Motivation For Running: Find Out How I Got Mine Back And How You Can Too

The truth about life is that it will always give us what we need. Plain and simple. It’s only a matter of whether we embrace what we are given and learn or carry on grumbling about how difficult it all is that determines our ultimate success or failure. It’s in my relationship with running and in particular my motivation for running where this truth really lights the way.

I know how difficult it can be as a runner to keep motivated.

When you enter a search into Google for the word ‘motivation’ you will find no less than 43,900 000 results – it seems the whole world is looking for motivation! If you are reading this article you want to know about motivation – right? Where and how to find it and how to keep it. This article is about how I found my motivation for running again after a slump of note. And I want to share it with you because I know how difficult it can be as a runner to keep motivated. Bear with me through to the end and you will be happy you did…

A Short Introduction

Coming back from an Achilles’ injury that had me side-lined for 12 weeks was not easy to say the least. It’s not because I didn’t want to, it was just that I had been out of action for some time, during which even walking was painful and a proper cross-training regime was not always possible, because my day job takes me away from home a lot and entails spending a week or two in different cities so a gym membership was impossible. Needless to say; I felt like a fat slob.

I found myself in a slump with no motivation for running and a mountain before me.

So after the OK from my physiotherapist, it was all systems go – except I had no ‘go’. I found myself in a slump with no motivation for running and a mountain before me. I mean my average run was 10km I did two speed sessions and one long run per week. How was I going to get back to that level? All the hard work, the sweat and the grind – grumble, grumble, grumble…

An Unusual Life Line

I had heard of Leo Babauta before, and during my ‘fat slob’ period a fellow blogger recommended his book; Zen Habits Handbook for Life as a good read. Well what I found in Leo’s book was so much more than a ‘good read’. Although Leo himself writes that his handbook for life is a ‘…poor substitute…’ I’m telling you now it’s the best handbook for life you will ever find, and what Leo explores in the book can easily be applied to any part of life. Leo has achieved milestones like; becoming a runner, completing a marathon and a triathlon to name just a few and that takes a lot of work, commitment and sacrifice and being a runner I understood and identified with that.

A Serving Of Motivation With A Side-Dish Of Inspiration

Leo’s book; Zen Habits Handbook for Life is not a ‘read-cover-to-cover’ kind of book. It is filled with hundreds of tips for simplicity, happiness and productivity served up in bite size articles making it easy to find the inspirational light you need. Tried and tested by someone just like you and I – I mean the guy went from being a smoker to being 13 kg lighter and a triathlete!

Celebrate a milestone you have achieved – no matter how small it is.

You still with me? Great! So now you want to know what all that has to do with my running motivation. Ok obviously I can’t reproduce the articles here but Leo reminded me that;

  • Having one goal in mind is the place to start – so getting out there is more important than worrying about where I could have been if I wasn’t injured.
  • Small steps add up to great leaps in the end – concentrating on one small thing at a time like running for 10 minutes every day will end up being my usual 10 km run in three months time.
  • No man or woman is an island – we all need support especially when we are down or in a slump and not motivated.
  • We all have ups and downs – motivation, like everything else in life works in cycles and it’s so important that when the chips are down that we never give up, never, ever.
  • Celebrate a milestone you have achieved – no matter how small it is.
  • Motivation is everywhere and Leo shows you places you will find motivation that you never even thought of!
  • The power to take charge of my thoughts rests with me – Leo explains quick and easy ways to wield this power with success.

Seriously, I could go on and on here but that would just spoil it for you because I’m not nearly as good as Leo at getting people excited and motivated so do yourself a favour and buy his book buy his book Zen Habits Handbook for Life – you won’t regret it!

Share Your Experience

I’d love to hear what your experience as a runner has been when dealing with your running and motivation, your comments, thoughts and ideas on motivation for running is important for this blog and its community – please leave a them below.

Please Subscribe!!
Thanks for reading Top Running Tips.
Most readers take a moment to subscribe to my ‘Runner’s Bulletin’ Newsletter. It’s a brilliant way to stay motivated and develop your running plus it’s totally free!
Subscribe here! Or choose the RSS Feed for updates in your feed reader.

The links in this article are affiliate links when you click on the link and purchase the product I am paid a small portion of the price. This funding goes to maintaining this blog for your reading pleasure. Thank you!

I’d love it if you’d take a moment use the social icons below to add this article to Stumbleupon or Delicious, because it will help me get more readers. Thanks a million! :)

Top 10 Running Songs To Spice Up Your Playlist

What is it about music that’s so powerful it can instantly change any situation? The right song at the right time can really get you psyched on a run and sometimes all you need is ‘that song’ to get you out pounding the pavements when all you wanted to do was curl up on the sofa and watch the telly.

A survey, done each year before the London Marathon by, asks the marathon runners to name the most motivational tune on their running playlist while training for the 42.195km race. For the past 2 years running, there have been a few perennials that have proven to have staying power; with Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from the Rocky films firmly in first place, the Spencer Davis Group holding onto the number two spot and Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ finishing comfortably in the top four. While Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire moved up three places from number six to number three.

