“Today, I'm going to start running!”
Are you a new runner looking to take up running to improve your fitness, health and wellbeing? Follow these 10 top tips to start running safely and with confidence.
1. Get the right kit
To kick start your running journey, you need to make sure you’ve got a decent pair of running shoes to cushion and support your muscles and joints as you make contact with the ground. For information and advice on this, please refer to the shoe advice page on our website or take a look at our Choosing the right running shoe: Neutral or Stability? article.
Trainers sorted. It’s also worth getting yourself some basic kit – running clothing made from technical fabric that’s breathable and comfortable, along with proper sweat-wicking running socks that help to prevent blisters, will be a good start.
2. Have a plan
It’s important to plan how you are going to fit your new exercise routine into your day-to-day life. Are you going to run to commute to work? Do you want to run early in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up? Perhaps you’d rather run as soon as you get home from work? Will you nip out for a run once the kids are in bed? That’s the “when” sorted, now for the actual running part. It’s helpful if you can plan your individual runs. This will stop you from doing the same routes all the time and quickly becoming de-motivated. Try planning where you’re going to run, how long for (time and/or distance) and then put it in your diary! Make it a concrete plan. That way, you’ve committed and are far more likely to stick to it as you’ve scheduled it into your weekly routine.
There are some great training plans out there to help you start running, including the NHS Couch to 5k plan and BUPA Beginner 5km programme.
3. Start steady
Don’t go off too fast or too far right away, focus on building your fitness gradually. Start by walking and running; going out for say 20-30 minutes, walking for one minute, then running for one minute, and repeat for the duration. Then gradually build up the time you spend running until you can run steadily for 30 mins. If you’re brand new to running, it’s best not to run every day, so you have time to recover. Running 2-3 times per week with rest days in-between is a good starting point.
4. Track your progress
Tracking your progress is great for when it’s a wet, windy, Wednesday and you’re not really feeling like heading out. You can look back on your training log and see just how far you’ve come and get yourself out the door and see how much further you can go. Remember, you are capable of so much more than you think.
Simply making a note of your runs in your diary or a training log book works well. Alternatively, you could use a running app (such as Strava, Map My Run, Endomondo or Nike+ Run Club) or a GPS running watch (a basic Garmin Forerunner will track your distance, time, pace and calories burned) to record your runs. It’s motivating and rewarding to see your progress and improvement from week to week.
5. Set yourself a goal
If you’ve just started running and are really enjoying it, why not set yourself a goal e.g. to run every week for 1 month straight, to run 5km without walking, or to find and enter a 5k race. Setting goals allows you to look at where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Goal setting can: enhance your short-term motivation, give you an idea of where you want to be in the long-term, help you stick to your plan, give your training a focus, and can help you to organise your time effectively to ensure you fit in all your planned runs.
6. Be patient
Don’t let one “bad” run get you down. We all have off days, when we feel sluggish, lacking in motivation and as if our legs are made of lead. Make sure you recover properly, maybe take a rest day or two. Then, get back out for another run and focus on being positive, persistent and just enjoying your run.
7. Find your groove
No two runners are the same. Find what makes running enjoyable for YOU. Whether it’s choosing scenic routes, running with friends, getting fit for your sister’s wedding, earning those delicious slices of cake your Granny baked for you, clearing your head after a long day in the office, getting your “me time” in, spending time outdoors in nature, or simply appreciating some quiet time to let your mind wander and relax. Some people like to use music, and some people prefer to listen to the birds in the trees or the waves in the sea – try both and see what you prefer. Make it fun, keep it interesting and don’t always focus on times and stats!
8. Community spirit
Make it sociable! Find a friend who also wants to get fit and start running. Running with someone else definitely helps to boost motivation and is especially helpful in winter when the days are short and the dark nights draw in.
Join a beginner’s group e.g. jogscotland or join a Run4It run group. Head along to your local parkrun at the weekends. Although current restrictions have suspended group running, Parkrun and jogscotland provide opportunities to virtually meet runners in your area and take part in virtual running events.
9. Stay hydrated and eat well
To be healthy, happy, humans it’s important to fuel our bodies properly. As you start running or exercising more regularly, then it’s even more important! Adequate hydration allows you to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through perspiration. Drinking little and often throughout the day is the best way to stay on top of your hydration.
Now: the food. There is no point in running, exercising and eating really well through the week, to then go wild at the weekend, or in the evenings, splurging on treats and skipping your runs. The key is balance. So, go for your run. Then, have that piece of cake. Just don’t let that one treat turn your day into a spiral of splurging and self-loathing at the mountains of foods you devoured. It’s widely acknowledged that “everything in moderation” is the best way to approach things.
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10. Warm up and cool down
Warming-up and cooling-down are very important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running for 20 mins or 2 hours, you still need to warm-up and cool-down to prevent yourself getting any niggles or injuries. Warming-up should consist of raising your heart rate, activating the muscles you will use, mobilising your joints and basically just preparing your body to run. Things such as light jogging, skipping, fast-feet, high-knees, heel-kicks, side-stepping and squats would be ideal.
Then, your cooling-down should consist of a mixture of light jogging and/or walking lunges and stretching. Although you may think you didn’t push it that hard, or didn’t run that far, you still need to stretch. Just 10 minutes of stretching can really affect how you’re going to feel the next morning when you try and get down the stairs. Working from head to toe, focus on stretching each key muscle groups/areas e.g. neck, shoulders, upper back, chest, lower back, hips, front of legs, back of legs, groin and sides of legs, lower legs and ankles.
At Run4It, we are here to help you improve your run in any way that we can. Got a question? Feel free to contact us via any of these channels: run4it.com/pages/contact.