Run for your life!
Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat.
For most of us, running is a great way to get fitter, leaner and stronger, as well as helping with our mental wellbeing – especially when we are able to get out into the fresh air of our parks and countryside.
Running benefits us by regulating cholesterol levels, getting rid of all that bad cholesterol while increasing the good. Any weight-bearing exercise or impact sport increases our bone density too, which helps protect us from osteoporosis related issues. For me, the main reason I run is that it helps me to de-stress and improves my overall mental wellbeing. I particularly love that I can choose my time and distance.
Best of all, we don’t need any special equipment apart from a good, comfortable pair of running shoes.
Fresh from the Lincoln 10k, the Lincoln Half Marathon arrives on 4th September and I know a lot of you are already preparing. Injuries can be all too common, so it is important that we do a proper warm-up before a run and cool down properly afterwards.
With that in mind, here are six simple stretches to include in your routine before and after your run, to help warm you up, prevent any nagging injuries and get the best out of your training.
These are so simple and great to do, perfect for a pre-run warm-up or even if you’re just feeling a bit of tension and stress in your neck and shoulders. It’s a good way to get your circulation going too, clearing that muzzy head.
This exercise can be done standing or sitting, either with arms by your side, or your hands resting on your shoulders for a slightly more intense shoulder roll. Simply roll the shoulders in a circular ‘shrug’, starting clockwise for ten repetitions, then anti-clockwise, repeating as many times as required until you feel looser.
This is great for targeting the abs and spinal joints, whilst also strengthening the chest and shoulders. This is also quite an easy one to do; just start by lying face down, palms on the floor near your chin, then pushing your palms downwards, lift your chest up while bringing your hips down. Hold this for up to fifteen seconds.
Hip and Iliotibial Band stretch
This one is quite a comfortable pose, and again targets the hips, glutes, spine and obliques. It’s also great for working your flexors to increase your core flexibility. Start by sitting on the floor, extend your left leg in front of you and raise your right knee towards you, so you can wrap your arms around it. Using your grip on your knee to balance, apply as much pressure as needed to rotate your torso. Keeping your hips as aligned as possible, rotate your upper body, pulling your chest towards your knee. Hold for up to thirty seconds before repeating on the other side.
Forward lunge with twist
I love this one, as it targets the quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings, obliques, chest and shoulders, as well as strengthening most of your body. To begin, go into a lunge position and place your hands on the floor next to your front foot. Balance your weight using the opposite hand to the foot you have forward, and then carefully and slowly guide your free arm up towards the sky, twisting your core at the same time, holding for a few seconds before returning and repeating on the other side. If you’re not feeling flexible enough, or struggle to hold that position, drop your rear leg (bending the knee) and even rest it on the ground if required.
Wide leg forward bend
This will really work the hamstrings, as well as the glutes, lower back and the calf muscles. I would normally say this is quite easy to do, but if you’re anything like me, it’s always a challenge to loosen your tight hamstrings and get them nice and low.
Start by standing with your legs spread double shoulder width apart, relax your knees, bending slightly, trying to keep your chest out, shoulders back and forwards from your hips, whilst keeping your back as straight as possible. Then place your fingertips or palms on the floor. This can be held for up to a minute, or if you find that too much, try three or four shorter sets, working your weight lower each time.
Over time, this will stretch out as well as strengthen your hamstrings, whilst also strengthening your spine.
This one can be done lying down on your side, face down, or even standing up holding on to a tree! This targets the quads, helping to keep your thigh muscles nice and flexible. If you’re bending your right leg, use your right hand to grasp the ankle and gently pull towards your buttocks for a full stretch, holding for around fifteen seconds before going on to the opposite side. This feels quite easy to do, but please be cautious of overstretching, especially if you’ve had any knee issues.
Nutritional fit tips
Seven tips (one for each day of the week) to give you the energy you need for your running adventures:
• Switch to more complex carbohydrates, found in wholegrains, vegetables and fruit for longer lasting energy boosts;
• Cut out the bad fats and eat more of the good; we need about 70g of fat in our daily diet, as this helps us absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D and E. Good fats like avocado, flaxseed and nuts have other benefits too
• Cut out or cut down on alcohol, as it effects the body’s ability to absorb valuable nutrients
• Cut down (or even better cut out) sugary snacks and fizzy drinks; they may give you a quick boost, but they also give you a slump
• Keep your protein levels up to help with muscle repair and recovery
• Don’t skip meals, and no matter how busy you are keep well hydrated. Your body needs water to function, and if you like your caffeine, have a glass of water with it, as the caffeine can act as a diuretic and dehydrate your body.
• Remember your food is your fuel – the better quality the fuel, the better performance you will get.
RECIPE – JOLLOF RICE
This month, I wanted something to excite your taste buds, so my good friend Odudu has shared his family recipe for Jollof Rice, which I have adapted to be vegan-friendly. You can substitute the long grain rice with brown rice to make it even healthier, and it is rich in magnesium, vitamin B and selenium, but also white rice is great for refuelling glycogen levels after exercise.
• Cook the rice according to the instructions and put to one side. Fry the onions in the oil until soft and a slight golden brown, before adding all the spices and stirring on a high heat for around two minutes. Add the vegetables, tinned tomatoes, stock and bay leaves, then simmer with a lid on for around 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften.
• Add the rice and simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat, checking for seasoning and moisture. You are looking for a risotto consistency; if it’s too wet then let it simmer, and if it’s a little dry, add some more stock.
• This is a simplified vegan version, which you can put with almost anything, hot or cold. I like it topped with a fresh pan-fried mackerel fillet and some chopped coriander.
I hope you have a great start to the summer, and I’ll look forward to seeing you out there on the running routes!
Ian Eassom is a Lincoln-based mobile personal trainer. Ian can offer private individual training sessions (one-to-one, couples or small groups) in your own home, garden or public space, or online, with bespoke exercise and diet plans to suit you. Don’t forget there’s a special offer for Lincolnshire Life readers! For the latest information, visit www.ianeassom.co.uk