So, just what are the benefits of getting out of bed earlier and, in the likely case that there are no pavements to run on in your vicinity, getting in the car and driving to a suitable spot? Well, for one it’s good to be outdoors – good for the psyche, good for the lungs (except when the wind has whipped up the sand), and it beats the hamster-on-the-wheel effect of the treadmill. Running is also among the best aerobic workouts you can give your heart, a great way to shed pounds, and it makes your body more resistant to ailments from the common cold upwards.
Nice and easy does it
Right then, how does one get on track? Slowly, is the advice of the experts. ‘Do not, under any circumstances, throw yourself into the sport head-on, as this will lead to soreness and injury,’ says Mustafa Fulad, ex-chairman of the Bahrain Road Runners, who has been running for 30 years. ‘Ease yourself in with three or four brisk walks during the first week, then up your pace to a run, gradually increasing your mileage until you can run around 5km with relative ease.’ When starting out, it’s best to focus on distance rather than time, he says. ‘Aim to increase your mileage, then try to run the same distance in a shorter time.’ Another good way to build stamina is interval training, says Ole Brom, fitness instructor at the Ritz-Carlton Sports Club.
‘Start out by doing six 10-second sprints, each followed by a 10-second recovery period. As your fitness improves, increase this to 10 15-second sprints and recovery periods, then jog for five minutes and repeat.’ For a good workout, he says you should warm up for 10 minutes, do your interval training, then jog for another 10 minutes, stretching for five minutes before and afterwards. And the ultimate aim? ‘A good goal is 5 kms in 25 minutes,’ says Brom, ‘but athletes intent on winning the next big race are looking at 14 or 15 minutes.’
Everyone knows that chowing down on a high-carb meal before a run keeps the muscles well fuelled and helps prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), but instead of reaching out for white paste, go for slower-releasing wholewheat to avoid spikes in insulin levels. It’s also important to allow adequate time for digestion before heading out. The rule of thumb is to wait around three hours after a large meal and an hour after a snack. Good pre-run nibbles include bananas, yoghurt, oatmeal, almonds or fresh orange juice.
Strength in numbers
Running as part of a group is a great way to keep motivated. No-nonsense runners should join the Bahrain Road Runners (www.bahrainhm.com), while the Hash House Harriers (www.bahrainhash.com) is for those who enjoy a barbie after their run.
Eye on the prize
In search of some incentive to increase your pace? Why not set a goal for yourself? Having something to work towards is a great way to ensure you go the distance. Events this year include:
• Bahrain Marathon Relay in the fourth quarter of 2009
• 5km Grand Prix on November 6
• Bahrain Cross Island on November 12 (16km)
• 10km Grand Prix on November 13
• 15km Grand Prix on November 20
Where to run
Some of the best places to run on the island of Bahrain include the streets of Awali, along the BIC highway, the Shaikh Khalifa causeway from Mina Salman to the dry-dock, by the Marina Club on Alfateh highway, the Al Ghoos corniche in Muharraq or Al Jazayer beach. Grab yourself some trainers and we’ll see you there.
The SMART approach
Exercise is a case of mind over muscle, and we can all benefit from the ‘SMART’ approach to help us get the results we want
S = Skilful: While your fitness level will obviously be a factor, it is not the only – or even the primary – reason for success. Avoid doing too much too soon, building your endurance and technique.
M = Mindful: Be aware of how you are exercising. As you run, note your body – just relax and think about your aims for that session.
A = Athletic: You don’t have to be born with the genetic make-up of an athlete to act like one. Even someone with physical talent will perform badly with poor technique and an arrogant mindset.
R = Recreational: For so many people, exercising has become just another job – something else to tick off on the endless list of things to do. Remember that all-important sense of fun, and keep a sense of perspective about your regime.
T = Transferable: Your improved fitness will benefit your everyday life in so many ways – just think how easy it will be running for a taxi.