Whatever your level, it’s always good to revisit the basics. If you’re a newbie, a returning runner or a struggling runner that’s reached a plateau.
There are many benefits to taking up or re-taking up running. Physical benefits, health benefits and mental benefits. Sometimes when you run, you float along as if you can go on forever. Other times your heart feels like it’s going to pop out of your chest, and you crash after one mile.
One of the things running teaches you is what you’re actually capable of. Just this morning I turned up at parkrun with a sore back, a bit of a cough and no warm up. I thought I would just jog around and take in the atmosphere. I ended up finishing with 15 seconds of my PB!
1-Start where you are
Not where you want to be, where you once were or where you think you should be. If you lie to yourself you’ll end up giving up, not progressing or getting injured. Make a serious assessment of your current fitness. If you have not run or exercised for a long time, speak to your doctor before you undertake any activity.
Walk first, then run. Add periods of running to your walks. For example, walk 2 mins and run 1 min and repeat x5. Carry on until you are only running.
Try the Couch to 5km programme. They now have podcasts where each podcast in the series provides a structured run with music and coaching to help you progress.
2-Get over the feeling that you don’t belong
Seriously, get over it. Other runners don’t care how fast or slow you are. They just care that you’re running and that you’re one of them. They most probably want to speak to you about running. Everyone else? They’re just jealous that you’re getting out there and running and they’re not.
Find a safe, well-lit area with good pavements or a good surface to run on. This is much easier in the summer than in the winter. Be alert and aware of what is going on around you. Don’t always use music. Wear Hi-Vis or clothing with some reflective elements in. Run with others by joining your local running club.
To warm up or to not warm up? It so easy to close your door behind you and just set off running, but warming up is really helpful. It takes me a good 5 minutes for things to loosen up. Try some toe flicks, heel flicks, high knees, some light jumping and some gentle slow squats that get progressively deeper.
5-Run in the morning
If you can, run first thing in the morning. If you don’t get your run done and dusted in the morning, there is a high likelihood that a million other things (including your motivation) will prevent you from going later in the day. See procrastination. Also, see number 7.
6-Don’t run too fast or too far
Most of the time, especially when you’re starting out, it is not about speed. A much better thing to focus on is the amount of time on your feet. Don’t run 3 miles, just run for 30 minutes. The majority of running is about improving aerobic capacity which comes from running at a slow and steady pace.
7-Make a Plan
Saying you will run 3 times a week will only keep you going for so long. With no goal in mind, your motivation will slowly erode. Find a local race (Google it) however big or small. Pick one that’s a fair bit of time in the future, sign up and pay your money and work towards that.
It’s amazing what a little bit of fear will do. If that seems too much, use your first local parkrun as your target. Also, see number 8. As part of your plan, listen to your body. Your plan does not have to be clad in iron. If you’re feeling a little tired or sore, take an extra rest day or go for a swim or a walk.
8-Don’t start with a marathon
They are hard and they hurt. If you’re in your 20s and fit, then maybe not so much, but you still might be likely never to do one again. It’s the ultimate running distance and does hold a massive allure (even for myself), but training is tough and takes up a lot of your time. Focusing on getting your 5km time down is much more time efficient.
9-Don’t worry about the kit
It’s not about the kit. The kit is lovely, but it is not essential. Getting a good pair of running shoes that are right for you is important. See my post on How to buy the right running shoes. Your feet are very important to running and having the correct shoes will avoid injury and make your runs much more pleasurable.
For ladies, a good comfortable sports bra is essential.
To help you with number 6 on this list, a digital watch with a stopwatch is also helpful. You can pick up a Casio one for around £20. I’ve had and always liked the Timex Ironman range which are a little more pricey and start around £50.
10-It’s hard. But don’t give up.
The first runs will be the hardest ones you ever do (possibly). Get through the first three runs or the first week or so and I promise you, it will get easier. If a run goes badly, don’t throw the towel in at the first sign of struggle. Forget about it and move on. Consistency is the key. Little and often will have you making more gains than you thought were possible.
Now get out there and give it a go. It really is amazing.