Running; it’s the key form of exercise that the majority of us have had access to during these lockdown times, seeing as it doesn’t require any equipment or supervision, but I do feel like some of us would benefit from a few running tips. As soon as the doors opened to an hour of daily exercise, pretty much everyone became a ‘runner’, myself included. I normally swim on a daily basis, but with that plan out the window, and with my muscles beginning to atrophy at home, I decided to go for a run instead. Only problem is that I managed to pull a muscle pretty early on in my newfound fitness routine, and I just don’t enjoy running as much as I do other forms of exercise. Then I thought, maybe I am just doing it all wrong? I caught up with Lebanese Middle Distance Runner, Laura Fallaha, to discuss her tips on running, and how best to make this part of our daily exercise routine, safely and effectively. Whether you are a novice runner, road runner, or into your trail runs, here are a few pointers.
Imprint: Tell us a bit about you.
Laura: Before moving to New York, where I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in real estate development at Columbia University, I was living in Dubai, working as an architect. I was also a pacer for the Nike Run Club, and we held group running sessions 3-4 times a week. In parallel to this, I train with the Inter-Lebanon Running team when I’m back home in Beirut, where I compete in the national championships. Some of my most recent running highlights include: the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Denmark, and the Hood to Coast 320km relay with Nike in Portland, Oregon.
Imprint: What made you take up running in the first place?
Laura: I was in school in Beirut, Lebanon and I started running for the cross country team at the age of 14.
Imprint: What are five words that describe what running means to you?
Laura: Health, Mindfulness, Happiness, Power, Motivation.
Imprint: What other sports/ fitness disciplines do you practice?
Laura: Previously a competitive swimmer, I still practice swimming 2-3 times a week for recovery.
Imprint: Who is your athlete inspiration, and why?
Laura: Eliud Kipchoge. He is a pure representation of modesty; he is genuine, close to the people and always positive, while being the fastest marathoner in history! He proves to be a person with amazing mental strength, incredible power and such a motivational athlete I look up to.
Imprint: What are the main health benefits that you personally experience from running?
Laura: Other than the physical fitness benefits, running gives me a whole other level of mental health benefits. Running keeps me sane, healthy and happy. If I run in the morning, it gives me an incredible energy and mood boost during the day; I think clearer and perform much more efficiently. If I run in the evening, it is the perfect positive getaway to wrap up my day, let it be a good or bad day. Runner’s high is definitely something and I highly recommend it!
Imprint: What are the key running dos and don’ts in your opinion?
– Do take time to do a dynamic warm up, activating the glutes and the legs.
– Don’t run crazy hard to start, build up your running pace gradually.
– Do plan runs with friends (while keeping socially distant); it definitely increases the motivation to go and run.
– Don’t land on your heels first as this can contribute to knee and back pain. Focus on landing on the forefoot as it allows your muscles to catch your body weight, reducing the impact on the joints and therefore preventing injuries.
– Do listen to your body and don’t get frustrated if your body does not perform as planned. You might have set a 10k goal for today, but you weren’t feeling well and were able to only do 4-5k. It’s OK! Tomorrow is another day and you will perform better.
– Do take time to stretch and foam roll daily; you don’t want to build up tightness in your legs and hips.
– Do not ignore your rest day. Your body needs to rest, reset and restore.
– Do focus on working the other layers of your muscles in parallel through Pilates, resistance and strength training.
– Definitely do enjoy every single minute of your running journey!
Imprint: What are your tips for running safely and effectively?
Laura: First of all, building up running stamina should come in progressively. You can’t just rush straight into it and start running crazy miles all of a sudden. Running safely and injury free means taking up running gradually, and should definitely be combined with cross training. Strength, resistance training and Pilates work the micro muscles that are not always activated during running and are crucial to build form, posture and prevent injuries. Another tip I highly value focuses on speed play: as such, building stamina and pace comes in from a balanced combination between interval speed trainings and longer steady runs.
Imprint: How have you been handling lockdown in NYC?
Laura: Although parks remained open during quarantine in NYC, I avoided going out and stuck to Nike’s Play Inside mantra. It was tough to absorb the fact that I had to transition from running 250km a month to zero overnight. As such, I really took this time to think about it positively and focused on self-improvement, working on my weaknesses through strength, resistance and mobility. I did incorporate the cardio part by alternating between HIIT and indoor cycling. I am quite happy with the result and surely looking forward to getting back out and running again.
Imprint: First thing you plan to do after this is over?
Laura: Get out, go back to running in the park, on the track, running with people, having our post-run breakfast rituals, and looking forward to getting the whole community back together. Running is not just a sport; it is a lifestyle.
You can follow Laura on Instagram @laurafallaha.