shock and allows you to easily measure distance. Safa Park is crazy busy in Dubai … dull as dishwater though if running more than a lap. You feel like a hamster on a wheel. Grass is soft as is sand, a surface we don’t lack here in the desert. If super soft though or uneven, it can put a lot of stress on the body. Treadmills are convenient and easy to use but click here and you can read all about my thoughts on treadmills!

I think the best approach really is to mix it up. Choose different routes that vary in terrain and difficulty. You’d get bored and indifferent even if dining at your ab fab top fav restaurant every night.

I enjoyed reading these pages, not only because I love food but also because I often fail to structure my sessions and like all triple type-A’s, rest doesn’t tend to sit high on my agenda. I spoke about this to my ss just yesterday. ‘Why do I feel so stiff at the moment,’ I asked him?  ‘Fatigued and heavy in my legs?’ I think it can only be down to over-use.  I’ve had no decent rest since … well, since 2009 (!) … having consistently started training for the next race just days after the last. As always, Tori does nothing by halves. Perhaps this, combined with my inability to really chill out, my incessant need to work, study and / or play hard, is starting to take its toll.  I can hear my mum, amongst others, saying I told you so as I type these very words … but as is everything in life, we must learn by our experiences. There’s simply no better teacher out there.


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