It's no secret that we became a nation of runners during lockdown.
As gyms remained closed and the stresses of the pandemic started to weigh heavily, we took it out on pavements and parks.
The figures back it up. The Couch to 5K app, in particular, reported a surge in users with more than 858,000 people downloading the beginners running app between March and the end of June – a 92 per cent increase from the same period in 2019.
That 10K will be a breeze by the time races are back on the agenda.
Get gait tested
You need the right shoes. "Running all starts with your feet," say Skervin-Clarke. "Make sure you’re wearing the right footwear. Those old trainers that you pulled out of your cupboard are just going to result in injury.
"It may be difficult to visit a running shop at the moment, but when you can go and get your gait tested and wear trainers that suit your feet."
A good warm-up will transform your run
It's the oldest saying in the book but how often are you guilty of setting off on a jog without warming up at all?
Begin with a foam roller, says Skervin-Clarke. "If you have a foam roller, foam roll your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes for 30 second per muscle group, per leg.
"As you’re preparing your body for moving, dynamic stretching is more beneficial (than static stretches)."
Complete three rounds of the following:
- 5 walkouts
- 10 walking lunges
- 10 hamstring sweeps
- 10 squats
- 30 second jog (increasing jog intensity each round)
"After running, go into a 2-3 minute light jog to flush out the legs. You may not want to stretch out immediately after a run, but when you feel ready complete the following stretches, holding each for 30 seconds.
- Figure of 4 glute stretch: Lie with your back on the ground with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your right leg over your bent left leg. You’ll have now created a figure of 4 with your legs. Place your left arm through the figure of 4, and your right arm joins to meet it outside. Now pull your right knee towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Low lunge: Lunge your right leg forwards, place your left knee on the ground and push your hips forwards. You should feel the stretch in your hip flexors. To deepen the stretch simply lift your hands overhead. Repeat on the other side for 30 seconds.
- Standing hamstring stretch: Stand tall with your feet together. Hinge at your hips and try to get your hands as close to the ground, without bending your knees. Don’t worry about how close you are to the ground, focus on keeping your knees straight as you stretch your hamstrings but don’t force the stretch. If you feel any discomfort step your feet apart and come up a little bit higher.
- Foam roll: Yes, again! 30 seconds per muscle group and per leg: calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads
Turn off your pace
Is it best to run faster with no stops or further with some stops? Both methods have their place, says Skervin-Clarke.
"When you are first starting out I encourage you to focus on the amount of time you spend running, and not the distance or the pace. Before you start thinking about speed, you need to become comfortable with running. Once you are comfortable with running your usual run, then you can start thinking about changing things up.
"Your faster runs with no stops should be shorter in distance than your slower runs with no stops that build your endurance. And let's be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having to stop during a run, it doesn't mean you’ve failed or your run wasn’t successful. It should be seen as a learning point. Did you start too fast? Did you fuel your body properly before the run started? Are you fully rested? Lots of different factors can help or hinder a run."
And remember: running is supposed to be fun.
"Don't compare your journey to someone who has been doing it for years," says Skervin-Clarke. "Putting too much pressure on running a certain pace takes the fun out of it and because of this, I personally run with the pace turned off on my watch display. Take each run as it comes. Some days you’re going to run well, other days you won't. That’s running! Enjoy the process and foam roll your legs!"
Don't run every day
Ever find your runs getting worse by the day? It's probably a sign of fatigue.
"Running on consecutive days isn’t something I do and it’s not something I’d recommend either, unless you’re under supervision of a coach or training for a specific endurance event," says Skervin-Clarke. "If you find that your runs get worse as the days get on it may be because simply, your body is tired. You may feel 'awake', but you aren’t giving your muscles a chance to recover in between sessions.
"The more you listen to your body, the more you’ll understand how it will respond to your training. I personally prefer to run every other day, and I try to run at the same time to ensure I’m getting as much rest as possible in between runs. Make sure you don’t do speed sessions back to back and take at least a day’s rest after your long run. Rest and recovery is all a part of the process so make sure you schedule it in, just like you do your runs," she adds.
Grass versus hard surfaces
"Grass surfaces are a lot softer than concrete, but it’s also a more unstable running surface which requires greater control of your stabiliser muscles such as your obliques, hamstrings and calves. If you’re new to running, you may not have yet developed the strength needed to help stabilise these muscles when you run. This could potentially lead to injury which is why I’d recommend running on a flat and even surface like concrete, to start," Skervin-Clarke says.
"Running on grass as a beginner does have its own place. Grass running is great for slower recovery runs as it’s gentle on your joints."