Refreshingly; there were four surprise new entries sneaking into the top ten for 2010s ultimate playlist for running. In the number five spot we have Journey with ‘Don’t Stop Believing’; at number six we have Bill Conti’s ‘Gonna Fly Now’ – proving that the classic Rocky series has been a big motivator as runners trained for the world famous marathon. The Black Eyed Peas danced in at number seven with ‘I Got a Feeling’ and Ron Goodwin slid in at number nine with ‘The Trap’.

With the flood of new tunes; tracks like ‘Mr. Brightside’ from The Killers and Lady Gaga’s ‘Pokerface’ dropped out of the top ten along with ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless and ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen. And although ‘Sex on Fire’ by Kings of Leon and ‘Proud’ by Heather Small dropped to numbers eight and ten respectively both tunes managed to grab a place in the top ten.

These tunes are ideal for running, with their beats and rhythm runners are easily able to maintain a steady running pace. If you want to find out more about using music to help you train, what the benefits are of training with music and how you can easily put together your own personalized running playlist based on your bpm then check back here soon, or you might miss out!

4 Psychological Benefits Of Running To Get You Psyched

It’s pretty obvious, if you look at a runner’s body or read some of the amazing stories online, that hitting the pavements or treadmill has a phenomenal impact on the body and looking at the physical benefits there are plenty of reasons to start running. Running is as much psychological as it is physical and understanding these psychological benefits of running is an important step to keep motivated.

In a European study conducted by Asics recently, the physical benefits proved to be the driving factor behind our decision to start running.

When Asics compared the reasons to start running versus reasons to keep on running the results were interesting in that the psychological benefits such as; mental reward increased by 78%, stress-release was up by 66% and the fun factor shot up 54% all in favour of keeping up the habit.

These results are interesting because they seem to point to – body first then mind – we start off wanting physical results and end up also reaping the mental benefits of running, and it’s mainly the mental benefits that motivate us to keep on running.

Here are four mental perks that get me psyched to tie my laces and head out the door… Almost without fail! 

The Legal High

significant increase in the euphoria and happiness ratings

The folk lore of the ‘runner’s high’ has been like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for the better part of 30 years. Well, it is a myth no more, nuclear medical scientists have once and for all put the myth of the ‘runner’s high’ to rest.

Ten athletes were scanned before and after a two hour long run and the findings were published in ‘Cerebral Cortex’. What the scientists found was a significant increase in the euphoria and happiness ratings compared with ratings before the exercise. Through PET scanning they also found that endorphins produced during the running exercise attached themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, creating feelings of well-being and exhilaration clearly proving the existence of the ‘runner’s high’.

Combat Stress with Running

In a study published in Health Psychology scientists found that regular exercise acts as a buffer against the stresses of daily life. Ok granted the study was performed on a group of seven and eighth graders but experts agree that one of the best ways to manage stress is through regular exercise. Coming back from a run, relieved of the stress I had when I headed out is proof enough for me. As a runner I am better equipped to deal with the inevitable stress of daily life and work. I often use a run specifically to bring perspective into a situation or to leave a stressful day behind with a really intense workout or a long slow run.

Improving Self-Esteem

Running also makes you sexier – burning fat and building muscle

Running requires you to constantly set and achieve goals – first you run 1km and then you run 2km and so on, eventually you’re running a distance of 10km as a regular run. This gives any runner a sense of accomplishment and confidence and over time this will develop into a healthy self-esteem. Running also makes you sexier – burning fat and building muscle is a natural part of running and runners are as proud of what their bodies can do as they are of how their bodies look.

Anyone for freshly squeezed creativity?

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you stumped with a project that needs a creative boost? Lace up your running shoes and head out for a run. It was always thought that the enhanced mood from exercise was the reason for an increase in creativity, but a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found differently.

In the study scientists used psychological testing of the mood and creativity of participants who watched a video and those who took part in physical exercise. What researchers found was that exercise boosts creativity independently of its effect on mood. So the next time you need some inspiration or have a problem to solve tap into this mental perk of running – who knows what wonderful ideas you might conjure up.

I’m quite sure there are many other mental perks that we get from running and each one of us will be motivated by those mental benefits of running that have the greatest effect on us. You might be motivated to run because of the creative boost it injects into your work projects whereas my motivation to run could come from my need to de-stress. The point is that there are so many wonderful mental perks we get from running – finding the ones that are important to you and that have the greatest impact on you will help you to cultivate motivation and keep you going.

Source of graphs: Asics – Why Do We Run.

How I Lost 85 Pounds And Found My Running Shoes

When I first came across Katie Johnson’s Blog Fit Living Daily I was totally inspired by Katie’s phenomenal transformation but what is most inspiring about Katie is her warm-heartedness and her desire to reach out to and encourage others to become involved in their own weight loss. As an ambassador for fitness and weight loss; Katie has created a platform for others who are walking the weight loss path where they can go for support and encouragement. This is what Katie had to say about it;

I started Anonymous Dieter Posts to help people express themselves when they’re losing weight, when people in their lives don’t want to listen. I intend it to be a sort of sounding board where people can read how much alike we all actually are during the weight loss process.

