IS YOUR BODY READY TO RUN? EFFICIENTLY?? AND PAIN-FREE?? Humans are meant to run, whatever the distance, aren’t we? We keep running with little niggles, knee issues and injuries, that’s just the way it is, isn’t it? But, when my body became ready to run, things changed.

I introduced myself to strength and conditioning coach, Keith Downer (of The Natural Movement Studio) when I walked, or, more like hobbled into his gym 3 days after completing The Race to the Stones.  Race to the Stones takes place on Britain’s oldest path called The Ridgeway, and I’d just completed it with a friend in July 2016.  It was our first 100k! Being in the UK, the weather could have been anything.  Gratefully, it was a clear morning, and off we went. Day turned into night. We continued to cross uneven, rocky, bumpy, narrow, hardpacked, difficult terrain with sheer determination, Donna Summer music and unbeknown to me at the time, a squishy slug which made a home in my running shoe! There was no hanging around at checkpoints either; eat, drink, go. 

We finished 23hrs and a few minutes later when the sun was coming up. And, after a prolonged loo break in the grass, we managed to jump up and down with joy quite a few times even though moments earlier, particularly me, was dragging all my limbs on battered and blistered, slightly shuffling feet! About an hour later while sitting in the finisher’s tent savouring our accomplishment, surrounded by collapsed runners feeling quite chuffed with ourselves, we didn’t move so well.

Everything was seizing up and the pain of my Iliotibial band (ITB) made me think my leg would never bend again!

My instructions to Keith was ‘please make me be able to run for 10 min cross country and I’ll be happy’ thinking my running career was over before it really started. Keith sent me home to rest.  Little did I know… I was the one going to be given some serious instructions and lessons!! Having been involved in the fitness industry for 30 years and being fortunate enough to learn about the body plus strength and conditioning from knowledgeable, walk their talk coaches, I did have a great grounding in this area. 

The difference now was that I was seriously experimenting with the knowledge for running performance and injury prevention. About a week later, being somewhat able to move again, I went for my first training session and there were some serious lessons given to me in why body management, strength and conditioning, and having rest would help my running, prevent injuries and keep me functional for every day. 

It begins with… Mobility Drills: Full biomechanical assessment to determine how your body physically moves as one ‘unit’. Simple. We tend to spend lots of time behind a desk, at meetings, in cars, trains, and planes, and our bodies get ‘glued’ into a position that’s usually hunched over, experience neck, shoulder and back pain, along with other discomforts.   Then, with every good intention of ‘getting fit’, we go for a run. 

We expect ourselves to be fully physical functional, and perform to whatever our expectations are. Great!!  Except, we get injured; ankles twist, knees hurt, ITB’s don’t work, Achilles problems, tight hamstrings to name a few.  We feel disillusioned, and annoyed because now, we can’t run. The mobility drills are a great indicator of how your body moves or doesn’t move as a unit.  Doing the drills, you will feel which parts move, bend, remain stable and upright during movement, or not.

You may be pleased with your range of movement, or you may be surprised it’s not quite what you thought it was. Remember, do not force the movements.  Forcing can cause injury. Any level runner or athlete could use these mobility drills because they can flag up signs of something not working quite right, and point out areas for strength and conditioning work. 

Injuries can be kept at bay because you know what needs to be fixed to keep you running and very importantly, have everyday functional fitness, because really…it’s much more fun to move! *Quick follow up:  Keith’s the very first question to me literally right after finishing my first 50K race on the Isle of Wight the following April, was “How’s the  IT?”  My reply: “Oh yeah…I forgot it’s good!”  I was excited because I came 6th female and I was still walking just fine. Happy Days!!! These drills are what we started with and continue to do.



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