June 2, 2019
Running is a natural movement. Our bodies are designed to walk and run with ease. If you have two working legs and no major health issues working against you then you are the perfect candidate to take up running.
People who are good at running often talk about how simple it is and everyone should just go for it. Whilst this is true to a certain extent, what is often left out, is how to actually get started.
As with anything in life, if you’re trying it for the first time it isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to struggle to get used to the movement initially and you’re going to make mistakes. Mistakes can be very off putting but they are essential to allow you to learn how your body works best and where the limits exist.
Start from the beginning.
1. Running Gear
You don’t need a lot of equipment for running but some items can make the whole thing a lot easier.
If you only purchase one thing then a good pair of shoes must be it. Everyone has different shaped feet and your legs and hips may bend in a way that makes the running motion put pressure on joints. Shoes can correct your footfalls to help avoid injury and cushion the soles of your feet to absorb some of that impact.
I have heard time and time again people saying they don’t want to invest in expensive shoes just now, they will wait and see if they like running first. This is just an excuse to give up running. The bottom line is you will likely not enjoy running until you start to improve at it. It takes time to get used to how it feels and for you to notice and enjoy the benefits.
As with any exercise it is not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle change. The one way to make sure you don’t enjoy running is to run in shoes that don’t fit properly. You will end up sore, possibly with blisters, shin splints, sore joints and a stitch and no one enjoys these things.
If you are serious about starting running then you need to get some running shoes fitted for you.
Another worry I’ve heard is people feel embarrassed to go into the running store. They feel like they wont fit in or they don’t deserve to be there as they haven’t started running yet.
This is an easy trap to fall into. The point here is, if you are just starting to run then you need the extra shoe support more than most. You deserve to be there and the advice you can get from the shop assistants can help your technique which will avoid injury and other set-backs.
Don’t feel embarrassed about admitting you are trying it for the first time, it takes a lot of courage to start a new exercise and people will only admire you for making a positive change in your life.
So now you have the shoes, what else do you need?
Any old clothes will do but some are specially designed to help avoid issues when you run. Skin-tight leggings or shorts prevent clothes dragging and flapping around whilst you run. This can get annoying and can actually slow you down. Watch for hoodies with draw stings at the front. You only need to get hit in the face once to understand why these are a bad idea. For bigger chested women I would advise getting a properly fitted sports bra. This saves a lot of pain and discomfort and can really improve the whole activity.
Another issue with choosing clothing is consider chafing.
Chafing is a very negative word and makes most people grimace. It is often associated with being overweight and unfit. The secret here is even very slim and fit people can end up suffering with chafing. If there are points where skin meets skin or wearing clothing that is too tight, then there is a possibility for chafing.
Overweight people may be more likely to suffer with it but it can be due to body shape as well. Making sure your shorts are long enough so they don’t ride up and ensuring that they fit well around the waist is essential. Some leggings seem to be designed to slip down as you move and these can be a nightmare for any runner. A good way around this can be finding ones with a drawstring waist so you can secure them in place.
My final point about clothing is, now this is essential, dress like it’s 5 degrees warmer than it is. If you would normally go out in a jumper then stick to the t-shirt. If you would normally wear a warm jacket then wear a light jumper. It can take a while but once you start moving you’re going to start generating a lot of heat. If you wrap yourself up too much you insulate this heat and keep it around yourself. This can lead to overheating and you’ll find yourself becoming uncomfortable and even exhausted from it.
So you have the shoes and a comfortable, well-fitting outfit, what next?
Some people like to take water with them when they run. I used to. I had myself convinced that I would dehydrate and die if I didn’t stop for regular water breaks. In actuality the human body is well designed to manage water levels, so this is a very unlikely outcome. If you’re just starting out or running a 5-10km then you are in no danger unless you start off severely dehydrated.