Katie’s amazing transformation, her desire to help others achieve their weight loss goals by offering support and teaching self-belief and her love affair with running encouraged me to request a guest post from Katie for Top Running Tips. So without further ado…

How I Lost 85 Pounds And Found My Running Shoes – A Guest Post By Katie Johnson

I sat there thinking about the horrible, terrible second option: I was going to have to lose weight and a lot of it.

On December 24 of 2009, a little over a year ago, I was a tight size 22 and 283 pounds. I was flying home from a business trip with my husband and could barely buckle my seatbelt in my middle seat. My fat spilling over the armrest, I was in pure misery.

I watched a young woman in a seat across the aisle that was of average size. She had so much room in her seat. Oh, how I envied her.

On that long, boring 5 hour flight, I thought, while I tried not to move. I figured I’d just have to stop traveling with my husband; there was nothing else I could do.

Well, my husband travels ¾ of the year, so to not ever travel with him would mean I wouldn’t see him. How can you continue a healthy 30 year marriage if you never see each other?

I sat there thinking about the horrible, terrible second option: I was going to have to lose weight and a lot of it.

When I got home, I looked for books by people who had successfully lost a lot of pounds and found Shauna Reid’s, “The Adventures of Diet Girl.” Shauna lost 175 pounds over 5 year’s time. She took a long time to lose the weight but she never quit.

That taught me something huge. If I just started and I didn’t quit, I couldn’t fail. I would take my time.

Weight loss is actually a giant growth process, you have to go through the process to lose the weight and keep it off. Losing the pounds isn’t enough. If you don’t change who you are and what you think and do, you’ll gain it all back.

I connected with other weight loss bloggers and learned that every one of us has the same struggles, the same doubts and pretty much the same problems. I realized that I wasn’t unique.

I got it. Every single thing that happens, good or bad, is simply a learning experience. Learn from it and push on. There is no failing if you simply refuse to quit.

Taking The First Steps

That’s not the lifestyle I wanted to live.

I began on December 28 with a goal in mind of just 15 or 20 pounds. Although I hadn’t been able to lose anything for the past decade; I figured that if I could somehow pull that off, then at least I wouldn’t look as puffy in the face. Maybe I could fit more comfortably in a plane seat.

There was no way I could look at the over 100 pounds I actually needed to lose. 15-20 was already too much for my mind to handle.

I laid down the law in my journal: I’d do some form of exercise every day, even if I despised it, but I’d pick something that I wouldn’t suffer over. I’d work toward eating only whole foods with a mindset of giving up all fast food and processed foods forever, not just for awhile.

I knew I had to make a true change of heart and habit. I envisioned myself as a slender, healthy person. I refused to entertain fantasies of decadent foods.

If a thought popped into my mind that was unhelpful, I’d immediately picture myself eating a healthy dinner or out running in the desert in my size medium running pants.

I couldn’t afford to allow thoughts of eating bad foods into my head. That’s not the lifestyle I wanted to live. It was all about re-training my mind and my expectations for myself and my picture of my future.

Three Things To Cement Commitment

I started out with tiny steps: Stop eating this, start eating that, take a 20 minute walk as slowly as I wanted to go. I promised myself that if I ever felt overwhelmed or trapped by something I was doing, that I would have enough compassion for myself to look at my options and see how I could change whatever was bothering me. That one tool helped me almost more than anything else.I wrote in my journal daily without stopping to correct grammar or spelling. I just let it all out on the page.I blogged about my experiences at, Fit Living Daily, named as a daily reminder that I wasn’t looking to lose pounds only, I wanted to develop a Fit Life that I lived DAILY.

A Love Affair With Running

…I’m not focusing on the pounds anymore.

A few months ago, I hired an online trainer for a few months. One of the first things I told her I wanted to work into my fitness program was to run one mile, even if I never ran more than that. She laid out an easy walk/run program for me and when I hit that mile goal, she asked if a 5K might be a goal in my future.

“No way. Ha! Nooo. Hmm. Hmm.” The thought would NOT leave my mind for days.

I bought the Couch to 5K app for my phone and said; “I’ll just try it.” (Are you starting to notice a pattern here? Apparently I tend to tip-toe into almost everything.)

The C25K program was so hard at first but it was only 3 days a week, which was no-pressure. I ran 3 days and walked 4 days and in week 3, I was running along, enjoying the view, forgetting about how hard it was to run. Then; I realized it wasn’t hard!

Just for kicks, I had to look up 5Ks. Before I knew it, I’d signed up for the Cupid’s Chase 5K, 6 weeks out. With much fear, I trained for and ran that race. I’m a very slow runner. I had a goal of 45 minutes going in but I ran it in 40:40 and came in 3rd of 4 for my age group.

I’m 198 pounds and a size 13 now. I still have about 20 pounds to lose but I’m not focusing on the pounds anymore. I’m committed to building muscle, running well and getting into great shape.

I figure the pounds will come off as a bi-product of the fitness,
 but even if they don’t, I’m not too worried. In truth, I would eat well and keep my weight down JUST so I could run. I love it that much. It feels like I’ve come home and I don’t ever want to leave again.

