Running is probably one of the simplest of sports to take up as all that it requires is you and your motivation, your trainers and the great outdoors! Whether you are beginning running for fitness, weight loss, enjoyment, mental health or just as an opportunity to escape household mayhem, it is a sport that you can do in all weathers and in any environment. You can cover the key aspects of fitness: from strength & speed to stamina & coordination and you can address it all without the necessity of a gym membership. It really is that simple but if you are getting started, here is a beginner’s guide with 10 important tips:
1. Walking is not cheating
The main reason that beginner runners do not persevere is that they start too quickly and do too much too soon which can make for a very uncomfortable experience. To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it is essential to ease yourself into it slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several runs. If you do not already have a good base level of fitness, just start by walking for up to 20-30mins. Once this is comfortable, start to include some short intervals of jogging for 1-2mins with at least the same amount of walking breaks in between. Gradually increase the intervals over time until eventually, you are able to run for the duration. The fitter you get, the longer you will be able to run for and the shorter the walk breaks will be.
2. The right intensity
When you do run, do not start running too fast – a common misconception is that runs must be hard, fast and always hurt however this is not the case. In the initial stages of beginning running, it is important to exercise at an intensity whereby you are able to hold a conversation comfortably in short sentences as this shows that you are working aerobically (if you are running alone, maybe try singing a few lines of a song). When you first start, it may be that every run feels tough but as you get fitter, your ability to control how much it hurts improves. You will be able to determine the runs that you want ‘to hurt’ (for fitness improvement) and which will be your ‘easier’ runs (for recovery & training adaptations).
3. Respecting your body
Be kind and respect your body. Always have a slow progressive warm-up of 5-10mins to allow the body to prepare and utilise the most efficient energy system. Also, ensure a gradual cool down and a good stretch routine post-run with sufficient refuel and rehydration.
4. The 10% rule
More isn’t necessarily better. As you start to notice improvements in how you feel, how you look and how you are performing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of running more often, harder and for longer. Unfortunately, there will likely be a tipping point if you don’t respect your body. With regards to distance, the 10% rule is good to abide by for progression and to avoid injury. Basically this means that you do not increase your running mileage by more than 10% for your single longest run from week to week, or for your overall weekly mileage.
5. Holding good form
Think about your posture and form when running. Aim to maintain an upright running posture with relaxed arms and shoulders and a smooth efficient running stride. A good goal cadence to aim for is 180-foot strikes per minute so you may want to count the number of one leg foot strikes over 15secs at various intervals of your run and if it is 22-23 then you know you are achieving this.
6. Choice of trainers
There is a lot of varied opinions on choice of trainer with debates on cushioned versus minimalist trainers. It is beyond the remit of this beginner’s guide to running to look at the various debates so it is important to do your own research and follow the path that feels natural to you. Eventually, you may want to have a thorough running gait analysis to give you an insight into your personal running style and areas that you may need to work on. Running is a very pure experience and so, therefore, don’t be drawn into fashions and gimmicks that some manufacturers may use to persuade you to buy their product.
7. Consistency is key
Once you start a running routine, try to be consistent – it is better to run 2X per week and progress from there rather than run every day and then not run for a week. You may also consider some cross-training, such as cycling, which will also benefit your general fitness without the impact of running only.
8. Beginning running & motivation
Ordinarily, you may prefer to run with company for motivational or safety reasons so it can be good to run with a friend of similar ability or alternatively, join a local running club with most clubs now having enough members to split into ability groups enabling the runners to run with others of the same pace. In the current situation we are facing, you are likely to find that you are running alone however there are apps available to enhance your experience, such as Strava, where you can track your runs, connect with other runners and share your efforts with friends.
9. Goal setting & progression
Goal-setting is good practice and it will keep you focussed so once you have developed your base running fitness, think about in the future, entering a short charity run or a 5k race/ Park run as a personal challenge. Also keeping a training diary can be encouraging as you look back and enjoy seeing how you have progressed and what you have managed to achieve.
As you develop and progress, you may choose to take a more scientific approach to your training. This could include working in various heart rate zones using different energy systems or running to individually calculated run paces based on run tests. In this regard, training tools such as a heart rate monitor and/or GPS style device may become a valuable piece of equipment or enlisting a the help of our fitness and coaching services to create an individualised training plan for you.
10. Belief and purpose
Never underestimate your own ability. All too often I hear people say that they don’t run because they aren’t built for it, that they aren’t a natural runner or they worry about what people will think, however what about what it represents to be physical, alive and healthy? We’re born to move and use our body and many people run simply because they love it and how it makes them feel. It doesn’t have to be about times and performances, it can be just for the love of running!