Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional Tania Presutti, who now resides in Clonakilty, delivers a series of efficient DIY fitness exercises you can do at home.
The probably best or at least the easiest way of getting your body, heart and lungs in shape, keeping it in shape and, with a bit of imagination even improving it, is RUNNING.
In these golden years of fitness, where one can choose anything from Crossfit to Zumba, gym-fitness classes, triathlon or team sport to get moving, nothing beats the convenience of going for a run. On your own.
All you need is a pair of shoes and clothes you can comfortably run in, a road (or field, beach, hill, forest etc.) and time.
While running doesn’t give you massive muscles, it does provide excellent fitness for your heart and lungs, as well as serving as a good way of ‘clearing the mind’. And fitness is a good reason why running is still popular amongst fighters, both as a weightloss tool and as a way of making sure their conditioning is on point, so they can fight all the rounds required.
A Thaiboxing camp in Thailand made us do a 10K run in the hills and my old gym in Copenhagen had a rule that everybody who wanted to fight, had to do a 5K in 20 minutes or under to compete. Both gyms used running as a measure for the fighter’s condition.
If you’re just starting out however it can feel tough, on both legs, heart and lungs, to hit the road, but after the initial (often 2-3 weeks/ 2-3x weekly of) hardship, your body starts to feel more comfortable and you will start to find the breathing easier. So stick with it; your lungs will stop hurting and instead of focusing of feeling out of breath and in discomfort, you’ll start sensing what I can best describe as freedom. The kind of freedom you feel when you can trust your body to perform.
You might even find yourself getting the ‘runners high’, a state most runners know. It’s hard to say exactly how it feels or what it is, as it differs from runner to runner, but for most it’s the place, where the inner dialogue stops or quiets down, where body and mind just flow together, being happy with breathing in, breathing out, one step after another.
Running can be quiet or you can chose to bring earphones and music, or a running buddy, and while it is repetitive in a one foot in front of the other kind-of-way, it doesn’t have to be boring.
If you’re thinking it’s the wrong season to take up running, I have to respectfully disagree. Just get out there – the first 10 minutes are going to feel tough no matter the weather, but afterwards you’ll get warm. Endorphin starts flowing, muscles are getting warm and the discomfort caused by the weather will subside. If you’re still bothered, just think about the nice hot shower you’ll have when you get home, along with that great feeling of having ‘done it despite of the weather’.
For beginners I recommend three weekly (short, maybe 3K) runs, intermediate or advanced – you are probably already running almost every day and have your own schedule to follow. However, both for beginners and experienced runners, there might come a time, where the route gets boring or you feel you’re stuck on the same condition plateau.
Here are three different Fartlek (playful running) ideas to incorporate to your running routine, which can help you improve your condition and make running fun again.
1. Buddy ‘Fart-lek’
This one you can do with a running buddy. You agree to either time or ‘goal posts’ (eg light posts) and take turns setting the pace. The pacer sets the tempo, and the other tries to keep up. Then comes a ‘recovery period’, where you both jog and repeat. Include as many ‘catch me’ sequences as you like, but remember to schedule in 10 minutes of warm up run before you start and a 5-10 minute ‘cool down’ jog at the end.
2. Solo fartlek
For solo fartlek, you can choose either a time or a distance to run fast/sprints. When the goal or time is reached, the next phase (time or goal-post) is a jogging phase, where you get your breath under control, before you hit the sprints again.
3. For beginners fartlek can be simply alternating between jogging and walking, while the intermediate and advanced runner will have more benefit from setting goal-posts and time goals to their run. For example three minutes hard strides (fast run) and one minute jogging, or sprints between three street lights, jogging between two. Possibilities are endless. Remember also here to schedule in a 10-minute warm up run and 5 – 10 minute cool down run.
4. Track fartlek
If you have access to a running track or a football field, you can do a sprint session mixed with bodyweight work. For example 10x 100 meter sprints, with 10 burpees/push ups/jumping jacks/sit ups after each sprint, 20 seconds break before sprinting back. (Remember to do a 10-minute warm up run before the sprints so you don’t shock your hamstrings and calves and also make room for a 5 – 10 minute cool down jog in the end).
Replace one normal run a week with a fartlek, and experience how your body will adapt, getting you able to run faster and longer after a while.
Have fun out there and remember to wear glow-in-the-dark/traffic safe clothing if you’re running after sundown.