A Love Affair With Running

Connect With Katie

Check out Katie’s blog Fit Living Daily or Anonymous Dieter Posts and you can connect with Katie on Twitter @fitlivingdaily

Shake Up Your Running Program: 4 Great Ways To Eliminate Boredom

One of my favourite ways to spice up my running is to try out new gadgets and gear; runners are notorious for splashing out on the latest running tech. ;-)

Now before you start thinking that this is all about punting my latest gadgets – it’s not – today we are going to look at other ways to sprinkle a little spice into our workouts.

Ok so we all know that doing the same thing ad nauseam is the quickest way to end your relationship with running or leave you feeling stale after another boring loop around your neighbourhood. So what can you do to liven things up?

Adding interval training, hill running and running form drills to your running schedule are great ways to mix things up. But let’s be honest here, doing 5x 100m sprints with a short recovery in between or 8x 1 minute hill running with recovery in between is basically swapping one kind of boredom for another.

What you want to do is really add some va va voom to your running program. Because I’m training for a big race happening early next year I’ve made it my mission to find different ways to train that will take my breath away and hopefully you will find something here that shakes you up too!

The Burning Hills

This workout is from which is a brilliant resource for any runner. It’s a wicked twist on the boring old hill repeats because it is made up of varying sprint distances that are target specific.

I call it ‘The Burning Hills’ because it burns the crap out of your muscles; this workout leaves you buzzing with endorphins so it’s worth the hard work!

Gabi’s Pyramid Run

This interval training program will add never before experienced ZING to your running program and it’s not for the faint hearted! It goes like this…

11 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
21 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
31 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
41 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
51 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
61 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
71 min Recovery Pace2 min High Intensity
81 min Recovery Pace2 min High Intensity
91 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
101 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
111 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
121 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
131 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
141 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity

Before you even begin to attempt this interval training pyramid be sure to warm up for a minimum of 20 minutes, this is high intensity interval training so your muscles need to be really warmed up and well lubricated – anything less and you’ll risk injury.

When you get to 7 and 8 you are at the apex of the pyramid and from there the workout tapers back down to where you began.

Lean forward slightlyLight feetShorten the strideRecovery Pace – 5/6 out of 10High Intensity – 8 out of 10

The Dreadmill

I can honestly say I hate a treadmill! I know there are those of you who will gasp at my blatant dislike but actually it’s my lack of skill on the damn thing that makes me hate it, so don’t be put off by my lack of enthusiasm.

Seriously, the first time I got on one I almost did a face plant within the first 15 minutes and it wasn’t long before my second attempt at knocking out my already not so straight teeth!

If I was any good at running on a treadmill and not an accident waiting to happen; these workouts would be top of my list.

If you do use a dread… err… I mean treadmill or if you are thinking of incorporating it into your training check out this article on ways to make treadmill training part of a successful running program.

Know the Drill

Since an Achilles tendon injury that had me sidelined and seeing a physiotherapist I have been very interested in running form and how to improve mine. Check out my article on running form for some great ideas on running form drills.

I think strength drills specific to distance runners is equally important. On I found a video demonstrating easy and effective drills to strengthen medial and lateral muscles.

I practiced these drills two days ago and although I felt a bit like a duck while doing them, I can feel that I’ve worked the muscles and that’s what really matters.

Spicing up your running program can be done simply by changing a few basic workouts to create something special that fits in perfectly with what you require. The most important things are; Finding different twists on everyday training to keep things interestingPaying attention to often neglected aspects of running like running form and strength Experimenting and find what works for you, it’s easy to modify training to suite your ability and fitness Keeping things simple, a workout doesn’t have to be complicated to be interesting Having fun!

I hope you enjoyed this article, please feel free to give your opinion by commenting and if you have an exciting twist on a workout that you do, please share it with us.

How To Use Your Most Important Training Gear And It’s NOT Your Running Shoes

Most of the time when I write a post here on Top Running Tips I bang on about why you should start running, how to stay motivated and all the amazing benefits that running has to offer.

Today I want to have a look at a different aspect of running that is often ignored by beginners to running but that ultimately has a lasting impact on your running – well that’s unless you can learn to run on water!

Why The Ground Beneath Your Feet Is The Wind Beneath Your Wings

Runners experience the impact of up to three times their body weight with each foot strike while running. So it’s safe to say that the harder the running surface, the greater the impact on the body. Now think about the children’s folk song; “Dem Bones” that we were taught to sing in nursery school. It’s pretty much like a chain reaction that could cause problems with feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips and lower back.

It’s Not All About Gear

Yes that’s right, it’s not all about wicking material, GPS watches, heart rate monitors and running shoes. Think about it for a second; as a runner, your most important piece of equipment is the surface on which you run.

