In theory, running might seem simple enough, but it can be a tough new exercise form to crack, especially if you are an absolute beginner. Don’t let this put you off though, as there are endless benefits to running regularly, whether your goal is to get fit or lose weight.
We’ve put together a few simple steps to make sure you succeed on your new running journey, regardless of your current fitness level.
As with any new form of exercise, you must be realistic and approach running sensibly if you want to stick with it in the long run (excuse the pun!) First, you must consider how fit you are and approach running from where you are right now with your fitness and not where you think you should be. Starting at a speed that is too fast and running further than you are ready for is not only incredibly demotivating, but it also puts a lot of strain on specific bones and muscles in your body which will only lead to preventable injuries.
The key is to build up your speed and distance gradually to give your body the chance to adapt to this new, demanding form of exercise. By giving your body the chance to adjust, you will not only find running slightly easier, but you will also start to see gradual improvements in your performance which can be just what you need to stay motivated.
Motivation is key
After a long day at work, it can be tempting to skip your run or to press the snooze button in the morning instead of going for that jog you promised yourself; this is where motivation comes in. One of the most powerful motivators is to try and build running a habit. Once you have established it as a regular habit, it will be much easier to keep up with training and you’ll be less likely to look for endless excuses to skip your run.
Think about the best time to go for a run and stick to it. Setting aside a convenient time to exercise means it’s less likely to be overlooked with other commitments. Another great motivator can be to run with a friend; you’ll not only make running sociable, but you’ll also spur each other on when you most need it. Or alternatively, listen to your favourite music while you run, so you enjoy your time out pounding the pavements.
Get running with a plan in mind
Running requires very little specialist equipment apart from comfy clothing and a proper pair of running trainers to provide you with the correct cushioning and support. Once you are equipped with these, you are good to go! But besides the right clothing, it is also worth having a formal plan in place to make sure you take things slowly and keep on track. Write it down, so you can see what you are working towards; this can be a great incentive.
Building up gradually
Before you embark on your first run, you need to work on improving your fitness level. The easiest way to do this is to go for regular, brisk walks which should raise your heart rate and get you slightly out of breath, but nothing more strenuous than that. An exercise bike or an elliptical trainer can also be useful if you have access to one, but don’t worry if not, as brisk walking is just as effective. Remember, the best form of exercise is one you will do regularly.
Once you have built up a basic level of fitness, you can start to add short spells of running into your walks. For example, if you aim to go for a 20-minute brisk walk, try running for a minute and walking for two minutes, then repeat this for the whole of the walk. Remember, you shouldn’t be gasping for breath and should still be able to hold a conversation while exercising.
When you feel comfortable with this amount of running, you can look to up the amount to two minutes of running and two minutes of walking, and so on. This should be very gradual; don’t be tempted to progress too quickly as this is when injuries occur. The end goal is to be able to run for the full 20 minutes without walking, ideally three times each week. This could take several weeks/months to achieve, so don’t get disheartened… you will get there!
Give it a rest
Once you get the running bug, it can be tempting to try and fit a run in as often as possible, as it is a great way to relax while gaining a sense of accomplishment, however, you should always remember to factor in rest days. If you are an absolute beginner, aim to run every other day while your body adjusts to the new demands of running. If you are a more experienced runner, you should aim for at least two rest days each week. Research suggests that rest days dramatically reduce the risk of overuse injuries, which would have a detrimental effect on your training.
Rest days don’t have to mean avoiding exercise altogether though. Just take it easy and look at a different form of exercise to give your leg muscles a break, for example, swimming. Varying the types of exercise you do will also keep your training schedule fresh and maintain your interest.
No matter if you’re gearing up for a big race (perhaps the marathon you’ve always dreamed of entering) and would like some personal training, or if you’re just seeking some advice on how to make the most of your running activities, please don’t hesitate to talk to a member of the 1Life team.