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Smart running, there’s more than one way to run…

Some years ago, I invested in a treadmill for the outbuilding in my house (which now doesn’t leave much room for anything else!). I figured it would be much easier to do a quick 20 mins session indoors on the treadmill, rather than go for what always seemed to be a lengthy outdoors session. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I bought it to help persuade me to carry on running throughout the cold, dark winter mornings. And I have to admit, it worked!

I would trudge down in the mornings, get on the treadmill, run 20-25 mins at a consistent speed, build up a little bit of a sweat and then do some stretches. Not bad right? That’s what I thought. Although I lost a bit of weight, I soon became frustrated as I didn’t seem to be building much strength or stamina. I couldn’t seem to increase my running speed or distance as fast as I had hoped to. If my body started to ache or twinge, I would reduce the speed, time or even not run at all. 

After having the chance to chat to pro distance runners at the top of their field about how they train. I soon realised that, every single training run they do is different, in terms of time running, speed, intensity, interval and recovery. Even the variation of running surface, footwear and altitude came into their training regimes. 

If asked how to become better runners, most people would give the obvious answer… to run more. To some extent, they wouldn’t be wrong. But what if you have set aside 3 mornings a week where you know you will get half an hour to run. Just increasing speed or distance isn’t going to work and will lead to fatigue, injury and disappointment.

Here are some pointers on how you can mix up your run training to maximise your workout. If you belong to a running club, the following terms may be familiar to you. If you are a novice, here are a few basic running techniques.

Mix up your running

Base run A base run is your bread and butter run at your natural pace. This will be different for everyone. It serves as your go to run, the one that you know you can complete even on a bad day. It is therefore not too challenging, but needs to happen often. The bulk of your weekly mileage will come from here. 

Long run A long run is basically a base run plus some. It is pushing the boundaries of your usual run so you can build endurance and should leave your body fatigued. 

Interval training This should comprise of intense efforts followed by recovery time e.g. 1 minute of your hardest effort running followed by 2 minutes of recovery. The idea of intervals is so we can run at full intensity for longer than if we were just to go all out. The benefits of interval training include improved endurance, fatigue resistance and fat burning.

Recovery run After a hard running session like an interval or long run, your body needs more time than you think to recover. The next run after a tough session should be a shorter one at an easy pace. This will be different for everyone so find the distance and speed that you feel comfortable with. 

Tempo running is a faster pace run but not a full out sprint like an interval training session. The pace should be tough with a RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 8/10 but you should be able to maintain it for at least 20 minutes. A good way of finding this tempo is by using the talk test. Whilst running you should be able talk in short sentences, but not hold a full conversation. This usually happens around 80% of your maximum heart rate. The idea is to run just below your Lactate Threshold (LT). In time, you will increase your LT and be able to sustain a higher intensity for longer. 

Hill running is a runners’ training secret. To make the transition from a average to good runner, it is also a must. When it comes to improving strength, speed and stamina hills are unbeatable. However, finding the perfect hill and knowing how to run it properly is almost an art. It can’t be too steep or shallow, and common pitfalls are to run them too quickly or slowly without enough recovery time. Hills can be run in a variety of ways; 

  • Incorporating hills into our usual runs Try putting a hill into your usual running route. It can be as long as you want. The key thing is not to work too hard up the hill, you want to be able to continue and finish your run. You will reap the benefits of hill running even with the smallest of hills. One of these benefits includes better muscle co-ordination between muscle pairs. Up hill runs require our quadriceps to contract with more efficiency, but also our hamstrings to relax more at the same time. This is called neuromuscular inhibition. Training our muscles to work better together makes our running style much more efficient.
  • Hill repeats These can be short or long. Short hill repeats are maximum effort up a steep hill over a short distance e.g. 40 metre sprints with 3 minute recovery. This helps us develop a technically more sound stride by helping you focus on lifting your knees and driving your arms up. Over time, your cadence (running stride) will improve. Long hill repeats recruit our whole range of muscle fibres, from slow to fast twitch, working up the ‘recruitment ladder’. An incline of 5-10% is sufficient running anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. 
  • Downhill running This requires eccentric loading (where a muscle is working but lengthening at the same time) of the quadriceps. If you are not used to running down hill you will be surprised how much of a workout your quadriceps get from eccentric loading. This type of loading will help your muscles become more fatigue resistant.

Fartlek running Funny name I know, but it means ‘speed play’ in Swedish. Fartlek is basically a mix of all the styles above. This is great because after all the discipline and regimental structure that accompanies modern day training, it is great to ‘fart around’ just to remind you that running should be fun, free and fulfilling. There are no hard or fast rules on how to do this, nor should there be. As the name suggests, mess around and have fun with it e.g. try sprinting to random targets and mix it up every time. This is a great way to spice up your run but get the benefits of all the different techniques. 

So the next time you set aside time to run, try and incorporate these ideas. If you are a predominately treadmill runner like myself, a lot of this is still possible by varying speed and incline. But try your best to get out and have a good time once in a while!

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    Orla Mulligan
    Administration and Social Media Manager
    Administration, LBSM

    Orla Mulligan is the administration and social media manager for LBSM. She has a strong background in sport having herself played netball at an elite standard for the U21s Northern Ireland team in the European Championships as well as the U21s competition for Saracen Mavericks.

    She understands youth sport pathways having herself played and training in the netball Kent regional pathway. She has a keen interest in most sports and a good understanding of how injury and illness can impact on the mind and body, as well as rehabilitation pathways.

    She looks forward to speaking and assisting LBSM patients and gives her best support to them during their treatment pathway.

    A day in the life of Orla involves communicating with patients via phone and email, managing and organising clinics, operations and media management.

    Outside of work, Orla is a gym enthusiast, enjoys tennis and still finds the time for an occasional game of netball.