Just like a body builder uses weights to cause micro-tears in his muscles which ultimately cause his muscles to grow bigger so as runner’s we use the surface we run on to train our bodies to run faster, longer and better. Ok, so the explanation is a little over-simplified but you get what I’m saying…

If a body builder while training his arms only works a certain muscle group and ignores other groups the ultimate result will be an imbalance. The same principal applies to running…

Unfortunately when an injury occurs, the first thing we want to blame is our shoes – after all, aren’t shoes the only piece of equipment you need to participate in running? But your shoes are not always the problem, especially if you are not varying the surfaces you run on.

Are You Breaking Ground Or Breaking Your Body

Ask 10 running experts what the ideal surface for running is and I’ll bet you get 10 different answers. Our bodies quite easily adapt to the stresses we put them under when train even if the ground beneath our feet is not ideal. When we vary the surfaces that we run on the benefit is twofold;Using different surfaces are a natural way to work out the different muscles, especially in the lower legs.We can prevent or at least minimize many of the overuse injuries that runners of any skill can suffer from.

I’m one of those runners who has been plagued by injury in the past and in a way I guess it’s made me more aware of how the running surfaces I use impact on my body. Because I travel a lot for work I have the benefit of being able to vary my running surfaces. Here are some of the most common ones and how they will impact your running.

What’s Beneath Your Feet?


Grass running is considered one of the ideal surfaces for running because of the soft cushioning it provides; the impact on joints is much less. Parks, rugby fields, football pitches and golf courses are some of the most level grass surfaces you’ll find.

Although grass makes for softer running and low impact it actually makes your muscles work harder building strength that you will notice when you return to harder surfaces. Because of the reduced impact grass is ideal for speed work but can be slippery when wet – so be warned!

Running on grass may cause issues like plantar fasciitis if your feet and ankles are not strong and flexible also you might find that your legs become tired more quickly. If you suffer from allergies, running on grass might make your symptoms flare up.


Trail running is a very general term for running on anything from cinders to worn out routes through fields and soft peat-covered trails offered up by Mother Nature. These kinds of trails are by far the most natural surfaces to run on.

As with grass running, trail running is really easy on the legs and low impact on the body overall. The scenery that often goes with a trail run is usually the kind that will make you eager to return and few things come close to breathing fresh air deep into your lungs under a canopy of tall woodland trees.

Watch out for sneaky tree roots and rocks which could be hazardous! These routes can become quite slippery with wet mud when it’s been raining so be careful not to twist an ankle. Other than that it’s pretty much a mixed bag and one of the most comforting surfaces to run on.


Ok, I admit, I’m useless at running on a treadmill – that’s why I like to call them dreadmills. I almost did a face plant – not once but twice – within the first 15 minutes of being on one, so now I brave the weather outside no matter what it looks like.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t enjoy the advantages of using a treadmill. They are perfect for when the weather is really bad and it beats making a lame excuse and not running at all!

You can really get all geeky with the vitals the machines offer so leave your Garmin at home it’s all laid out in front of you on the treadmill.

The hardness of the surfaces differs from machine to machine but the smooth surface is really easy on the legs and body. Keeping a constant pace is as easy as adjusting the settings so a treadmill is top class for a speed work out and you don’t have to contend with red traffic lights, dogs or the wind.

Things to watch out for are falling flat on your face and the prospect of sweating profusely because of the lack of a natural breeze.

Synthetic Tracks

Almost all running tracks are made from synthetic material like polyurethane. Most sports centres have one and some local parks too. These surfaces are very useful for speed work and interval training, because the track is exactly 400m it’s easy to keep track of distance.

Because of its elliptical shape of the track having to endure the curves at either end will make longer runs a little more challenging both mentally (almost like a hamster wheel) and physically (extra strain on ankles, knees and hips).


The majority of roads are made up of asphalt which is a mixture of gravel, rocks and tar. If you are a city dweller like me asphalt is a difficult surface to avoid, it’s not the softest but it’s a lot more forgiving than concrete.

Asphalt is a fast surface and it’s pretty straight forward to run on if it’s well maintained with few potholes. One thing you’ll have to deal with is cambered surfaces.

A cambered surface is used to ensure proper drainage so the surface is curved allowing water to run off the sides. Continuous running on a cambered surface throws the body off kilter. As a rule, vary which side of the road you run on to avoid causing injury from running on a cambered surface.


Pavements are primarily made up of concrete and so are a very small percentage of roads. Again it’s the city dwellers that know all too well the hard and unforgiving surface of a concrete pavement. Not to mention having to side step raised kerbs and other pedestrians, all of which can lead to injury.

Ok, so there’s not much good to say about running on concrete but for a lot of us it’s where we do the majority of our running. However, if you get an opportunity opt for a softer surface.


Ok, so I don’t live in a country where there is a lot of snow, well actually looking at the past two winters here in Britain I’m not so sure anymore! Like with smoke and fire; where there’s snow there’s bound to be ice and the worst kind is black ice (cue – jaws sound track…)

No seriously ice is deadly dangerous to run on and although the snow will change your favourite route into a beautiful winter wonderland the ice is not far behind.

If you’re anything like me; stubborn as a mule and insist on running even in the snow and ice get yourself a pair of Yaktrax Pro Traction Device. They easily slip over your running shoes and give you the grip you need. I was like a fish out of water running on snow and ice until I got a pair of these.

