Friday, May 20, 2016

Going off-road...

It's time to get off road!
The main way I stay fit (ish) these days is running. I’ve incorporated it into my daily commute, but I also love to head out off-road and just run.
"Personally I’ve never enjoyed running on a treadmill"
It’s a great way to clear my head, give my brain some space to let ideas percolate, and be connected with the natural environment.

I used to do more running than I do now, and it’s a habit I want to get back into. Personally I’ve never enjoyed running on a treadmill in a gym, although I can understand why many people do. I much prefer feeling the wind in my face, listening to the sounds of nature and getting muddy.

Above anything else it's the sense of unplugging that I appreciate the most. Running from screen time, alerts, social media updates and the general distraction and white noise of 21st century life. Time on my own, away from traffic in its many forms is good for my soul.
"Above anything else it's the sense of unplugging that I appreciate the most."
Get off the treadmill!
On the physical side, it’s well documented that off-road running has many benefits over treadmill running. Fresh air aside, the different surfaces and uneven levels cause you to vary your stride pattern and generally take shorter steps – this puts less strain on your knees but also is good for your balance as you work different muscles.

Overall your technique will improve as you strengthen your ankles and have a better core workout. You're also likely to encounter more challenge in the form of uphills than the level treadmill, so it's likely to be a better aerobic workout too.

Treadmills often provide too much cushioning, causing you to overstride – conversely running on hard surfaces such as concrete and tarmac can cause more impact stress.

Trail running seems to strike a good balance in terms of resistance without undue stress - you're likely to get fewer injuries.

Variation is a good thing, something that treadmills don't provide! So taking yourself off road is a good way to avoid monotony.
“Adventure may hurt you, monotony will kill you”
While I was Googling the benefits of trail running, to help with ideas for this post I came across this blog, with it's great tag line “Adventure may hurt you, monotony will kill you”. That really struck me. Isn't it true that so often in life we look on the adventurous path as the one with the most risk, when perhaps the monotonous "safe" path is the one that's silently killing us?

The landscape through which I love to run...
Perhaps in your life you feel a little like you’re on a treadmill, in which case my question this week is how can you take that area of your life off-road?

It might not be a big thing, like handing in your notice, but it could be changing the environment in which you go through your regular routines.

Is there someplace different you can go to inject some fresh air into your art, creativity or regular routine?

Do you need to do something different with your technique perhaps? Work some different muscles, take some different strides?

Whilst I maintain that routines, rhythms and habits are good for us, in my own experience it's easy to get stuck in a rut, whether that's blogging, podcasting or anything else. I took my writing off-road earlier this year when I took the step to pause my weekly blogging habit to focus on finishing my latest book.
"How can you take your life off-road?"
Likewise with my podcasting at the beginning of the year I switched to finite seasons rather than just doing weekly or bi-weekly shows infinitely. In both cases I felt my technique and motivation improved straight away, and it was good to do something different. In fact it was pretty liberating. In the same way, when I used to work in an office in the New Forest it was liberating to don my running gear, slip on my trainers and go for a lunchtime run. I was always more productive in the afternoons when I'd been running at lunch.

So taking this post off-road, to finish I want to share a piece of prose I wrote way back in 2009 in an earlier incarnation of Musings for the Potting Shed. This is the account of one of my favourite runs from when I used to live in Southampton. Enjoy!

Wake up - it's dry but overcast. 
Perfect for running. 
Have a banana and a cup of tea while I wake up.
Kit on, slip into my trainers (elastic laces for triathlon), put on my watch. 
Out of the front door, right and downhill to the bottom of the road - remember to start the stopwatch. 
Past the bus stops and the row of three shops on my left, then turn left, over Tanners Brook and up the steep hill to the General Hospital. 
Pass the Hospital on my right, uphill all the way, then across the traffic lights and past house after house on my left. 
Southampton Municipal Golf Course is on my right, through the trees, but I press on, still uphill, the tarmac giving way to gravel then sandy paths as I enter Lordswood
It's cool and shaded amongst the trees and rhododendrons, the air is moist. 
Dodging puddles it's uphill all the way to the motorway bridge, I know I'm close when I can hear the barking from the kennels. 
Left before the bridge instead of straight over, and past the giant mansions before sweet downhill on the wide sandy paths, flanked by row upon row of pine to each side. 
Nodded hellos to early morning dog walkers, jumping puddles, adrenalin pumping, endorphins bringing a smile to my face. 
Sharp right at Tanners Brook then pounding along beside the brook, full of yesterdays rain, right again at the first footbridge then left over the second footbridge and up the steep gradient to the main road. 
Through the underpass, footsteps echoing, then along alleyways between the houses. 
Into a small wood until bursting into bright sunlight on the other side, warm on my face and shoulders. 
Right, nice and flat along the road, past two roundabouts then left and downhill, lifting up the pace back to the front gate. 
Five miles and brilliant.


Thanks for taking the time to read Going Off-Road. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon, along with my previous book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow.

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My Random Musings
Cuddle Fairy


jeremy@thirstydaddy said...

we don't do a lot of running, but most of the benefits you mentioned also apply to hiking. We love getting outside and a bit off the beaten path #anythinggoes

Luke Strickland said...

That's true Jeremy! Thanks for commenting!

Unknown said...

That's a good prompt! I tried to save money last year by walking rather than getting the tube and once past the traffic it was a more enjoyable journey with time to think, prepare or wander.


Babies, biscuits and booze said...

I enjoyed this, I'm not a runner but I like a good walk and can definitely see the appeal in running in the countryside and fresh air rather than on a treadmill! I think getting outside and away from phones, computers etc is really important. To reconnect with ourselves a little, as well as nature!

I also agree that mixing up your routine or making a few changes to your life can have really positive impacts. I have always said I wouldn't have a schedule with my blog because I believe it would result in me writing uninspiring or dull posts occasionally purely because I felt I needed to publish something that day! #BloggerClubUK

sothisismemrst said...

I'm not a runner but I do love walking gently and at pace outdoors. great post #anythinggoes

Luke Strickland said...

That's a good idea about saving money too by walking!

Luke Strickland said...

There's definitely both elements to it, reconnecting with nature as well as ourselves - thanks for commenting!

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Katie :)

Random Musings said...

You make running sound like so much fun! I can't run in public, just no lol, so it's a treadmill for me I'm afraid!
Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK :)

Luke Strickland said...

It IS fun Debbie :) well, mostly...