What is a fun run?
As the name suggests, fun runs are designed for enjoyment, but substantial fitness benefits are hot on its heels. Whether you need an excuse to spend the day with your girlfriends, want to challenge yourself, or fancy combining the two, fun runs are a great way to get active this summer.
By definition, a fun run is a friendly race, usually geared towards raising money and awareness for a cause. But the philanthropic element is where the similarities end, with each run claiming its own features and benefits.
Melbourne’s iconic summer run, the Sussan Women’s Fun Run, for instance, is exclusively a women’s race, which means the Alpha male strain of competitive fervour – elbow in the ribs, anyone? – is replaced by a sense of camaraderie.
“The camaraderie between women is different to other fun runs,” says Sussan Women’s Fun Run director David Hansen, attributing the culture in part to a span of ages and fitness levels, with entrants aged eight to 80.
Speed and Distance
Most fun runs require entrants to nominate their preferred distance and level of proficiency or whether they wish to run or walk.
“Every person has a different reason for doing [a fun run],” Hansen says. “About five to 10 per cent of the field are serious runners, but the rest are doing it for fun.”
A choice of 5km and 10km courses, and options to run or walk, make the 26-year-old Sussan event ideal for beginners. Other fun runs have their own categories, but all cater to registrants with different goals and proficiencies.
“About 5 to 10 per cent of the field are serious runners, the rest are doing it for fun.”
Get run ready
In spite of your chosen event, the real fitness benefits of fun runs may come from the commitment and preparation. Setting a specific goal, with a definite timeline, is a proven method of keeping motivation up and propelling you to push yourself.
While it’s not about winning or losing – many fun runs publish a list of participants, regardless of placing – it is important to be prepared. Training for the race will not only enhance your performance, but minimise the risk of injury.
Seasoned fun run participant Angelina Cetin says her key to success is well-rounded fitness, with preparation comprising different fitness activities – not just pounding the pavement.
“Mix up indoor and outdoor running,” Cetin says, suggesting splitting running into indoor and al fresco streams, on the treadmill and footpath or road. To increase your fitness and build core muscles, Cetin also says running on different surfaces including sand, and stair climbing, work wonders (with the added bonus of mixing up the cardio).
“You need to make sure that you have a consistent weights program as well to build lean muscle and stronger bone density,” says Cetin, who trains with a PT. “You need to be working out all parts of your body to condition your body completely for the run.”
Fuel for feet
A healthy and well-balanced diet is essential to prepare your body, and to provide sustained energy over the event.
To avoid cramps and bloating, don’t overeat before the run, but don’t skip breakfast, either. A light meal 60 to 90 minutes before the race is vital. Try something high in energy and easy to digest. Carbohydrates fuel exercise and are perfect for providing long-lasting energy.
Try: Two slices of toast with fruit or a sports bar or wholemeal cereal.
Also ensure you drink plenty of water before, during and after the event. There are rest points and water stations located throughout the course of fun runs, but it’s a good idea to bring your own bottle as well. If you can’t do water, fill it with your favourite sports drink.
Fun runs are a great way to get fit, achieve a goal and raise money for charity. Physical benefits can include toning up, losing weight and ultimately increasing your fitness level. But as well as physical benefits, there are serious mental merits – you’ve heard of ‘runners’ high’, right? In 2008, the journal Cerebral Cortex reported that running elicits a flood of endorphins to the brain (enter ‘runners’ high’).
Fun runs are also a great way to develop confidence. Being involved in the race is an achievement within itself and finishing the race is a bonus – the sense of achievement will give your self-belief a kickstart.
It has also been proven that running helps to reduce stress and diminish depression, with outdoor activity earning extra mental health points.
Furthermore, fun runs encourage focus. Being part of a task that requires you to achieve a goal is the ultimate way to zone in, as the race requires preparation and commitment. Your focus before and during the race is what will get you past the finish line. And your focus on the race will also help you to eschew negative thoughts.
Get together with your girlfriends or your mum, or even grandma! “We have up to three generations of the same family running – daughter, mother and grandmother – so it’s very special for a lot of people,” says Hansen.
“Doing it together, and training together to achieve a goal makes it all worthwhile.”
A buddy at the same fitness level as you is perfect for motivation and inspiration. “Its good to have a partner to run with because you end up motivating and encouraging each other,” says Cetin. “You’re not just running for yourself anymore, so you know that you can’t give up.”
When you are accountable for your actions you are less likely to give up. And let’s face it, it’s much more fun doing things with a friend.
On the day
On event day, remember to stay calm and relaxed – it’s supposed to be fun. To avoid unnecessary stress before the starting gun, arrive at the race site early. This is usually when you’ll pick up your race kit, if you haven’t picked it up before the big day.
When it comes to the race itself, different run categories will have different start times, so make sure you confirm yours in advance.
And in the name of warding off injuries, and enhancing your performance (not to mention the fun factor), don’t forget to do a gentle warm-up before the race and warm down properly after the race. Even if you are on a runners’ high.
Cetin’s fun run-ready running program
- Running on treadmill increasing speed by half every two minutes. Repeat for 16 minutes.
- Jump off treadmill for one-minute rest.
- Running on treadmill (at your previous high speed), decreasing speed by half every two minutes. Repeat for 16 minutes.
- 10km run on treadmill, increasing speed gradually.
- 10km run on treadmill. Do 2km at an easy pace. Then 30 seconds of running, and jump off treadmill for a 30-second rest. Jump on for another 30 seconds, then jump off for 30-second rest. Repeat the run-rest cycle while increasing speed by half each time. Run at a fast, comfortable pace for the rest of the run without a 30-second rest.
Each exercise should be followed by a warm down: Five minute gentle walking and stretches. Also incorporate a weights program.
Remember weights programs alter from person to person so be sure to get a professional to prepare a personal weights program just for you. Don’t forget to give yourself a couple of rest days!
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