Your Body Will Love You!

If you spend some time working out your running routes and get some of those creative juices flowing, you’ll soon find out that it’s really easy to vary the surfaces you run on – even if you live in an urban environment.
You’ll enjoy the change of scenery and your body will love you for it too!

Ok, now it’s your turn… What surfaces do you run on most? How do you vary your running route to make sure that you’re not over doing it on one particular surface?

Running Backwards: How It Will Improve Your Running And How To Get Started

Just the other day while I was taking part in the Asics Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon I saw something that I’d never witnessed before.

At around the 6th km I saw a runner running backwards. I could see he was in some kind of pain and immediately thought that the act of running backwards was somehow relieving the pain.

About two days ago I came across a book written by Chris Cooper called, Long May You Run where one of the subjects he explores is the benefit of running backwards. This was an interesting coincidence and naturally my curiosity had was piqued so I decided to do some investigation.

The History Of Running Backwards

It turns out that running backwards or as it’s better known today; reverse running or retro running has been practised for thousands of years. In my research I have not been able to pinpoint whether it was originally the Japanese or the Chinese that pioneered this alternative form of running but one thing is clear – the physical benefit it provides.

You might or might not be surprised to know that retro running is well recognised across Europe and the UK, there’s even a movie about it, The Reverse Runner, filmed in Australia – imagine that! All of this is interesting but what we really want to know is; what are the benefits it provides us forward runners as a combined part of our weekly running routine?

That’s what I set out to discover…

The Benefits

Killer Cardio, Burns More Calories

Retro running will offer a powerful cardio workout for two main reasons; firstly, you are engaging more muscle groups and also large muscle groups like the quads. Secondly, in essence your cadence is increased because your feet hit the ground more quickly than regular running meaning you are expending more energy. Both of these will lead to the burning of more calories.

Restoring Balance

During running we use the same groups of muscles over and over this means that those muscle groups have an enormous amount of continuous stress placed on them causing over-use injuries. This should not put you off running but rather encourage you to include some retro running into your training.

Through backward running you will be reducing the strain of normal running by working the friction of the tissues in the opposite way. It seems more and more that this counter action is essential in restoring and maintaining a natural balance in the muscles of the lower body.

A Cure For Chronic Injury

With more than half of all runners being struck with running related injuries each year finding ways to naturally reduce the risk of injury is important for the sport and for all runners. Because retro running restores natural balance it explains why it is considered to be an excellent way to reduce the risk of forward running injury.

Natural Rehabilitation

The most common injury among recreational runners is knee injury and some studies have cited that 1 in 5 runners suffer from some kind of knee injury. Retro running is a perfect alternative to running forward because it virtually eliminates impact at the knee joint while healing is taking place. It also strengthens the quads and knee joint over time.

But retro running is not only good for knee injuries; lower back pain, groin and hamstring strains as well as shin splints will respond well to the reduced impact offered by running backwards.

Develop Your Senses And Balance

Retro running is not a natural way of motion and while running backwards you are unable to rely entirely on your sense of sight. Over time this will mean your sense of hearing will improve and you will also learn to make use of your peripheral vision. Besides your sense improving, you will also experience better balance and your ability to sense your movement will improve.

A Natural Core Workout

We all know that to be an efficient runner you need to have good core strength and stability and let’s face it, doing core workouts are not always fun or even high on the list of things to do. But in reality doing it pays huge dividends in the end. With retro running the load is taken off the lower back and instead creates a natural workout for your core area.

Less Slouching And Improved Posture

As a runner I often find myself slouching and dropping my head during running when I am fatigued. With Retro running you will run with a more erect posture because your back is partially extended. Over time muscle memory will cause you to keep a firm posture without slouching when running forward.

A Psychological Boost

Running backwards is a change from the usual and in many ways this could be just what you need on your next long run to break the monotony and add some excitement to your run. Retro running can be especially fun for a laugh when you are out running in a group or with friends.

Things To Look Out For And How To Get Started

Pick A Safe Venue

Using a running track is ideal because there are painted lines so there’s less worry for you going off course. Running tracks are also free of the usual kind of debris.You can also try running on the beach or a sports field with soft grass, running uphill on a soft grassy surface is also a low risk option because when you fall (and in the beginning you will) you will have a shorter distance to the ground and less possibility of injury.No matter where you decide to do your retro running always walk the course first to make sure there are no obstacles.

Find A Buddy

Running with a friend is easier when you’re going forward and it’s no different when you’re running backwards.A friend can assist in keeping you on track and help you to avoid obstacles. You can make turns to run backwards – it’s exactly the same as any other running session.

Start Slowly

Adding any new running sessions to your training requires that you start off slowly and retro running is no exception.Practicing to run 50m backwards is enough to start with and once you have mastered that you can slowly increase the distance ensuring that you master it before increasing again.

As you can see there are multiple benefits to retro running and adding a session or two to your weekly running routine will reduce stress on your body and help to correct poor form and create muscle memory to facilitate good biomechanics.

