My Top 10 Running Tips – From an “I Can’t Run” Mum and Exercise Physiologist

So you have decided to start running and are thinking that there is no way that your out of shape body is going to come to the party.  Yep, I’m hearing you, I have been thinking that since I finished having kids four years ago.  But its kind of part of the plan if I am going to complete an Enduro Adventurethon in Albany.  Now that I have managed to hit my 5km milestone recently I felt like I should share my top tips if you want to start running…..

1.  Buy some decent shoes.

This is where it all begins, protecting the point of impact and therefore reducing the loading through the knees, hips, and back.  This translates quite simply to less injuries.  Athletes Foot is a good starting point if you have no idea what you need in a shoe as their staff tend to be well trained and knowledgeable.  However, last time that I was at Rebel Sports store I noticed that they have a nifty little machine that tested foot loading pattern and gave feedback on what support you would benefit from and sizing info.  Usually you see this at Athletes Foot but good to see that it is a little more mainstream now.  If you have any specific concerns your best option is to review with a Podiatrist.  Also, if you find a shoe you love, I’ve learnt to stick with it!

Love my Brooks running shoes.  For me they are just so comfortable.

Love my Brooks running shoes. For me they are just so comfortable.

2.  Protect the Puppies

Researchers in Britain estimate that during sport, the average breast can move 21 centimetres (about the length of a box of tissues) in a figure eight movement. Breasts don’t only move up and down, they move side to side, and even in and out. Given the average breast weighs about the same as 1.2 litres of milk and is held in place by skin and Cooper’s ligaments, that’s a lot of bounce or slide.

Read more:

The following table is from The Exercise and Breast Support brochure that was funded by Sports Medicine Australia.

Sports Bra and exercise

So if you don’t want the boobs any lower than they already are than I suggest you do your best to bind those puppies up.  In fact, I believe that preparing for a run is like preparing for a cyclone…you have to strap down or tuck away everything that can move!   There are some great compression garments out there and I recently bought a 2XU trisuit for my upcoming adventurethon that was really comfortable.  For a cheaper option, I find wearing a sports bra and one piece swimmers under my running gear is quite good.

3.  Strengthen the Pelvic Floor

This means learning how to activate these muscles properly.  Its not just for the ladies either, men can also benefit from improving their pelvic floor strength.  You can read a little about it here and here, but sometimes its worth getting some feedback on whether you are actually working the muscles the right way.  I think it is worth the money to review with a Physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor training especially if you have any concerns.  There are plenty of tools out there to help strengthen the pelvic floor such as the Wave Chair (physio), the kegelmaster, Ben Wa Balls, or Luna Balls.  Just be careful googling some of those!!

4.  Participate in Regular Strength Training

Guess what, muscles have a purpose.  In simple terms muscles create movement, stabilize joints, and generate force and power.  The more muscle stability around the joints the less the risk of injury.  Also increased strength has been proven to translate into increased endurance.  Increasing core strength is also going to lead to increased efficiency in your running, reduced injury risk, and longer time running til fatigued.  Need more convincing?  Then you might want to read this article.

5.  Change your Mindset

Since having kids I have been a little overweight and not as confident in my body.  Even after losing over 25kg and getting somewhat fit I have been very hesitant to start running.  I am just shy of 5’10, and I am not lucky enough to be that lean and lanky kind of tall person.  Nope, I’m built like a good solid workhorse.  Running, after kids, has just been uncomfortable and honestly I have been happy to get my exercise fix from everything but running.  That all has to change now that I am stepping out of my comfort zone and doing an Adventurethon that includes an 8km trail run.  One of the biggest things that had to change was my attitude to running.  I started thinking about why I can run.  I started remembering that I actually used to be pretty good at running, especially cross country running.  I started to believe that it is a skill that can be learnt, endurance that can be trained.  These changes in my thoughts made all the difference, and guess what?  Running doesn’t suck quite as much as I thought it would.

