So you’ve decided you want to give running a go, having heard about all the health benefits – helping to lose weight, strengthening those legs, giving your complexion that much sought after healthy glow etc. but if you’ve never run before, where do you actually start? Not only can it leave you wondering how to get going from a physical perspective but the thought of jogging along outside, red faced and puffed out in full view of your neighbours, can be incredibly daunting.
Well my first bit if advice is….do not worry about what everyone else is thinking!! I always consider there to be 2 kinds of people in this world; those who keep fit and those who don’t. So those who do are not going to bat an eyelid as they probably do the same thing themselves and would have started out as a newbie at some point as well and for the latter group, well you’re actually making the effort to get yourself fitter and healthier whereas they’re not, meaning that you have earned your right to be smug anyway!
When I first started running many moons ago I too was very self conscious at being outside and what others would think and for a long, long time I would only run on a treadmill. But then one day I just thought ‘sod it’, stuck my earplugs in and headed outside. And it really was the best move. Having music to distract me meant that I could lose myself in that and I started to focus on the tunes rather than wondering what the man walking his dog over the road was thinking as I huffed along. Whilst not everyone likes to listen to music, I found it a great confidence booster and the vast majority of my running is now done outside.
It’s important to also make sure you have decent trainers; if you plan to run regularly then it’s worth getting your gait analysed at a specialist running shop to make sure you’ve got the most supportive shoes for your foot type and running style. I used to get a lot of recurring ankle pain when using bog standard ‘off the shelf’ shoes but when I started taking my footwear a bit more seriously, all those niggles disappeared. For ladies, a supportive sports bra is crucial as well – I cannot stress this enough!!
So you’ve got the gear along with the enthusiasm, so what now?
Well for starters, make sure your body is feeling nicely warmed up. You can do this by spending a few minutes (about 4-5) just walking first and then doing some dynamic movements – leg swings, twisting your upper body etc. if you prefer to do your entire warm up inside, then instead of the walk, just spend longer doing some dynamic movements – anything which keeps your body moving is fine, even if its dancing around to the radio – just don’t hold any static stretches.
Once you’re warmed up, you can now get going! The best approach is to build up gradually using a combination of slow running with walking. So depending on your fitness level, you may start with just 30 seconds of running followed by 2 minutes of walking, repeated for say a total of 20 minutes. Then over time, you can increased the running element or decrease the walking part. The key is to be gradual – waaaay too many people head out and just run as fast and as far as they can in 1 go, only to collapse like a beetroot after the first running section, unable to complete anything else and feeling really rather defeated. Everyone has to start somewhere, so take your time and enjoy the journey.
Once you’ve finished, it’s important to bring your heart rate down gradually and stretch out those muscles! Don’t just come to a sudden, complete standstill but instead walk slowly and bring that breathing back to normal. After a few minutes, you can then stretch out those legs, holding each stretch for around 20 seconds. As soon as you can, have something to eat and drink (I’ll do a separate post about post workout nutrition another time).
And there you have it! You are now on your way to becoming a runner, and whilst you may feel puffed out, sweaty and red faced, I bet you anything you feel good for it!!