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Running SMART. Cheers and beers to the Dutch this festive season

A really interesting article popped to our attention at PridePlus Health this week. Published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Reasons and predictors of discontinuation of running after a running program for novice runners looked at what happened to people after 6 months of starting their running programs…

discontinuation of running after a running program

Like all good clinicians we went into this one with our minds open but we couldn’t believe what they actually found!

smart running

Read on for the Three Keys from the article and then learn how we can all Run SMART

First, the background information.

Running is good (great even!). It’s a fantastic activity for our physical and mental health. It leads to healthier hearts, lungs, muscles, bones, joints and minds. With this information you’d think we would all run, all the time but we don’t, and participation rates in running events vary wildly person to person, month to month, week to week.

smart running

This study out of the Netherlands looked at a very popular program run (pardon the pun) by the Dutch Athletics Federation called Start to Run. The researchers aimed to find out what happened to those who started running 6 months earlier, are they still running, have they stopped running and if so, why? It’s a fantastic article and we highly recommend reading it in full and commend the researchers on their efforts.

The Three Keys

Unfortunately the first nugget of information didn’t surprise anyone who works with runners

48% of people who stopped running reported a musculoskeletal injury as to the reason why

The next one was a little more interesting

Previous running experience was a key factor in people continuing running

And finally, the third just downright boggles the mind

People who drank alcohol the most (more than 3 times per week) were more likely to keep running than those who didn’t drink alcohol, or drank alcohol less than 3 times per week

So with the crazy festive season on us and new years resolutions just around the corner, how do use this information to help people start, and keep running!

Running SMART

If this is your first time starting a running program (maybe the couch to 5K app) minimise your injury risk by being SMART

S – Shoes. They should be comfortable for you, have some life left in them, fit for purpose (don’t run in your tennis shoes please, run in runners!). If you’re in need of an update get fitted by an expert.

M – Measure. If your running load increases greater than 10% per week, your risk of injury increases. How you measure is up to you and your level as a runner. Simple measurements are running time, running distance. More complex calculations relating to training load, rate of perceived exertion can be conducted and of course there’s no shortage of apps and gadgets to assist here.

A – Ask. Ask a friend if they would like to run with you. People who run together get the same physical and mental benefits and are less likely to drop out as they keep each other accountable.

R – Rest. Running is great but Running + Rest is best! Your rest needs to include good quality sleep and good quality recovery fuels (eat well, hydrate).

T – Train. Running is a type of training but we also need to include appropriate strength and conditioning so that we reduce our injury risk. Train muscles and tendons with resistance exercises like calf raises, lunges and squats. An expert EP is the best person to guide you on what your body needs.

With the knowledge that those who have run before are more likely to keep running, we can treat our running program like the inverse of quitting smoking. It’s understood that smokers find it very difficult to quit the first go, well with running it’s hard to start and keep running on the first go. So if this is you, a non-runner, just start. If you end up falling off the wagon and stopping for a time that’s OK, next time it will be even easier to keep at it! If you’ve run before but stopped, start again! This time it could stick.

Finally, take a leaf out of the Dutch playbook.

Enjoy that glass of wine, that spicy-loaded eggnog and the summer ales as those of us drinking are still running!

running smart