Since discovering this two days ago I have been practising retro running in the back yard on the grass and have noticed there is absolutely no strain on my shins – which I have been resting since my half marathon. I haven’t been wearing my HRM because I’m too lazy but I have found that doing a few laps surprisingly does get my heart rate up much quicker that I thought it would.

Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves: A 21.1km Product Review

If you’ve been reading the past few posts here at Top Running Tips you’ll know that while training for the Asics Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon I ended up with serious shin splints a week before I was due to race. I did no running during the last week and a half in the hope that the pain might miraculously disappear.

It didn’t, so I got hold of a pair of Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves which arrived on the Friday. I wore them all of Friday and Saturday and did the unthinkable by running in them for the first time during Sunday’s half marathon.

Here’s how it went and what I think of this product…

What Is Compression?

The aim of compression is to improve the delivery of oxygen to the muscles, to speed up the removal of lactic acid and also to stabilize the lower leg for more efficient use of the muscles. This is done through the compression of the surface veins, arteries and muscles where the blood is then forced through narrower channels this offers protection and assists recovery.

The Kit

In short the Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves have four main purposes;Increase circulation and oxygen blood flow to muscles for endurance and heightened performance.Use pin-point compression through ‘chevron pattern technology’ to prevent/ease shin splints.Offers extra support for lower legs, stabilizing calves, shins and the Achilles.Speed up recovery time and also reduces inflammation and swelling.

My Review

When I first pulled on the sleeves I was a little sceptical about whether they would stay up or slip down once I started running. I was also confused as to why they made a sleeve and not a sock, how was a sleeve better than a sock? I was also worried about how comfortable they would be to run in seeing as though my first try would be on a 21.1km run, not the kind of place you want to deal with chaffing or a rash.

After running 21.1km with shin splints in both legs wearing the Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves, having NEVER run in them before, I’m highly impressed and I’m pretty sure they reduced the disadvantage I had from my shin splints.

The sleeves were comfortable with no chaffing or rash. The sleeves have no seams at all and the fabric is really soft and light with excellent wicking capabilities, I never once felt too hot or restricted at any time.

The size was just perfect and the sleeves never moved an inch the entire race, which means I got the sizing right! Choosing the correct size is uber important but really simple; using your height and calf size for a pretty much custom fit.

How To Size Your Compression Leg Sleeves

XS/S: Calf Size: 9.5″ – 12.5″ Height: 5’3″ and belowS/M: Calf Size: 12.5″ – 15″ Height: 5’4″ – 5’10″L/XL: Calf Size: 15″ and up Height: 5’11″ and up

I now totally understand why they decided on sleeves as opposed to full socks. The sleeve allows for the lower leg to be pin-pointed, having a full sock would detract from the calf and shin support. After all, I’m using the sleeves to support my lower legs not my feet.

The sleeves have incredible construction; with ‘rings’ at the top and bottom to ensure a firm grip without restricting blood flow. The ‘chevron’ type pattern is used to achieve pin-point compression which can be felt the moment you pull the sleeves on.

I’ve been washing them daily and so far they have kept their shape and compression capabilities and by the looks of things will do for a long time to come. They come in various different colours so if you’re a fashion conscious runner you can add some pizzazz to your running kit.

The sleeves gave me the support I needed where I needed it so that I could finish the race.

I doubt whether I would have run across the finish line without them, it’s quite possible that I’d have had to walk instead.

I have been wearing my compression sleeves every day since the race as part of my R.I.C.E regime for my shins which are still tender.

I would recommend these to any runner’s who need extra support to prevent or ease shin splints or calf strains.

What’s The Difference?

The Compression Leg Sleeves and the Shin/Calf Compression Sleeve are exactly the same products the only difference is that the Compression Leg Sleeves are sold in a pair – i.e. two sleeves in total. Where the Shin Splint/Calf Compression Sleeve is sold as a single unit – i.e. only one sleeve. They are the same product offering the same features and benefits. The only difference is in the quantity.

To read more about the sleeves check out the Zensah website.If you want to pick up a pair for yourself go to Zensah if you live in the USA or Canada.If you are in the UK check out Global Bike – they are the cheapest and offer free delivery in the UK.

I rung them up and they were really helpful with figuring out my size (converting from meters into feet and inches does my head in!) and they were really great about getting a pair to me in double time once I completed my order online. Really great customer service, thanks to Dave!

PS: I have contacted Zensah requesting a pair of Compression Leg Sleeves to offer as a giveaway here at Top Running Tips, fingers crossed that they are kind enough to oblige and one lucky reader will win a pair of these cool compression sleeves!

Pictures of Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves from

Motivation: Simple Steps To Get It And Keep It

So if you’ve spent some time reading this blog you’d have noticed that a lot of what goes on here is centred on how to cultivate motivation for running. Without motivation – even in its waning state – there won’t be much running going on. So I’ll give you three guesses to figure out what today’s post is about – but the first two don’t count! :)

Ok, so let’s get to it…

Rule number one: there will be highs and lows in your training, accepting it right off the bat makes the ebb and flow easier to manage, and it’s the first step in ensuring that you still toe the line and reach your goals.

