Running is an activity that many people like the idea of, but don’t really know where to start. The worry of injury or simply not being ‘good enough’ can be a little off-putting to say the least but it is great for improving health and wellbeing. All you need is a decent pair of trainers and a realistic training plan.
1. Get the Go-ahead
Before you begin, it is important that you check with your doctor that running won’t aggravate any existing health conditions you may have. Generally speaking, being more active is only ever a good thing – so long as you listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
A walk-to-run training program can help you to gently build up your stamina whilst minimising the risk of injury. It coaxes your body into the idea of running by alternating between intervals of walking and running, gradually increasing your run time as you progress.
The NHS Couch to 5K plan offers a week-by-week guide to get you running 5 kilometres or 30 minutes non-stop in just nine weeks. It’s based on three runs per week, with a recommended rest day between each run. This can all be done outdoors or on a treadmill.
TIP: If you don’t quite feel physically ready to move into the next week then you can always repeat the week you’re on until you do. Just don’t lose that motivation!
3. Stick to a routine
Structure helps to keep us motivated, so choose which days you want to run on before you commit, and try to stick to them. There will be times when you don’t want to leave the house and that is perfectly normal. But don’t give up! Once you start running the endorphins will kick in and you will feel much better for it.
4. Tips to Avoid Injury
Avoiding landing on your heels for example, minimises the shock impact that can cause pain and damage to joints. Using your core will also help to support your back and allow your limbs to move more freely. And don’t forget to breathe!
TIP: For anyone with arthritis or osteoporosis, building muscle strength will significantly help to protect your joints and bones. So consider supplementing your running with some weight training, as well as exercises that improve core strength.
5. Warm Up, Warm Down; Strength & Flex
With all your attention on running it can be easy to overlook the importance of warming up and warming down. But this is a vital part of any training regime as it significantly reduces the risk of injury or that feeling of seizing up after a tough workout. Focus on mobilising joints (particularly ankles and hips) and gently stretching the leg and lower back muscles.
TIP: A practice such as yoga is great for both warming up and warming down, and will help to increase your mind-body awareness whilst improving joint stability, sense of balance and breathing.