I didn’t start running until after I turned 40. 41 in fact. Seems you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.
Until that point, you wouldn’t have caught me running for the bus, let alone hill sprints, intervals, 10kms… but here I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a marathon runner or triathlete.
I’m just a regular mum who runs at an ok pace. I’m not fast, I’m not slow. I have genetically dodgy knees that prevent me from going the (really long) distance, so about 10kms is my max. But to be honest, I wouldn’t want to run for more than an hour or so anyway, I have too much other stuff to do!
If you’re thinking about taking up running from scratch (and you’re OK health-wise), here are my top tips for getting started:
1. Just start. Yes you may be anxious, worried about how you’ll cope, what you’ll look like, but stop thinking about it, and just lace up and get out there.
One of my favourite quotes about running comes from Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist and arguably the greatest female marathon runner of all time… “When I started running, I was embarrassed. I’d walk when cars passed me. I’d pretend I was looking at the flowers.”
Everyone is human, everyone has to start somewhere. Just start.
It’s important to get your body ready. A few ‘high knees’ or leg swings and Spiderman stretches can really help your body (both your leg muscles, and your heart rate) prepare and get you set-up for a great run.
Don’t forget to cool down and stretch at the end of the run too. I always walk a couple of hundred metres, then stretch out quads, calves and hammies. I know I should also do my hip flexors too, but usually I just want that coffee by this point.
Join a running club. For tips on technique, to find a running buddy, discover new running tracks… so many reasons to find a local club and keep yourself accountable to your new training regime.
Why, yes there is. Several in fact. Get a running app on your smartphone (I like MapMyRun and Nike+, friends swear by Strava and Runkeeper).
It allows you to track your distance, pace, split pace, calories burned etc. It’s a great way to ensure you keep pushing yourself further, and also allows you to celebrate new milestones reached.
First 5kms? Yay!
Gently does it. You can’t go from zero to half-marathon-hero in your first week. Depending on your level of fitness, pick your start distance (for me, that was 4km, but it could even be 1km) and then graduallybuild on it.
Upon advice from my PT, given the knee situation, I only added on a few hundred metres each week, and I’d do at least two runs per week. It didn’t take long to build the distance up until I was regularly running around 6km. My normal run these days is a loop of my local lake, around 8.5km.
You can also choose to add time rather than distance when you’re building up your stamina. So instead of adding on 500m to your run, add on a few minutes each time.
Don’t worry if you have to start with a walk/run… over time, just reduce the walking time and increase the running time until, at the same distance, you can run it all.
Get outside. Personally, I never run on the treadmill. Every kilometer feels at least double what it does outside, and I just find it so excruciatingly dull. Get outside. It’s awesome!
If you can, by a lake, the sea, around a park, somewhere scenic. Even if it’s just along the streets where you live, you can take your mind off the run by looking at the houses. And oh, that fresh air. Nothing beats it.
Get yourself a mantra. Running is tougher on the mind than the body, and the mind almost always gives up first. I find a little phrase that works for me and repeat it over and over when the going gets tough (“I’ve got this, I’ve got this, I’ve got this…”).
Don’t go crazy. Even seasoned runners need to rest. Make sure you incorporate other ways of moving your body into your fitness regime, be it weights/resistance, yoga, pilates.
And make sure you have at least one complete rest day per week. Your body needs to recover. You will not, I repeat not, get any faster or go any further if you do not rest.
Most of all, enjoy it. The feeling you get at the end of a run (once you’ve caught your breath) is indescribable. ‘Runners’ High’ – go get your Runners’ High.
For more, go to the Training for Chocolate Blog