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Have you ever wondered whether joining a running club was right for you? If so, have you ever wondered which club to join? One of our very own Conscious Runners is faced with this dilemma. Let me set the situation for you. There are two clubs in her area. One is more relaxed and laid back and the other more serious and she is wondering which one is right for her. Unable to decide which group to join, she reached out to The Conscious Runner private Facebook Group for guidance. When I began typing my response, I realized I had a lot more to say on the subject and told her that I would share my thoughts about running clubs on the podcast and then I figured I’d do a video about it too. So, here we are.

First, I’d like to say that I absolutely love my running club! It is amazing and has got me through some mentally tough times; especially when my motivation to run has been low. In fact, it was my lack of motivation to run that inspired me to join a running club in the first place. Not only did it make my runs easier to complete, there was the camaraderie of going through a shared journey, having buddies around you to help you keep pace and back off when needed and lastly, the the social aspect of club.

And if your club is anything like mine, there’s lots and lots of food and drinks after the run. I’m talking everything from boiled eggs to bananas, to muffins, to bagels, etc. A complete buffet. Joining the club has definitely been one of the best things that I have done for my running. And even if I show up to a run and have to run alone because I have a specific workout to do, it is nice knowing others are out there running too. So, if you have an opportunity to join a club, I definitely recommend it. The inspiration, motivation and good running conversation are worth every bit of it.

That said, if you are in a running club or planning to join one, there are a few things to be aware of. And I don’t say this in judgment, but to shed some light on some of the things that I see happening in many of the clubs I’ve had the honor to run with. And I’ve done these things as well. First, it is important to be aware that clubs have momentum. There is a certain force about them. And if you’re not aware of this force, you can get caught in it and done enough times, it can put your running goals in jeopardy. What I’ve noticed with many of the wonderful groups I’ve had the opportunity to run with is the same kins of things happens over and over again.

Not Warming Up

First, everyone shows up to the run and generally stands around before start time. There may be a few runners stretching here and there, but most are standing around chatting while waiting for the run to begin. I’m here to tell you that It is really important to warm-up before you run. I know on some level you know this, but did you know warming up had all of these benefits. 

Warming up:

  • Increases body temperature, reducing the potential for muscle and connective injuries
  • Increases blood flow to exercising muscles, making the easier the delivery of nutrients required for energy production
  • Increases blood flow to the heart, reducing risk for exercise-induced cardiac abnormalities
  • Enhances the suppleness of the muscle
  • Promotes sweating which reduces the amount of heat stored in the body.
  • Increases the speed of transmission of nerve impulse
  • Helps the heart and blood vessels adjust to the body’s increased demands for blood and oxygen
  • Helps you perform better and reduces injuries

You don’t have to perform some long elaborate warm-up. Just a little something to get the body moving. Warming up can consist of walking for 5 minutes, followed by a dynamic stretching routine before you run to walking + a dynamic routine, followed by a few miles & strides depending on what your workout is. The important thing here is to not just lace shoes up and go.

Not Running Your Pace

Another thing that I see is runners getting swept up in the pace of the group. It is really important that you stick to the pace you are supposed to be running for that workout on that day. Every single one of your runs should have a purpose. That purpose can be to increase aerobic endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max, boost recovery or even to just get a hard run in or chat it up with a few friends. Sticking to your paces becomes even more important if you are being coached or following a plan.

If you don’t stick within the range of times you are scheduled to run and allow the momentum of the group to carry you  faster, it can impair not only the current workout you are running, but the workout scheduled for the next day or even next several days. And even worse, you won’t create the physiological adaptations necessary to perform your best at your goal race. If you do this a few times during a several month race build-up, is it going to hurt your race performance, most likely not, but consistently done, pushing in this way could lead to overtraining, injury or poor performance.

I am not saying you do this intentionally. And even if you do, it is okay. It all depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to get the best out of your running, maintaining proper paces is critical. That’s the only way to run your best. And even those runners who commit to running one pace, get to chatting it up with the other runners around them and all of a sudden, find themselves running a pace they have no business running on that day.

Should you find yourself in this situation, there are few things you can do:

  1. Slow down immediately. Don’t apologize, feel guilty or think that you have to explain yourself
  2. Turn around and see if there are any members of the group running around the pace you need to be running and join them
  3. When you meet with the club the following week, begin the run with runners who will be running the pace you need to ru
  4. Know the purpose of your run BEFORE you begin running
  5. Commit to staying on pace BEFORE you begin running
  6. Keep your ULTIMATE goals in mind

This isn’t to say that there won’t be those time that you’ll want to test yourself against another runner. This is okay too, as long as it is done cautiously. After all, you have to have fun.

Not Cooling Down

The last thing that I see is runners not cooling down after the run. Just like warming up, what tends to happen is that runners complete their runs and then stand around chatting, waiting, eating, etc., before heading to their cars. Cooling down is just as important as warming-up and sticking to your paces while running.

Here are some of the benefits of cooling down after a run:

  • It helps to dissipate waste products, including lactic acid
  • It reduces the potential for muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • It reduces the chances of becoming dizzy or fainting caused by the pooling of venous blood at the extremities
  • It allows your heart rate to return to its resting rate
  • It allows you to mentally transition from your workout to the next thing you have to do

Like warming up, a proper cool down doesn’t have to take long. Walking for 5-10 minutes after your workout, followed by a dynamic or static stretching session (if needed) will do.

So, getting back to our conscious runner with the dilemma, I suggested that she go for a run with both groups and see which one she connected with most. After all, there’s no rule that says you can’t belong to more than one running club. 🙂

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