It mostly comes down to a mental barrier. It’s fine to have a sip before you set off but gulping too much water whilst running can lead to you feeling bloated as it sloshes around in your stomach. Your body needs to focus on muscle contractions and breathing. Not your digestive tract. So even something as light as water can cause cramps and stitches. Another point here is carrying the water bottle can throw off your balance and makes it more difficult to find a good rhythm so best just leave the bottle at the finish line.
Music can be hugely beneficial to starting out as a runner. The beat can help you set a pace, the words can keep your mind focused and it can help drown out any negative thoughts about how difficult the run is. The downside with music is you need to be careful in busy areas or near roads as you may be so focussed on your stride that you don’t hear traffic approaching. Earphones that clip to the outside of your ears can ensure you enjoy all the benefits of music without drowning out everything else.
The important point with music is it can be enjoyable, but it is also good to do some runs without it. Get used to both styles otherwise you can end up being a slave to the playlist. If the headphones break or the phone runs out of charge, then the run is not possible and this can stop you from doing your workout.
Apps can also be hugely beneficial when starting out. They can track your progress, encourage you to keep going and give you motivation to go out again. There are many great apps and watches with this built in function available. You can challenge yourself and work to do better each time.
Again, as with music, I would like to stress here that they are fantastic as an add on to the run. The app is not everything. What I mean by this is it should be used as an interesting source of data about the run rather than focusing the whole run on it.
If you are pushing so hard each time to run faster than your last then you will quickly lose the enjoyment of the run. Also, if the app crashes or your device loses power you will feel lost and frustrated.
Enjoy apps as a fun source of information, not as a complete focus for every run.
2. Actually Doing It
Okay so now we are dressed and ready to go, but how do I actually run?
The next step is deciding when, where, and for how long.
Joining a running group can be hugely beneficial as this takes all that worry and planning away from you. Running groups generally have sections for people of all abilities and welcome beginners. Always remember, even if you are the slowest in the group you are doing miles better than all those sitting at home on the sofa.
If you’re not keen on running with others that’s ok too. It does require more mental focus to go alone but some people prefer the peace.
To get started first pick a route. Somewhere not too hilly and not too exposed and windy. A park or route around town that is easy to get to and ideally not too busy.
When to run is also very important.
First thing in the morning is great, it really sets you up for the day mentally and physically. The problem is it is more difficult to run first thing, before your body is fully awake. The most important point is, whenever you do run, make sure it fits in well with your lifestyle. Make sure it is some time that is repeatable, that you can do day in, day out. This ensure you keep up the good habit.
Don’t eat before a run. Give it at least an hour after eating before you set off. Some people need longer than this. Also watch what you eat, fatty foods take longer to digest so can slow you down and make you feel lethargic and nauseous.
So we now have a route, we have a time to go, now how far?
The next most important thing is pick a distance that wont overstretch you.
People really like to focus on the 5km run as it’s a good distance for most. That being said, for a beginner, 5km is actually really difficult. It’s further than it looks and can really get you down if you keep pushing for it too soon.
Starting with your mind set on 2km, 1km or even 500m may be a more manageable goal depending on your fitness levels.
Some people prefer one long stretch but for some, shorter bursts can be beneficial, especially for getting started. Walking 100m then running 100m and repeat 5 times gets you used to the way of the movement without over tiring yourself.
3. Your Exercise Is As Unique As You
The bottom line is find a method that works for you and stick to it. Keep repeating it, every day or every other day or once a week. If you keep doing it, it does become easier as time goes on.
Running is mostly an issue of mindset and as long as you keep positive then nothing can stop you. The minute you tell yourself you can’t run then this becomes truth.
If you have a bad day that’s ok. A bad day is good because there is lots of room for improvement tomorrow.
The take home message is, start slow and don’t get bogged down with all the equipment advertised and advice given to people training for marathons. Every runner had to start somewhere and some people are better designed for it than others. Every step is another huge achievement and as long as you keep going then you are building a habit that will last a lifetime.
No matter how slow you go, how short the distance is, or how tired you feel, you are lapping all those that choose to stay home watching TV.
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