Allow yourself to believe that you CAN.

6.  Learn How to Run

Seems simple doesn’t it?  Learning to run correctly from the start can make all the difference to how you go with a running program and is an important strategy for injury prevention.  Check out this video.

7.  Use a Running Program to get you Started

I am following a Couch to 5km program that is designed to get beginners running 5km in about 9 weeks.  I love having a set program to follow.  I don’t have to think about it or worry about when I should be running next….I just do as I am told.  I have tried this program before, not long after having the twins, when I was still quite overweight and had no strength training behind me either.  I really struggled and found it very difficult.  This time round I was excited to find the first 3 weeks quite comfortable and I was tempted to skip ahead.  However, even though my endurance was up to standard, I wanted to give my body a chance to catch up and develop the right muscles needed to run further and faster.  No injuries!!  If you need a little more support and encouragement then you may want to check out Operation Move.

8.  Stretching and Foam Rolling

If you are going to all the trouble and hard work in order to improve your running distance or times than set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of your exercise sessions to stretch.  Keeping your muscles loose, pliable, and hydrated means that your joints and ligaments stay healthy too.  Prevention is so much easier than rehabilitation.  I strongly believe that the roller has played a significant role in keeping me injury free during my training and really urge everyone to give it a go.  Check out my blog post on what foam rolling is all about.

9.  Enjoy your Rest Days

This is actually harder than it sounds.  I found that the more I improved the more I wanted to keep working at it, but intellectually, I also knew that I had to give my body time to repair and get stronger.  The rest day is a crucial part of the training program.

Rest Day

10.  Select Your Tunes

I actually don’t mind running with the wind in my face and only my thoughts to keep me company.  It makes a nice change from the noise and chaos that is four boys asking millions of questions.  Its a chance for me to sort through the things I need to do, any emotions, the good and bad things from the day, and finally to allow myself to dream big things.  In saying that who hasn’t gone for a run and been lifted up by an awesome song and gone that little bit faster or further.  Sometimes I have even run a little longer just to hear the end of the song.  And who hasn’t run to this song at one time or another….


I am linking up with Jess for IBOT so come on over and check out her latest post.

My First Bike Set Up – Take home tips.

Usually between my husband, who is good on the tools and technical side of things, and me, who knows a little about what position I need to be in to reduce the risk of injury and to be comfortable on the bike, can stumble our way through to an adequate bike set up.  However now that hubby is only home on weekends we have better things to do with our time, and modifying a bike can often lead to some…ahem…disagreements.  I am also feeling nervous about this adventurethon and being able to get my body through it injury free, so I am doing everything I can to minimise my risk factors and control the things that I can.  On the ride from Perth to Fremantle I noticed that my bike set up was not quite right with my back and neck feeling a little strained.  I’ve never had a bike set up for this bike and haven’t been quite comfortable which is why this had to go on the hitlist so that it gets done!

I like to go local where possible so I dropped in at the local bike shop to have a chat about what’s involved, whether they have staff trained to complete one, and when I could organise a time.  Kalamunda Cycles were really friendly and were happy to book me in.  Physio’s and Podiatrists often offer specialised bike set up sessions as well.  If you experience any of the following you should really review your bike set up and if necessary book in for a review.

  • Hip, back, or knee pain
  • Sore/stiff neck
  • Numbness
  • Lack of power/explosiveness

When you go for a bike set up you will be expected to bring in your bike and riding gear including your helmet, camelpak, and cleats if you wear them.


Usually you would have the bike set up on an indoor trainer but my wheels didn’t clip on the trainer available so for what I needed we just balanced against the door frame….took me a little bit to get my balance, little gumby like that! lol

Managed to get on and stay balanced....Yay!

Managed to get on and stay balanced….Yay!

Pretending to know what he is doing....adjusting shock pressure or something like that.

I’m pretending to know what he is doing….adjusting shock pressure or something like that.

Amazing what a few adjustments can do...feeling better on a lap around the parking lot!

