Guide to running for beginners
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 running for fitness, weight loss, enjoyment, or to overcome chronic illness, it is a sport that you can do in all weathers, in any environment and you can cover the key aspects of fitness: from strength & speed, to stamina and coordination, you can address it all without the necessity of a gym membership. It really is that simple so if you are ready to get started, here are a few tips for beginners:
- The main reason that beginner runners do not persevere is that they start too quick 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, start by walking for up to 20-30mins and if this is comfortable, start to include some short intervals of jogging for 1-2mins. Gradually increase the intervals until eventually you are able to run for the duration.
- When you do run, do not start running too fast – have a slow progressive warm up of 5-10mins to allow the body to prepare and utilise the most efficient energy system. In the initial stages of a beginner’s running practice, 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. Also ensure a gradual cool down and a good stretch routine post run.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is currently a lot of varied opinions on choice of trainer with debates on cushioned versus minimalist trainers. It is important to do your own research and follow the path that feels natural to you. 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.
- 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.
- You may prefer to run with company for motivational or safety reasons so you could arrange to run with a friend of similar ability. Alternatively, consider joining a local running club as most clubs now have enough members to split into ability groups enabling the runners to run with others of the same pace.
- Goal-setting is good practise and it will keep you focussed so once you have developed your base running fitness, think about 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.
- There are numerous running races in the UK and worldwide of all distances and all terrains whether you enjoy racing for the experience or for the competitive nature, there is an event out there for all.
- As running becomes part of your weekly routine and you become more serious or competitive, you will need to consider the use of supplementation to meet the additional demands being placed on your body as diet alone is not always enough.
- You will perform better in your run training if you eat good energising foods and it is up to you as an individual to find which foods you perform well on and which foods to avoid. Most people suffer if they eat solid foods within a couple of hours of running as your body will divert the blood to the working muscles and therefore the digestion of food will not be a priority and it will sit heavy in your stomach. One way to fuel your running is to supplement with liquids or gels which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream: a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes (lost through sweating) such as USN Cytopower, or a Vooma gel, provides a good training or racing fuelling strategy. If you tend to sweat a lot, an electrolyte tablet such as Acti-Fizz dropped in 500ml of water will help with re-hydration and replenishing of important electrolytes.
- Equally important to consider is your recovery after a hard training session and a drink such as R3 Xcell which contains carbohydrates, electrolyte and protein will help to replenish after a long or hard run so that you are ready to go again next time!
- Ensuring a good source of protein on your rest days will further assist the body to repair and develop as the training effect takes place– Protein GF-1 is a useful addition to anybody’s diet.