Thinking of taking up running? There are many reasons to do this and during the recent COViD lockdowns it was one of the most popular new ‘hobbies’ that people discovered. In this post you will find some ideas and suggestions to set you off in the right direction…
Apart from possibly a few small investments in some basic equipment to make you more comfortable, running is essentially free. You can do it anywhere, which makes it a super flexible form of exercise for people with busy lifestyles, and compared to many other mainstream exercises it burns more calories!
If you run regularly there are some serious health benefits to be had too. Running can reduce your risk of long-term illness, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Many people find that running relaxes them, clears their mind and lifts their mood. Combined with a sensible eating plan, running can contribute to keeping your weight under control too.
This post is all about helping you get started in a safe and enjoyable way. There are also a couple of suggestions to help keep you motivated as the weeks turn into months.
A little Planning & Preparation
As with any form of exercise, if you have not been active for a while you should build up your fitness gradually. This will not only make exercising more enjoyable, it will help you avoid injuries. Particularly with starting running, if you are new to exercise generally, you might want to consider starting with brisk walking, then walk – run, before gradually reducing the walk element and running more.
One of the joys of running is that you don’t need much equipment! But something you might want to consider is a good pair of running specific shoes that suit your particular type of foot. This one investment will greatly add to your enjoyment and comfort as well as potentially saving you from running related pain and injury.
There are many types of sports trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer, who’ll assess your foot (this will involve fast walking / perhaps light jog for a couple of minutes on a treadmill in the shop) and suggest the right shoe for you.
Running shoes do have a life and will wear out. The structure of the shoe weakens over time, and will not support your foot correctly anymore. Most people will agree that replacing a running shoe every 500 to 700 km is about right. Quick tip though, once your running shoe has reached the end of it’s running life, it can be retired for other day to day use or gardening – I have many pairs!!
Ladies – in addition to your new running shoes, it might be advisable to consider a sports bra that was designed with running in mind. This will be sturdier than a regular bra to provide you with additional support, and ideally designed with running in mind.
Plan your runs in advance. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you’re going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it will not slip your mind and you are far more likely to get yourself out the door when ‘life’ starts to get in the way. Often planning a week ahead makes sense, perhaps making it a regular Sunday evening habit.
As with starting any exercise programme; if you feel out of shape, it’s been a while since you were physically active, or you’re recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, please see a GP before you start running. Chances are s/he will be super supportive that you want to start running, but can also give you some pointers about what to avoid doing that are individual to you. If in doubt about whether you need to see your GP – then er on the side of caution and have a quick word!
To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.
Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least 5 minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.
Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable.
When you first start out, try alternating between running and walking during your session. As time goes on, make the running intervals longer until you no longer feel the need to walk.
Give yourself a few minutes to cool down after each run by walking and a doing few stretches.
“How often should I run?” is probably one of the most frequent questions I am asked. And it’s a great question! Running regularly as a beginner means getting out at least twice a week and then building up to a regular three runs in a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.
Consistency is key to running well and becoming fitter. It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run 6 times one week and then do no running for the next 3 weeks.
Have a goal that means something to you
Whatever your level, setting a challenge and purpose for your running is useful to stay motivated. Training for an event, such as a 5K race, or a charity run is a good way to keep going.
You can search online for running events near you, and the parkrun website provides information on free weekly runs open to people of all abilities.
Get a running buddy
It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You’ll encourage each other when you’re not so keen to run.
You’ll feel that you do not want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you.
Keep a Running Diary
Keep a record of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. These days there are many free online ways to do this, but there is nothing wrong with being ‘Old Skool’ and using a notebook and pen!
Whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back at your running diary and be encouraged by how much you have improved. Also as you start to become a bit more focused on improving your running performance, a run diary lets you look back and see what worked and what didn’t. But that is perhaps a topic for another day.
Variety is the spice of life
Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances, pace and routes.
Join a running group or perhaps a club
A running group is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most groups offer different levels, including beginners, and will offer a supportive and understanding ear for you. After all everyone was a new runner once.
There are countless running groups and clubs around the UK, so a few minutes online research will give you a range of options in your area.
If you only remember one thing from this blog, make it this. ENJOY YOUR RUNNING and always remember that one motivating reason that you got you started.