Amazing what a few adjustments can do…feeling better on a lap around the parking lot!

My bike set up ended up being quite straightforward and only took 30 minutes however it can take anywhere up to an hour if you have specific concerns.  Tim at Kalamunda Cycles ended up charging me less and was happy for me to drop back in if I had any further tweaks after a few rides.  I definitely think it is worth your time and money if you are doing a lot of riding, but in the meantime here are my top take home tips.

  1. Wrist position – Check that your brakes and gear levers aren’t rolled too far forward (shoulders will start hitching up), or too far back.  There is a lot of repetitive loading going through the arms and wrists so don’t forget to have a look at your wrist position next time you ride.
  2. Handlebars –  Make sure they are not too low, this can cause the back to start rounding (hello back pain) and increase the  load going through your arms.
  3. Saddle position – Check height of saddle, distance between saddle and handlebars, and whether saddle is level….saddle position is crucial to avoid pain and injury in back, knee, and hips.

Here are some websites that have some great information on setting up your bike.

Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre – Cycling Set Up

PhysioBench – 5 Tips to set up your bike to avoid injury

Bicycle Transport Alliance WA – A Basic Guide to bike set up

Sometimes it is nothing that can’t be fixed by getting some bike fitness back.  Sore bum anyone?? Get out there and enjoy the ride!!


Registering for my First Adventurethon

O…..M….G!!  I just realised that there is only 16 weeks until my first adventurethon in Albany.  I have been waiting for registrations to open for the event so that I could register, it would be official and then there is no backing out, but today I realised that I don’t have time to wait I really have to get cracking with my training if I am going to complete the Enduro event.  Mentally I have committed so I am claiming the hitlist item!

I am a little disappointed in the Adventurethon website as it is actually very difficult to find out distances for each leg of the event.  Basing it on last years information and some feedback from the facebook page I think that I will be up for approximately 7.5km paddle, 22km mountain bike ride, and an 8km trail run.  But I could be wrong.  I haven’t really paddled before, except for recreation, and currently I can probably run for 2km at a pinch (as in I will probably have a heart attack after this point).  The bike I have covered…..I think.  I completed a fairly tough 42km mountain bike ride last year which you can read about in this post, so I am pretty confident that I can get that leg done, but I haven’t ridden outdoors since we moved in January, well not without the gator attachment for my youngest.  So I have to get back to some mountain biking, you know, outdoors.  Call me crazy but I think I can get it done.  The reason I love to book in an event like this is that it gives me direction for my training, its a challenge, it gives me a chance to see a whole new town and scenery, and it is an awesome sense of achievement to actually finish a race.  My friend Snooze has bravely agreed to come along this journey with me and we will try and co ordinate a couple of sessions together each week.

Snooze and I.....No I couldn't find a better picture of us...and we had great lobster that day!!

Snooze and I…..No I couldn’t find a better picture of us…and we had great lobster that day!!

At the moment my current training has been riding a stationary bike 3x/week and strength training 2-3x/week, so I am not starting completely from scratch fitness wise.  In terms of preparation I am going to break it up into four blocks of four weeks.  The first block my focus will be on increasing strength via CrossFit, developing a good running base, and focusing on eating well to lose a little weight.  My second block of four weeks will be about building endurance in each leg.  The aim of the third block will be about starting to do some block training, that is, doing a bike ride followed by a run or a kayak then ride.  Early in the final block I will try and organise to do a couple of run throughs of a mini adventurethon to get a feel for the event and then scale back/taper a little in the final week leading up to the race.

