Essentials every runner should know
Advice for beginners
Try not to be too ambitious at the start. You’ll start motivated and try to speed around the block as fast as your little legs will carry you. If you are not careful you will burn all your energy and enthusiasm with a few early over exuberant efforts. If you are not used to running you should to stick with alternating walking and jogging to start with and work to time rather than distance. Build up the proportion of running to walking gradually so you are running further and for longer. Once you can run beyond 20 minutes (at whatever the pace), you are well on the road to a good level of running.
Sticking with it
There will be times when it is tough to keep going - that’s why children are taught at school to either serenade passing runners with a line of ‘Keep on running!’ or to shout ‘Run Forrest Run’ (we think that’s why they do it).
There are always plenty of ‘reasons’ not to run today, or temptations to do it tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Apart from taking on board the advice of the local youths you can try running with a partner. You become less likely to miss a session, will encourage each other when the going gets tough, it is safer (especially if you run at night-time) and you will learn to pace yourselves better. You will find it more fun to have someone to share the pain and pleasure of training with, and it adds a social dimension to exercise.
Keep a record of your running. One of the best motivators to sticking at your running is to set goals and measure yourself against them.
Be a Creature of Habit
Get into a routine of when to run and stick to it. It does not matter whether this is before work to get it done before the hassles of the day kick in, after work (to forget the hassles of the day), or at lunch time (for an escape from the hassles of the day).
The body works best when it is in a good routine so try and keep to the same times for training, eating and sleeping. If your routine is regular it also makes it easier to fit the training in and remember to have your kit when you need it.
The longer it has been since you last did serious exercise, the harder it will be to get used to training.
Your body will let you run far harder than is actually beneficial, so try not to attempt more than you current level of conditioning allows. Spread your effort over the course of a week. At the end of the week ask yourself whether you feel up to doing it all again – if not you are over doing it and you should back off and take it easier. Be patient and let your fitness build over time. This way each session will not seem so tough and you will actually be able to enjoy your running.
You can use our coaching section to have training schedules drawn up for you to help you get fitter.
Tips on Running
Good posture will give you a better running style. Don’t slouch, but push your hips forward slightly. Try to keep your body movements in the direction you are running. Your shoulders should stay relaxed, with thumbs resting lightly on partly clenched fingers. Do not worry about your stride length, especially as over-striding (taking very long steps) can be a considerable waste of energy. You feet should land below your centre of gravity. Relax when you run – you’re not trying to fight your way out of a paper bag.
Firstly remember to do it! Always!!
Being serious your breathing rate will increase when you exercise. Try not to think too much about this and do not try to control it too much as your body is very good at selecting a sensible breathing pattern for your intensity of work. As you exercise, your body requires more air as it needs to get more oxygen to the working muscles. You should maintain a pace where your breathing is comfortable. If your breathing becomes very laboured it probably means you’re working too hard. Back off and relax a bit more.
From your early teens your body starts to lose flexibility.
By stretching you reduce the risk of injury and increase your range of motion – this means you can run more efficiently. Ideally you should stretch lightly for 5-10 minutes before running and then stretch some more after running. When you are still warm from training you have a greater range of movement and this is where you can increase flexibility. Before running stretch for 10-15 seconds twice in each position. Afterwards, hold stretches for 20-30 seconds.
- Hamstrings: These are the muscles at the back of your thigh. Place your left heel on a bench or something of similar height. Lean your body towards your raised foot. Keep your chin up and your back straight. You will feel the stretch in the back of your left leg. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then change legs. Repeat three times on each leg.
- Calf muscles: Put your hands on a wall. Keeping your heels on the ground, lean forward from the hips until you can feel your calf muscles stretching. Hold the position for 20 seconds, release then repeat three times.
- Quadriceps: These are the muscles at the front of your thigh. Using something for support if you need to, take hold of your ankle and pull the heel of that leg up against your backside. Hold for 20 seconds then change legs repeating three times.
- Groin muscles: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet touching. Holding on to your feet, press your arms out against the inside of your thighs. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, relax then repeat three times.
Going for a walk, jog or run is that it is relatively cheap. You can walk in your normal clothes and shoes and it won’t cost you a penny, but if you want to get active and get in to shape, you should look more closely at what you’re wearing.
It’s important not to skimp on a decent pair of shoes. If you skimp you will feel the consequences! Proper running shoes are a ‘must have’ item. Running shoes have been designed to give the right amount of cushioning, support and flexibility for running. Good fit is important. There should be a fingers width of space between your big toe and the front of the shoe. Otherwise you may end up with your toes hitting the end of the shoe. Black toe nails are no fun! Check out all the reviews here and our list of the best shoes, here.
Clothing that is made for running not only looks better, it feels more comfortable and allows you to train more effectively.
Lightweight, breathable fabrics mean you can look and feel the part.
You can get away with wearing old cotton T-shirts for a run. But if you want to feel comfortable and look good then buy specialist running wear. Proper running kit will draw sweat moisture (yep, that means sweat) away from your body so you stay dry and comfortable whereas cotton absorbs moisture making it heavy and uncomfortable.
At night time make sure you are visible. Wear white, light colours and/or kit with reflective strips/tabs on.
If you know you will feel good and look good when you run that makes you far more likely to go out to train.
Here’s a checklist of what clothing you should consider:
- Shorts and underwear: Specialist running shorts are lightweight and have built-in briefs. Men’s and women’s briefs are cut differently. If you don’t have a specialist pair of short don’t worry, wear supportive underwear under a normal pair of shorts. Women should wear a sports bra for comfort and support.
- Tops: Choose light and comfortable kit. Stay cool in warm weather by wearing a lightweight T-shirt or vest. In the cold warmer layers including a long sleeved T-shirt and even weather proof jacket can keep you comfortable. It is better to wear lots of layers in colder weather than fewer thicker ones.
- Socks: Running socks will help keep your feet dry, will not bunch and will prevent rubbing in the key areas which will reduce the risk of blisters. You’ll be more comfortable.
Food and drink
Eat carbohydrate based food within 30 minutes of training to boost your refuelling.
Have a snack such as fruit, cake, energy bar or a sandwich ready to eat straight after running. Getting organised stops you eating junk. Eat about three hours before training or racing to make sure you are fuelled.
Stay hydrated. This does not just mean drinking straight before running. Aim to drink three litres of water per day, but a little and often. If you lose as little as 2% of your body weight in fluids, your performance can be affected. Get in the habit of having a large bottle of water close to hand throughout the day and sip away. You will feel much better and perform well.
Have a read of our, 'Are you properly fuelled?' article.