Training For Running – Its About Your Joints, Not So Much Your Cardio

Running – you usually tend to fall into one of two camps:

  • Running feels amazing, it lets me think and de-stress, its an escape machanism


  • Running is the highest form of torture and should be given to the deepest scullians of hellspawn as punishment…….


Regardless of where you stand, let’s talk about training for running events and how you can actually get to the point of enjoying this…thing….there are plenty of science articles detailing the mechanics and biometrics behind it, as well as providing programs – I do that too, but this article is going to be short and talk some honest truths.  Below is the summary of this article:

  • Start very short
  • Incorporate into existing workouts
  • Actually run to train running
  • Increase slowly
  • Stretch

Yep – that’s it, you can stop reading if you like – cheers for dropping by 🙂


Starting From Scratch:

So first thing – no-one is a natural “runner”.  There are body types more inclined to running sure, but we’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes run well!  We’ve also seen some people who you’d think would be guns, start to move like they’ve been shot with a tranquilizer dart.  If you’re first starting, or it’s been a long time since you’ve run several things are going to become very apparent.  You are going to run out breath, your muscles will get tired and your joints will hurt.  Yep…Happens to everyone.  It continues to happen as you increase distances too.  This is where we need to talk about what you’re actually training.


Getting The Ball Rolling:

So you’ve decided to bite the bullet and actually do an event.  You should not start with anything close to 5km….NO!!!  Your first couple of runs should be a maximum of 1 – 2km beginner-runner-1-of-1-1024x684.jpgand bolted onto the back of, or be part of, an existing workout.  Break it into 4 x 500m bits spaced out if you like.  Two reasons, your body and joints aren’t ready for anything longer – and more importantly – your mind isn’t.  You do NOT want to hate this thing right from the start.  Make it manageable mentally by making it short efforts where the mind can emotionally recover. In my experience, it takes being able to run 5km without stopping (at any speed), before you actually start to mechanically enjoy running.  If you havent run for a while, 5km is a long way.


To Get Better At Running – You Need to Run:

This is sounds so dumb….and yet – so many people I talk to training for half marathons and the like are hitting the bike, are hitting the pool, anything other than running….. So Why is that an issue?

If you’re a beginner, regardless of distance, you need to actually run to get your muscles into learning how to act together efficiently.  Like anything – running takes practice. There are a TONNE of muscles having to co-ordinate together at a very rapid pace.  You are NOT born being efficient at running. Some of us get good as kids by doing certain things in life….some of us do not.  Just like juggling – you need to practice in order to get more efficient at the muscle actions.  Secondly, your body needs to start the process of toughening up your joints.  Running has a fair bit of impact through the hips, knees,


ankles and feet.  This process of getting the joint endurance up is FAR slower than that of increasing your cardio (more on this in a bit).  Riding a bike, will help your cardio….swimming will help your cardio…. neither will help that specific and repetitious impact tolerance.

There are a lot of good running plans out there. NIKE in particular has a great range for all levels of runner.  The biggest piece of advice I have?  Integrate it with other training aspects to keep it fun….don’t think “Right, today i HAVE to go for a run”.  When you do your workout, be it in a gym, or outdoors, integrate whatever required distance you are running into that workout – at least whilst the distances are small.


Ok – All Good But I’m On The Longer Stuff:

As mentioned before there are a couple of magic thresholds that tend to occur in my experience:

  1. Once you can run 5km unbroken at any pace, you actually start to enjoy the feeling
  2. Once you can run 10km unbroken, cardio training starts to be less a problem and more muscle fatigue
  3. 15km-20km muscles become less an issue and the joints become the focus

Let’s talk about those last two points.  Once you start to enjoy the process of running, it can actually become really easy to try and bite too much off too soon.  Your cardio range develops FAR faster than your joint and muscle endurance.  From what I see in my clients, it takes about an extra 3-4 weeks for the joints to be able to run a particular distance once the cardio has achieved it.  So you might be actually able to run 15km from a cardiovascular point of view, but the joints will cop such an ass-kicking that you will be limping for days, or may even actually injure yourself. Take it slow, build up a couple of kilometers per week, which can be frustratingly slow, but your body will thank you.  Once you have a certain distance nailed, its quite easy to maintain the fitness required to run that far.  But you need to get there first.


Look After Your Body – Stretching:

I’m going to be open here…..FOR THE LOVE OF GOD – BLOODY STRETCH AFTER YOU RUN!!!  Don’t wait till you get home from where you are, or after that coffee….do it straight away.  If you wait any more than 5 mins, you start to cool and you lose a significant amount of elasticity in the muscles, tendons, ligaments.  Your stretching becomes magnitudes less effective and your recovery is severely impacted.  Just do it! Straight away, it takes 4-5 mins if you’re focused on it, and you will feel SO GOOD for it.  Once you start doing 20km +, this becomes non-optional.  If you don’t do it, you WILL (over the course of a short time) tighten up to the point where you hurt yourself with a tight ITB, knee pain, hip pain, back pain.  You put so much hard work into getting here, why write it all off now.  I’m going to dump a quick, short stretching sequence here….take it. Use it. Keep running.

Every Session Flexibilty Program


Just like above – your key steps are below.  Use them, look after yourself, don’t rush, enjoy your exercise and the ability to put some focused hard work to use!  Running is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be done by everyone.  I am a “learned” runner.  I am not terribly great, but I’ve put a lot of work in and enjoy the feeling that brings when it serves in events 🙂

Memory Reminder:

  • Start very short
  • Incorporate into existing workouts
  • Actually run to train running
  • Increase slowly
  • Stretch


You CAN do it – its just about how much you want it.  Take the time, and you can do anything.


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