Race nutrition will also be something I will need to look into as the race can be 5-6hours if not a lot more depending on how my training goes!  Hydration and fuelling are going to be critical.  I have purchased a new pair of running shoes specific to my big flat feet as it is one area where I can’t compromise if I want to get through this injury free.  I will be using the roller and trying to do a bit of yoga on my rest day and may splurge on a couple of massages throughout the lead up with a real focus on injury prevention.  I am carrying a little niggle in my left knee and am prone to migraines if my neck is out and diet isn’t right, so I will keep an eye on these things.  I need to drop in at the bike shop to get my bike set up properly as well.    A little nervous but a whole lot excited!!

could not finish

Foam Rollers and Spikey Balls – My newest exercise accessories

I have had this Foam roller, distance education course sitting on my desk for a while now….ahem…over 6months, which is why it has been placed on the hitlist.  I have been wanting to learn a bit more about using a foam roller as it is a handy tool to have for injury prevention and injury management, especially for one who is about to ramp up her training in order to complete an Enduro Adventurethon in December.  Eeeekkk!!  Just waiting for registrations to open for Adventurethon Albany so that I can make it official.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand….Foam rollers and spikey balls.  Sounds like it should be fun right?  I mean they come in all different colours and sizes, and they even come with ribbing for increased pleasure.

All kinds of fun....

All kinds of fun….

Well let me tell you it’s not that fun, in fact it is very uncomfortable….but….I did feel a noticeable difference in my recovery a couple of days following my practical session.  Not going to just take my word for it?  Well let me convince you with a little theory (of the very brief variety) behind the practice.  I will mention that Merrin Martin at Active Anatomy has put together a great little distance education course and it would be worth looking at this workshop if you are interested.  You can head to this link to check it out.

The aim of using the foam rollers, spikey balls, and all the other related tools out there on the market is to perform a Self Myofascial Release.  Say what??

Some definitions for you.

Some definitions for you.

OK, OK, now I’ll put it in basic english for you.  This strong, stretchy, fascia stuff surrounds nearly every cell in the body and makes up 1/3 of our body.  In the workbook they use the analogy that if you were to take everything else out of the body apart from the fascia you would be able to see an outline of the entire body.  So if there is tightness or dysfunction in the fascia (think muscle tear, strain, or imbalance) then it will pull and create a change in tension throughout the whole body fascia.  Comprende??  This abnormal strain can then crowd or pull bony structures out of alignment which leads to pain and further problems.

Enter the foam roller for the purpose of Self Myofascial Release.  Fascia has been shown to work a bit like a sponge.  If the fascia is stretched or compressed (ie. injury, immobility) then water is squeezed out.  If it is left dehydrated like this for long periods then the whole area starts to stiffen and lose elasticity.  When using the roller or spikey ball, direct pressure is applied to the area, the water is squeezed out, once the pressure is released the fibers retain their original state and water continues to flood the area at an even higher rate than before.  Tada!!  The area becomes more lubricated and elastic than before.  Recommendations from this course are to roll slowly over the area you are working on until you hit a trigger point (a point of tenderness/pain in a palpable band) and hold this position for a minimum of 90 seconds.  It takes approximately 90 seconds for the fascial network to respond and between 3-5 minutes for the release of the fascia.  So take your time!

These are a few sites which give some demonstrations on how to use a foam roller for myofascial release:

Runners World

Strength, Speed, and Agility

Richmond Remedial

Most videos out there have the expectation that you are injury free and have quite good upper body strength and stability.  It is quite difficult to hold your body weight and you may find that some of these positions apply too much pressure on your muscles and you will have to modify.

stop sign

Make sure you stop if you experience any of the following:

  • Referred pain elsewhere in the body.  You should only feel pain at the point of contact.
  • Pins and Needles
  • Hot, shooting pain.
  • Caution should be taken doing any of the hamstring and glute releases especially if you have any disc problems or have a history of sciatica symptoms.

If at all unsure book a session with a Physiotherapist or an Exercise Physiologist.  You are able to just ask if they could do a roller session with you.  Use those health funds that we pay for but often don’t use as much as we should!!  Good one to put on your hitlist.

I just want to leave you with my favourite quick release that actually feels really good, and you only need a tennis ball if you don’t have a spikey ball.  Thank me later!


PicMonkey Collage