Two months ago I got back into running – and I haven’t stopped since then! Not literally, of course… To make sure I have the right technique out on the trail I spoke to running coach Alexander Pittl from the Laufwerkstatt running school who gave me some top tips which are useful for beginners, experts and people like me getting back into the sport after a while away. Of course, I am more than happy to share his advice with you. There are also some really cool running events going on in Tirol in summer. Check out the list at the end of the blog.
Which tips do you have for running novices?
The main principle is: slow, slow, slow! That means start slowly, run slowly and step up the pace slowly. Forget about how fast you can run and see how many minutes you can run for. It’s fine to take a break every now and then to walk. In fact, that is often a good idea to keep your pulse at the right level and bring it down if it gets too high. I also recommend that runners breathe through the nose and not through the mouth.
How can you motivate yourself on those days when you just don’t want to go running?
It is important to always remember that it is a gift to be able to run at all. That’s why I think that running should be used first and foremost as a way of staying fit and reducing stress. I often see runners who are over-motivated or too ambitious and turn every training session into a competition. The problem is that eventually you stop having fun. My motto is “Don’t push it too hard – just enjoy being out in nature!”
Can you tell our readers about the “theory” behind a good running technique?
The most important thing is to go running in the first place. Once you are comfortable running, you can start improving your technique. The only way to really work on achieving the right technique is through running. We offer running seminars for people who wish to perfect their technique. It is hard to explain the “theory” behind it, because the reasons for an incorrect running technique vary from person to person. Therefore, you have to take a look at each person running and develop individual exercises which suit them.
What about food and drink? Is it better to eat and drink before, during or after exercise?
It is not good to eat shortly before doing exercise, as it tends to sit in your stomach. Ideally you should try to eat 2-3 hours before running. But in my experience this is something which varies from person to person. Some people need a little snack immediately before they get going. It also depends on what kind of running you are doing – is it a slow endurance run or hard interval session? Eating during training sessions and competitions only makes sense for long distances such as marathons. After you have finished running, it is important to load up on energy again with a proper meal. When it comes to drinking, that is something you should really do at regular intervals before, during and after running. It is very important to keep your body hydrated. Many runners don’t drink enough. For runs lasting 50-60 minutes you should definitely take an isotonic drink with you or choose a route with a drinking fountain en route.
How many times a week should people go running? And how long should each run be?
That depends very much on how much training you are used to doing. Generally I think people should aim to go running at least 2-3 times a week and spend a total of around two hours a week running. Beginners should start with less, but as soon as they start to feel the positive effects of running they will soon want to do more!
It is true that interval training is more effective than long runs at a slower pace?
It depends. Interval training requires runners to have good basic fitness. The best way to develop that is with long, steady runs at a constant heart rate. Classic interval training is only recommended for very ambitious runners who already have a good fitness level. Otherwise it is easy to push too hard and develop too much lactic acid in your muscles. My tip is to try running at a range of different speeds. Simply use the terrain you have to run more slowly uphill and faster downhill. With all the mountains we have here in Tirol that is easy to do and great fun.
Is it better for beginners to run on their own or in a group?
I think it is best for complete beginners to start running on their own. That way it is easier to maintain the right speed (as I said, beginners should start off very slowly) and to slow down to a walk every now and then. I have often seen situations where beginners are pushed too hard by the other people they are running with and then give up because they don’t enjoy it. On the other hand, meeting up at least once a week for a “running date” with like-minded people is a great way to stay motivated – as long as the people you go running with are of a similar fitness and ambition level. It is always good when we have a coach with us for our Laufwerkstatt training sessions. He keeps an eye on the group and gives each runner individual tips.
What do you think about running apps?
Generally I think they are a great idea. They are a good way to stay motivated. The only problem is that like many things these days they are very technical. They focus on numbers such as as far you have run, how fast, what the average speed was, etc. With all that information, it is easy to forget the experience of simply being out running in nature. Apps should help runners and not turn them into slaves always checking their numbers. That can actually increase pressure instead of enjoyment.
When did you start running? How did you first get into running?
I started running when I was at university. Initially it was a way for me to relax, but I soon got the marathon fever and ran marathons in Berlin, Frankfurt and Vienna. After that I started trailrunning, as it is known today, especially long distances known as “ultra runs” – events where the distance is longer than a marathon. Eventually I stopped worrying about how fast I was running and started to focus more on the fun and enjoyment of being out in the mountains.
What is your favourite run or running area in Tirol?
I love all natural trails. My favourite running areas include the region around Innsbruck with its combination of city and mountains as well as the Pitztal Valley, which definitely has some of the best trailrunning in Tirol.
Running events are becoming more and more popular. Why do you think that is?
Running events are great fun. They are a good place to meet up with like-minded people from many different countries. It’s like being part of one big family. Trailrunning events, which are experiencing a boom at the moment, definitely have this family atmosphere. And those who want to can compete against others at these kinds of running events.
Any tips and recommendations?
Leave the tarmac behind and get out into nature!
There are sooooooo many running events in Tirol. Here are a few of the best: