As we enter into summer and start to feel inspired by the pictures of marathon runners quick and slow flowing from our television screens it seems everyone everywhere is reaching for the trainers submerged at the back of the wardrobe finally deciding once again that this is the year to find the athlete within.
Let’s face it, running is great. We all want to do it and we all look on enviously as we see these sphelt like beings seemingly effortlessly bound up and down our streets without a care in the world, an epitome of health and happiness.
It’s free, it’s natural, it’s what we were born to do and it’s simply the best form of exercise to improve fitness, wellbeing and lose weight.
On the other hand of course, for the non-sphelt, the not quite yet inspired it can turn into a painful and often frustrating endeavour so here’s my top 10 tips to get you up and running.
1 Get the right gear
Simple enough. Don’t worry about all the hi-tech equipment, fancy heart rate monitors, funny tights and watches. What you do need however is a decent pair of running shoes. There’s no need to break the bank in regards to trainers however brands such as Brooks or Asics generally provide decent running specific models and these days most decent sports shops will be able to advise you on the correct pair for your goals and body type.
Seems like a given however I lose count the number of times we see beginner members starting to flag only to find out they haven’t eaten breakfast. Again, don’t get bogged down by all the new fancy drinks and gels, you simply need to make sure you get something decent to eat a couple of hours before the run. Cereal, honey on toast, pasta will be more than enough to help fuel you during the workout.
3 Find a nice location
Now not all of us are lucky to live next to a river or park however it is a good idea to think of a nice route or location. Running’s supposed to be fun isn’t it, however if it does get difficult it is a good idea to have something nice to look at.
4 Set a target
Important both during training and long term especially for beginners. Don’t simply go out and run hoping something good will come of it. After a couple of sessions you should know your ability so base your goals around that. If you can only run for 5 minutes at a time that’s fine. Hit the streets and make sure you do 4 lots of 5 minutes running followed by 3 minutes walking and simply add on a minute a week. Set yourself a reasonable target and don’t go home until you’ve done it. It may feel hard at the time but once achieved will feel great.
This is key and will help you prepare mentally for the workout and also help with injury prevention that can be common with new runners. A 5 minute slow jog or fast walk should be enough to get the heart rate going followed by a brief 5 minute stretch. These days we do something called dynamic (moving) stretching before the workout however if you’re not sure what that involves just take time to ensure you loosen off your hamstrings (back off legs), quads (front of legs) and calves. We should all know a few stretches so run through them to the best of your ability before starting off.
6 Start slow
If you’re a beginner runner your primary goal will more than likely be simply to be able to run for a period of time. You’ll find after about a minute your heart rate will kick in so just try to make sure it never rises above the level whereby you are unable talk.
7 Pace yourself
As above, the ability to pace yourself is key. Believe it or not, no matter what the speed of a runner their cadence pretty much remains the same meaning the thing that makes us go faster is our stride length and not how quickly we move our legs. Practice by jogging on the spot and you’ll find you should be able to keep your heart rate in check with a nice rhythm and little movement. The same goes when we run. If you find the heart rate getting too high try to keep the rhythm the same and make your steps smaller. The desire to walk may be strong but once you’ve learnt to keep a nice rhythm and the heart rate under control the world is your oyster.
8 Stay relaxed
The biggest issue with beginner runners we see in our groups is that when they start to get out of breath they panic and actually start to go quicker and quicker before finally blowing up. If you start to find yourself going into the red zone and feel the heart rate going through the roof, try to relax and bring the pace back to a comfortable level using the technique above. Remember, if you have 5 minutes left to run, stopping is simply not an option so learn to not panic, accept your fate and settle in. Even elite runners find training hard and battle the desire to quit so it’s not only you. Relax, Relax, relax!
Just like we warmed up we need to cool down and stretch. When we get tired our muscles get tighter and tighter so we need stretch them to prevent injury. It’s a good idea to put 20%-30% of your workout time aside for stretching. It sounds like a lot however if you’re running for 20-30 minutes putting 10 minutes aside at the end for stretching is worth its weight in gold as without this it’s more than likely you’ll pick up a niggle over the first few weeks (we’re not 21 anymore are we?).
10 Don’t get frustrated
Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, how fit you were in the past or how far you think you should be running. Fitness in general is like learning a foreign language so just as you wouldn’t get frustrated if you weren’t fluent in French after the first lesson don’t get frustrated if you can’t run for 20 minutes without stopping straight away.
So remember, as hard as it seems running’s supposed to be fun. Everybody finds it hard and first and even the elite runners have good days or bad days. Yes it can be hard work so don’t worry if you don’t find that euphoric state of contentment we read about. At the end of the day it’s great for your health, you will feel fantastic afterwards if you achieve your goals and will do wonders for your self-esteem and sense of wellbeing.
Obviously this is a beginners guide and should help you get up and going however naturally at some point we recommend you join a group such as Run Club London. There are lots of interesting variations of workouts to keep you interested and motivated whilst training alongside likeminded people is a great way to make friends in your area and help instil running and fitness into your lifestyle.
Duncan Edwards is a qualified personal trainer and the lead coach and founder of Run Club London. He can be contacted for any questions or advice via his mail – firstname.lastname@example.org