Going the distance

Liz Parry tests out a running workshop at health hydro Ragdale Hall

I first took up running about five years ago in a bid to get a bit fitter and healthier. In that time I’ve gone from a few tentative jogs round the local park to taking part in road races of various distances. I’ve picked up my fair share of injuries along the way though and have often wondered whether I might benefit from a bit of expert advice. A running workshop seemed like a good idea, so off I headed to Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire to give it a try.

During the three-day programme, our group of eight were put through our paces by instructor Michelle Read. Although the programme was designed to be an introduction to running, everyone was of mixed ability, ranging from complete beginners to those who had completed half marathons. The great thing was that everyone benefited from the technique analysis, exercises and runs, and several people noted improvements in their form during the course.

Everyone in the group had a one-to-one session with Michelle in which our running technique was analysed and we were given specific pointers for how to improve. I found it useful to learn that I needed to raise my knees higher and to lower my shoulders. I hadn’t realised that I was quite tense when I was running and that this might be the cause of the upper body soreness I was experiencing. Another tip I learned was the importance of a good warm-up routine. I don’t think I’m the only runner who has impatiently skipped my warm-up, headed out for a run and then wondered why my legs felt like lead. I was also interested to learn about ‘fartleks’ which involve introducing fast bursts of speed to your run in an ad hoc fashion. The aim here is to improve your anaerobic capacity, helping you to perform at higher intensity. As someone who always runs at the same speed, this was a new challenge and something I will definitely start incorporating into my usual workouts.

A strength and Pilates session in the gym provided a great complement to the outdoor exercises. Here we picked up some useful tips for how to build our core strength and thus prevent injuries. Having suffered with knee and hip problems over the past few years, I found this to be particularly useful. We practised planks, supermans, clams, squats and various other stretches, and also learned about how to use a foam roller to help ease muscle pain after a run.

The programme finished with a long run through the beautiful Leicestershire countryside around Ragdale Hall. We all put into practice the tips and techniques we had learnt before heading to the spa for a much-deserved rest in the glorious hydrotherapy pools and saunas.

I came away from the workshop filled with new enthusiasm for my running and plenty of ideas for how to improve my technique. I couldn’t wait to put my trainers on and hit the road!

Keep it up!

An occasional dip in motivation is something that, at one time or another, is likely to affect everyone from the recreational jogger to the elite track athlete. Here are Ragdale Hall’s top tips to ensure you stay motivated to succeed.

See things clearly
Whilst we communicate through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touch) routes, it is the first one that is usually the strongest sensory filter for most of us. For this reason, images associated with your goals can serve to really give you the kick up the backside you might need. A photo of you crossing the line in a previous marathon stuck on the fridge door or a medal you won at a track meeting hanging off the stairs handrail are easy examples. Be creative and explore a few options.

On the record
Research published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology proved that simply keeping a diary of your training runs can be a vital tool in helping you to stick to your programme. Those of us who record our runs tend to exercise more frequently than those who don’t and so are far more likely to see the results.

It takes two
Research shows that training with a friend leads to greater adherence to your workout schedule. Commitment to not letting her down, a pat on the back when you put in that extra little bit of effort, an understanding voice to push you on, not to mention someone to compete against – all of these are positive influences. Of course, a natural extension to this line of thinking might be to join a running club, if you haven’t already.

Let the music play
Music can accelerate your results via four different routes. Firstly, it can reduce feelings of fatigue, resulting in you running for longer. In addition, music increases psychological arousal and improves co-ordination, both of which will ensure you perform at higher levels in your training. Finally, appropriate tracks can promote a physiological relaxation response. Since rest between runs is crucial, as this is when positive changes take place, anything that aids this process can only be a good thing.

For more information on Ragdale Hall, visit www.ragdalehall.co.uk

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