How to love running and reduce your pain doing it


So you’ve told yourself you want to run. You wake up, chuck a pair of shoes on, do some quick stretching and get going. It doesn’t take long before you’re out of breath, your heart rate has skyrocketed and your legs are burning up. At this point, it’s a mental fight to keep going and sometimes, you can’t help but think ‘I’m never doing this again’.

We’ve all been there. No matter what intention we set for ourselves, running can be a bit of a struggle, especially in the early days. The problem is, if you are starting from scratch, you can’t expect your body to be conditioned to go at the speed you want straight off the bat. Like any fitness goal, it takes consistency and training to get there.

More often than not, people jump to the conclusion “I’m not a runner” and hang the joggers up before they’ve given it a proper go. The reality is, the human body has been built to run, and the onus is on us to get the km’s in the legs. But there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

Introducing Annabelle. This year, Kieran, one of our Directors and Head of S&C was approached by past SOF member Annabelle Splatt who was in search of some advice to improve her running.

Halfway through this year, Annabelle moved from Brisbane to Sydney and went straight into a lockdown. Despite avidly hating running, she didn’t have much of a choice but to embrace it if she wanted to maintain her fitness. 

As a serial hater of block runs at SOF, Kieran knew getting Annabelle running was going to be a challenge both mentally and physically. Her feelings towards running were far from positive and it was something that her body didn’t respond well to doing.

Annabelle shared, “I just hurt when I ran. Everywhere, particularly my knees and feet. I felt like I was trying really hard and running with someone would make me want to keep up and I’d end up wrecking myself.” 

With this in mind, Kieran and Annabelle had a chat about Maximal Aerobic Fitness (MAF) training, a style of running training that focuses on running in lower heart rate zones,  promoting endurance and oxidative metabolism rather than speed. A program like this is a great way to transition a body from novice to competent at any endurance activity (in this case running), through slowing down and focusing on more subjective and controllable outcomes. 

Instead of going flat out and feeling both exhausted and defeated, Annabelle was instructed to not worry about distance or speed and just run, ensuring her heart rate was kept at a steady state.

In her first run Annabelle felt amazing, it wasn’t easy but it was totally bearable. She ended up running 7km and thought she better stop because that was about 4km further than she’d ever gone in her life. Her average speed during that first run (at a heart rate zone of 60% of her max) was 6:30/km. Fast forward six weeks and her time dropped to 5:20/km for a 10km run whilst still maintaining the same HR zone.

On her improvements, Annabelle said, “I felt myself and my joints getting stronger - making my runs much more comfortable. Like any type of training, as soon as I am going, I really enjoy it.”

Mind blown? This could be you! 

Annabelle nailed two things in this process that got her to this point. One, she took the time to build a strong body. She initially came to SOF because of back and hip pain and did a serious amount of work on strengthening her trunk and fixing compromised movement patterns. From there she upped her Strength and Conditioning training through classes,  before transitioning to running after moving to Sydney. The slow start and working on personal targets has actually accelerated Annabelle’s ability to run and run well. 

Through improving the mechanics of running and getting the foundations right, your body is going to be much more inclined to carry you through, without setting you up for failure or injury. As backwards as it seems, Annabelle’s best learning from the program was to slow down. “As soon as I ran at a heart rate and pace that was specific to me everything changed. No longer was I trying to be the fastest on Strava or trying to match my mates. I was running my own race (pun intended),” said Annabelle.

We are all guilty of getting a bit hung up on competition and Strava doesn’t help. So here’s your reminder - speed does not matter, particularly if you are just starting. If you get out there and work on running properly, then you are already crossing a major hurdle. Naturally, you are going to make progress - just be patient, consistent and have the self-belief that you can be a runner. It’s in our DNA.

If you are keen on starting your running journey, or improving your current experience, speak to our trainers for advice. You can also get tickets to our upcoming Running Mechanics Workshop on Saturday 14th November. Hosted by Kieran, the event will go into the nitty gritty of everything you need to improve your running performance and rid yourself of running injuries. If you are someone like Annabelle, or if you are an experienced runner with a P.B to crack, this will be the perfect workshop for you. Find out more information and buy tickets today (limited availability).

So, off you go. Get the air in the lungs, the endorphins in the body, and remember to enjoy!