• Jo Watkinson

Move: How I made running easier

Running is not something that comes easily to me. Its hard work. With swimming, I've had noticeable improvements month on month. I can go for longer, I'm much faster and it's relaxed and feels easy. I've never hit that point with running despite the fact that I've been running for a lot longer than I've been swimming. For me, running feels like a constant battle. A constant desire to stop and give up. I feel like a plodder, like a lumpy blob smacking into the ground repeatedly and pointlessly.

Until last night. Last night felt like a genuine breakthrough... last night I felt like a runner. Like an actual flowing-over-the-ground-with-ease runner. And I think it's down to 4 things:

1. The shiny new trainers!

My lovely Husband bought me some are trainers for Christmas. (yes, ok. I sent him a link and told him exactly what I wanted, but that's beside the point.) Now, I already own trail runner trainers, which are chunky with great grip for off-road running, and road runners which are less grippy, less chunky but with lots of cushioning to reduce the impact of running on pavements and roads.

So why do I need a third pair? These are my race pair! Who knew I'd ever need a race pair? And they are a thing of wonder. They are specifically designed for triathlons so they have drainage and an easy-to-get-on-your-feet-design which, based on my faffing at the Woburn triathlon last year, could save a good 90 seconds off my time. They have a seamless interior so that you can go sock-less (about another minute in transition!).

They are also super lightweight... which means very little cushioning. I have a tendency to be a bit of a heel-striker, and these really put me on my toes. My calves are a bit tight today, but it meant that my running style was better and that I could run 15 seconds per KM quicker than usual for the same effort level. It felt so easy, and I loved it. I felt like I was really flowing round the track. The plodding was gone!

Now, these trainers are not for every day use for me. The lack of cushioning would still take it's toll on my body, but they are perfect for use at..

2. The Track!

I love to run outside, especially Cassiobury Park, Rickmansworth Aquadrome and the South Oxhey sculpture trail, but this is my new favourite place to run.

I thought it would be boring, just going round and round, but I actually found it very relaxing. I didn't have to think about my route, how much further I had to go or whether I was too tired to make it home, after all, you're only ever 200 metres from the rest area. So I could just relax and keep going.

I'm normally a run/walker, but not last night. I ran more than 3k in one stint without walking or even feeling like I wanted to walk. The thing is, I do Parkrun most weeks but I never make it round 5k without walking, usually 3 or 4 times. The furthest I've run in one chunk recently was 2k, so to cruise to 3k with very little real effort felt amazing. And we then did an intervals session so I wasn't tapped out either.

3. Coaching

I have two amazing triathlon coaches. Alison Smith of Sunshine health and fitness and Andrew Adeane have been coaching me on the swim and the run since April 2016 and I started running with Alison about 4 years ago as an absolute beginner.

When it comes to running, it takes a long time for me to convert a new technique into an ingrained, easy habit. My arms and upper body posture were particularly poor, and thanks to targeted coaching and constant reminders from Alison and Andrew, its finally starting to become habit.

The truly brutal circuit sessions have also helped with core strength and overall fitness. They've also helped me to hate my coaches for a day or so afterwards until the aches and pain pass. Technically I'm grateful that they make me do it, but it's not always easy to remember that.

4. Mental strength

As I mentioned, my swimming feels relaxed and easy, like I can keep going for ever. And on Tuesday evening we had an endurance swim session. I racked up 2300m in the pool and the amazing thing was, it felt easy. I could maintain a reasonable pace, keep my breathing under control and not feel particularly tired.

And I carried that feeling with me into the Wednesday track session. I had proved to myself on Tuesday that I'm stronger and have more endurance than I give myself credit for, so on Wednesday I was able to bring that feeling to the track. I focussed on my effort levels, on not going off too fast, on keeping my pace steady, even and comfortable... and for the first time ever, it worked!

And I ended up being faster than I'd planned, effortlessly!

For me, this is a huge breakthrough. Running has always felt like something I HAVE to do, but now it feels like something I CAN do. Some of that is down to shiny new trainers, but mostly its down to finding somewhere I enjoy running, great coaching and giving myself the credit for my own hard work.

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