Gyms may still be shut and the country locked down (at least here in the UK) but with the vaccine rollout underway there’s some light starting to show at the end of the tunnel. We know many of you might have found ways to keep training throughout the pandemic, you might have started working on improving other aspects of your training or, like us, you might have spent a bit too much time sitting on the sofa watching movies.
A lot of people may be looking to start getting some training in so they’re in shape to get right back to where they left off when COVID hit. Running is always the classic fighter cardio option and having a solid fitness base will give you a solid foundation to build from once gyms reopen – and let’s face it, in times like these exercise is also great for your mental health. But if you’ve not been exercising regularly since restrictions started, or even if you just haven’t been running in a few months, you can’t jump straight back into training like a pro fighter.
Seems like a pretty obvious place to start but before you begin a training plan you need to work out what you’re getting from it – are you planning to get back to the fairly standard 5k? Are you planning to be in a position to run 10k before every training session? Is this the year you start smashing out marathons like they’re nothing? All of these goals is going to require pretty severely different levels of training, and therefore you’ll need a different training plan and longer to build up your mileage. Knowing what you want to get out of running is going to help you structure your training.
Running puts a fair bit of impact through your joints and it can be easy to pick up injuries if you’re not careful – particularly for fighters in heavier weight classes. Returning to any kind of program after a break or period of reduced activity is going to require pacing to avoid injury (and therefore another break from training!). This is always going to be dependent on how long you had off and what level you were at prior to the break. Training plans can be pretty specific to each person, so it’s not easy for us to just say ‘you should do this’ but the best advice is to start slow and build up over time. Programs like the NHS Couch To 5K are aimed at real beginners but can be a good place to start as they give progessive, structured training (for free) that’re easy to follow and will get you running 5k three times a week by the end of the program – how hard you work each session is up to you.
Pacing and recovery go kind of hand in hand. You need to make sure you’re giving your body time to recover and adapt to the stimulus you’re giving it and make sure you aren’t overloading yourself. Recovery could be full rest, active rest, or any other method of recovery that you prefer. One important thing we’d say is avoid using too much in the way of anti-inflammatories or painkillers. Ibuprofen might be taking the edge off and letting you keep training, but it also might be masking an injury that could get worse if you ignore it. Recovery is all about listening to what your body is telling you and responding with what it needs.
Our final piece of advice is cross training. While it’s not always easy to get extra forms of training in with the ongoing government restrictions switching up what you do will keep your body adapting and help with injury prevention. It could be that instead of running one day you go out on your bike for a ride – still getting cardio in but not putting so much impact through your legs. Alternatively you can mix in some strength training – even a short bodyweight circuit is going to help strengthen your muscles, reduce your injury risk and improve your performance when you’re running.
Hopefully this will help keep you all moving until we’re able to get back to the gym but we want to hear from you! What have you been doing to stay busy through lockdown? Have you had experience returning to running after some time off? Let us know in the comments!