    Maddie Tait
    BSc, MSc
    Associate, LBSM
    Musculoskeletal and Sports Podiatrist

    Maddie treats and manages complex foot and ankle injuries in London and Surrey.

    She is particularly interested in helping her patients improve their quality of life and achieve their personal goals, working closely with Foot and Ankle Consultants, Sports Medicine Doctors and Physiotherapists.

    Maddie has a sporting background herself having previously represented England in Hockey. She understands the demands of elite sport and the importance of physical and mental health. In her spare time, Maddie continues to enjoy an active lifestyle by running, cycling and attending a Pilates class.

    Having graduated from University of Brighton with a MSc (hons) in Podiatry, Maddie focused her career in Podiatric Sports Injuries and Biomechanics. Previously she completed a BSc (hons) in Sport Science at Loughborough University.

    A day in the life of Maddie involves consulting patients in clinic, performing gait and biomechanical assessments, measuring and fitting orthotics and braces. She also regularly teaches and presents at sports medicine and podiatry conferences.

    Outside of work, Maddie still finds time to play hockey and enjoys running and skiing.

    Mr Prakash Saha
    Consultant Partner, LBSM
    Consultant in Vascular Surgery

    Mr Prakash Saha is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at LBSM. He takes pride in providing the best possible results for his patients by using the most appropriate non-surgical and surgical methods based on clinical evidence, patient results and satisfaction.

    He treats fit and active people suffering with a range of cardiovascular issues, from painful leg swelling associated with exercise to venous insufficiency, post-thrombotic syndrome and leg ulcers. He also treats people with arterial system problems including poor circulation, compression syndromes and aneurysms. He carries out both endovascular and open aortic repair and has some of the best outcomes in the country.

    Mr Saha studied medicine at the United Medical & Dental Schools at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals before completing his higher surgical training in London and the South East. During this time, he was awarded the prestigious NIHR Clinical Lectureship in Vascular Surgery at St. Thomas’ Hospital, giving him comprehensive training in open and endovascular techniques for treating arterial and venous disease. Prakash completed his aortic surgery training at the St. George’s Vascular Institute before carrying out a specialist fellowship at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney.

    Mr Saha regularly lectures and runs workshops across the globe on the latest surgical techniques to treat vascular disease. He has also been awarded a number of research grants from the Royal College of Surgeons, the Circulation Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the British Heart Foundation, which has led to over 80 publications and the development of innovative technologies to help treat patients. For this work, Prakash has received a number of prizes, including the Venous Forum prize from the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland, an International Young Investigator Award, and an Early Career Investigator Award from the American Heart Association.

    A day in the life of Mr Saha involves seeing patients in clinic, operating in surgical theatre or lecturing at his university. He also regularly teaches and presents at vascular and sports medicine conferences.

    Mr Saha is an avid cyclist and tennis player (although yet to get a set of Dr Seth!). Outside of work, he spends time with his family who consists of 3 children and enjoys travelling.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran
    Consultant Partner, LBSM
    Consultant in Sports and Musculoskeletal Radiology

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran is a Consultant Musculoskeletal Radiologist at LBSM, with an extensive background of working in elite sport. He is one of the most recognised radiologists in the sports medicine field. He provides top level imaging and medical diagnostic services for patients and athletes.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran completed his undergraduate medical training at Imperial College London and his radiology training at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. He has obtained two post-CCT fellowships in musculoskeletal imaging. He was appointed as a consultant at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in 2011.

    He has a passion for all sports having worked as a radiologist at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and London World Athletic Championships and continues to support The Championships, Wimbledon. He also continues to work with a number of Premier League and Championship Football Clubs, Premier League Rugby Clubs, England Sevens Rugby, British Athletics and the Lawn Tennis Association.

    A day in the life of Dr Rajeswaran involves giving his expert opinion on investigations such as MRI and CT scans, x-rays and ultrasound. He also performs injection lists under ultrasound, CT and X-ray including spinal injections. He also regularly teaches and presents at sports medicine conferences.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran is an avid football fan and life-long fan of Tottenham Hotspur (for which he offers no apologies!). Outside of work, he spends time with his family and has a keen passion for photography.

    Dr Ajai Seth
    Medical Director, LBSM
    Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine

    Dr Ajai Seth is a Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician. He has dedicated his career to helping people with sport and exercise related injury and illness. He consults and treats everyone from the elite athlete to the weekend warrior.

    Dr Ajai Seth is part of the British Tennis Sports Physician team at the LTA and has also provided cover to elite athletes at Wimbledon Tennis, European Tour Golf, Premier League Football, British Athletics, and the Men’s England Football academies as part of the FA.

    He also prides himself for working in disability sport and is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Team GB Wheelchair Tennis which has taken him to the Olympics and Paralympics.

    Dr Ajai Seth is dedicated to education, training and research and is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Medicine at King’s College London where he lectures in all aspects of Sports Medicine and Science.

    He also has a passion for travel and Expedition Medicine, which has seen him accompany medical, scientific and charity expeditions all around the world. He also has vast experience in treating musculoskeletal injuries from children and adolescents to veteran exercisers, both male and female.

    Dr Seth also has positions in leading Sport Medicine organisations, including the non-executive board for the UK’s largest Sports Medicine charity, BASEM and Past President for the Royal Society of Medicine. 

    A day in the working life of Dr Seth involves consulting his patients in clinic, performing diagnostics and ultrasound guided injections. He also regularly lectures and tutors students and presents at sports medicine conferences internationally. He also spends part of the working week at the National Tennis Centre, LTA, supporting British Tennis players.

    Outside of work, Dr Seth enjoys playing club tennis, triathlon, golf, running and skiing (but will give any sport a go!). He enjoys keeping fit and active and good quality family time with his wife and three children.