Running is the new social hour. More and more Canadian women are lacing up their neon trainers, cranking their playlists and logging kilometres. From 2009 to 2014, national participation in marathons grew by 11 percent, according to the website RunRepeat. South of the border, the 5K and the 21.1-kilometre half-marathon are the most popular. “Running is affordable,” says John Stanton, president and founder of the Running Room. “You can do it solo or in a group, and it’s one of the quickest ways to get in shape.”
We typically burn about 60 calories per kilometre. Here’s how: During a run, the body uses up glycogen, which is the glucose stored in your blood and muscles. This process requires oxygen, hence the requisite huffing and puffing. Chariots of Fire-ing your way through your neighbourhood also builds bone mass, strengthens the tissue around joints and can lower your risk of developing dementia and even boost your mood. It’s a happy hour, indeed.
Here, two ELLE Canada staffers share how they plan to become better runners.
Vanessa Craft: beauty director
The Goal: To not view jogging as a device of torture.
Here’s my issue with running: It’s terrible. The calf burning, the lungs of fire, wearing spandex leggings as pants – it all goes against my core belief system. I want to be good at it, though. I care about my heart, and I want to be fit. But as soon as I lace up my Adidas and hit the road, my body is in revolt: I can’t breathe. My calves instantly feel like the end of a night in stilettos with no bar stools. And my brain, rather than giving me encouragement, recites “This is impossible. This hurts. No. Stop. Stop now.” on a loop. I can’t run more than a few minutes before I give in and walk it out like a wimp.
The first fix, says Stanton, is to not go full-on right away. Instead of leaping out of my house and sprinting off down the street (effectively “shocking” my system), I need to ease myself into the zone. Warm it up a little. Get the heart pumping. “Never judge a run by the first 10 minutes,” he sagely adds.
The second fix is to alternate between running and fast walking instead of trying to run the entire route. Walking briskly will extend my stride and act like a light stretch. Plus, says Stanton, this will slow down my cardiovascular system and give it a bit of a rest, so when I start running again, I’ll feel more resilient. Brisk walking, or “active rest,” as he puts it, also helps dissipate lactic acid. Building up to running in this way “takes away the intimidation and makes it more attainable.”
Carli Whitwell: health & beauty editor
The Goal: “Harder, better, faster, stronger.”
Ever since I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon, I’ve been promising myself I’d run another. That was three years ago. Work, laziness, Saturday nights out, House of Cards and laziness have gotten in the way of me signing up again.
But 2016 is my comeback year; I’m planning to run another half-marathon this fall. Considering I jog eight kilometres every Sunday as well as indoor cycle, strength train and attempt every new workout trend imaginable (I’m a health editor, after all), I’m well on my way, according to Stanton. He says that every running program should consist of strength training (to build power), speed training and endurance training.
Endurance is my kryptonite, so I’ve upped my runs to three low-intensity jogs (which means I’m able to sing along to Florence + the Machine) a week. Every seven days, I will increase the distance of my longest run by 10 percent. “These runs are good base building,” says Colleen Parsons, head coach of the University of Calgary’s marathon program, noting that they help the mitochondria to better access oxygen. “It’s like building a house: The foundation comes with the low-intensity training, and then you put on a roof with the high-intensity training.”
By “high-intensity” she means speed work, like interval sprints (doing your best Usain Bolt impression and then recovering) and hills (self-explanatory hell). The goal is to train my body to work more efficiently so when I return to my easy runs, I’ll be faster but expend the same energy – all the way across the finish line.