Rule number two: proacitvely planning for when you become despondent and your enthusiasm has waned, will ensure that your lapse in motivation is only temporary and nothing more serious.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach so I’m putting my advice for motivation into practice right here on I have an entry into the Asics Fleet Half Marathon on the 20th of March 2011. This is a very special race for me because I’m committed to running this race for a wonderful charity to raise funds for groundbreaking research that saved my life. The charity is Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and I’m proud to be running with The Banana Army! To Find out more visit the Go Bananas page.

The great thing is these steps can be applied no mater what your ultimate goal is; losing weight, building fitness, training for a race or simply making running a part of your regular routine. I cultivate my motivation for running by using these three steps during my goal setting stage, it’s an essential part of my planning and execution.

Verbalize My Commitment

Making a commitment is one of the best ways to cultivate motivation over time. In his ebook Zen Habits, Leo Babauta discusses motivation and tells about how he committed to running his first marathon by writing about it in his local daily paper. Committing to achieve a goal publicly, whether it’s to your family and friends or your work colleagues, makes you accountable. You’ve put it out there and that will automatically make you go the extra mile to achieve it.

Visualize My Progress

Make a visual map of how you are getting along – so much of our motivation is based on us seeing results. Keeping a running diary is an excellent way to cultivate motivation because it makes your progress and results tangible. Whatever your goal – there’s nothing like watching those miles clock up or those calories burn.

I’ll be using this blog but there are loads of online resources you can use to keep a running diary;,, and are a few good places to start but you could just as easily start a blog or – if you like doing it old skool style – keep a hand written diary.

Rally Support

It’s such a simple thing but most of us struggle to ask for support – for some reason we percieve it as a sign of weakness. Well the last time I checked; I was a capable and independent woman – I know I’m not weak! I still need support and I ask for it – that’s one reason for this post! Asking for and getting support is a great way to build up stores of motivation for when the going gets tough, we all need support and the more we have the better. So don’t be shy – ask for support on your journey to reaching your goal, I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

So that’s it! I hope that you have found this useful and that you will find ways to apply these steps to improve your motivation for running and training to reach your goals no matter what they are. If you need support – I’m always here; just leave a comment or send me an email. You can expect a weekly update of my progress here on I would so appreciate your support during this journey to reaching my goal so drop by and leave comments, in return I will do my best to entertain you and mabey we can all learn something new!

Here’s to Happy Running:)

Will It Make Me A Better Runner? The 60-Day-Meat-Free-Challenge

When I was diagnosed with Cancer a few years back, I was advised to cut meat from my diet while on treatment and I noticed during that time my body responded very well to a meat-free diet.

After my illness I began running and I was worried that a vegetarian diet might affect me negatively in the long run. So I went back to eating meat.

I have been toying with the idea of cutting meat from my diet for a while now. As it stands I’m not a great meat eater but being a South African meat is a big part of our culture which to a degree has prevented me from going ahead with the lifestyle change.

A guy who’s opinion about being a vegetarian/vegan runner I value and who’s an expert (although he modestly denies this!)At making the change to a meat free diet is Matt – long and strong, take no prisoners – Frazier over at No Meat Athlete. I’ve been following his blog for a while now (well actually I lurk there – sorry Matt! :) )

Matt really knows his stuff and most importantly he walks the talk. His blog is a rich resource of information about; following a vegetarian/vegan diet as a runner, a list as long as my arm of delish recipes – by Christine Frazier – to try out. There’s also loads of information about improving your running in other ways – not just food. The coolest thing is that Matt’s not preachy, in his own words;

I’m here to help, not to try to convert.

It obviously works for Matt, I mean this guy’s doing 50-mile ultra marathons, running on plants!

He tried for 7 years to qualify for Boston and 7 months after becoming a vegetarian, he qualified for Boston in a time of 3:09:59.

Now I’m not sure if that was mind over matter or if it was really the change in diet, although for some reason I find myself wanting to believe it’s the diet!

Let me just say right now that my apprehension is NOT because I doubt the facts, clearly it works. It’s based more on my – perhaps narrow minded – idea that I need meat to nourish MY body properly.

Ok, so my curiosity has been sparked – that’s obvious and the little voice in my head won’t stop challenging me to give it a proper go and see what the results are.

I Love A Challenge…

So there’s only one thing to do – well actually two…

I subscribed to Matt’s free newsletter; The Vegetarian Endurance Advantage: The Essentials of Plant-Based Training. In it Matt promises to show how eating little or no meat will improve your running.

Secondly I’m setting myself a 60-day-meat-free-challenge, kind of like an experiment to see if it really will make ME a better runner.

Join The 60-Day-Meat-Free-Challenge

Are You Hungry For A Challenge ?

If you are, join me in the 60-day-meat-free-challenge and see if it will make YOU a better runner.

All you have to do is subscribe to The No Meat Athlete’s newsletter to get the scoop straight from Matt’s pen and leave a comment below saying when you are starting the challenge.

I will be posting about my experience during the 60 day challenge and I would love for you to post about your experience on your blogs and websites. That way we can all share our experiences as well as motivate and challenge each other to keep at it.

C’mon it’ll be fun!