Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? “uh, put on your daps and leg it down the road”. Not so much. I remember when I started running about 7 years ago. I had not long had my second baby (new Mums: do your Kegels) and wanted something which I could do any time of the day and which wouldn’t waste my valuable time by having to travel to do it.
So out I trundled, calling “back in half an hour” behind me as I flounced out of the door. Now, if you’re new to running, or can remember when you were new to running, you’ll appreciate my crushing disappointment when 2 minutes into my ‘run’ I was pretty much ready to drop.
So, you see, it’s not quite as simple as trotting off for a brisk 3 miles when you’ve never run before. But I did persevere and in the following 12 months completed both a 10k and half marathon. And if ‘Mrs-I-can-only-run-for-2-minutes’ can do it, anyone can. Here are my tips for anyone just starting out…
1. Don’t be disheartened
Arguably the most important point, keep in mind when you first start that it does take time. You may be one of the lucky ones who can bang out a 15-minute run when you start but then again, you may not. Keep the faith, log your progress and focus on your achievements along the way (I was ON TOP OF THE WORLD when I ran for 5 minutes non-stop).
2. Start with walk-run intervals
After a warm-up of a brisk walk, try running for 2 minutes and walking for 3. Next time, increase your run by 30 seconds and decrease your walk by the same amount. When you can run for 5 minutes (woo!) carry on with the intervals but this time only walk for a minute in between, increasing your running intervals until you feel comfortable enough to leave out the walking altogether.
3. Take it slowly
It does take time. Don’t try to force it and do too much too soon, or you will end up with an injury which will halt your running career before it even began. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too far beyond your capabilities.
Once you start making progress and feeling the benefit, you may be tempted to run more often. ‘Runners High’ is a thing, and people do get addicted to that rush of endorphins you experience when you exercise. Great, if you stick to 3-4 runs a week but any more at this stage and you run the risk of overtraining and injury.
5. Get the right kit
All I would argue you need is a decent pair of trainers and some comfortable clothing (high-vis if you’re running in the dark. Safety first, kids). You don’t need to shell out on fancy gym-wear, but I would recommend the investment in a decent pair of running shoes, ideally from a specialist running shop but if not, aim for shoes designed for running (rather than cross-training). Getting the right support for your feet is important for both comfort and injury prevention.
6. Use motivation techniques
We all have those days when the sofa is way more appealing than getting out and pounding the streets, but psyche yourself up by using a great running soundtrack, running with friends or giving yourself a little reward for completing a run (I’m not talking a Mars Bar though, ok?)
And finally, enjoy it! Running can be great for both body and soul, with benefits which are way too numerous to mention. Get into your stride – geddit? – and you’ll never look back.