This is not some empty New Year’s resolution of ‘new year, new me’ – if you want to start running this year, or want to motivate a friend, relative or partner to get off the couch and get active, here are a half-dozen tips to keep in mind.
Get the right gear
Fortunately, running does not have a big barrier to entry cost so to start running and the only piece of kit you need is running shoes. Here is a guide for some of the best entry-level shoes, but (and we cannot stress this enough) your best bet is to go to a specialty running store that offers gait analysis or has an in-house expert that can advise on the best shoes to suit you and your pronation style. Running shoes are by no means a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and things such as shin splints and sore knees (due to incorrect shoe choice) will make you hate it before your fall in love properly.
Crawl before you can walk
In when you start running, this loosely translates to: You have to learn to walk before you can run. The idea is that you don’t shock your body too much by just heading out the door and immediately pounding the pavement. You need to ease into it. If you or the person you’re trying to motivate to start running lives a largely sedentary lifestyle this is a lot more applicable than if you are already an active person training either in the gym or doing other sports. Most sports scientists will tell you that walking is an excellent foundation for running and provides your bones, muscles, tendons and cardiovascular fitness the base needed to progress smoothly to running without injury. Start with two 30-minute walks per week (for the first two weeks) and then progress to three in the third week, with a day’s break in between each. By the fourth week push one of your walks to 45-mins or even an hour, with the other two remaining 30 mins.
Take the next step
After a few walking sessions your feet, tendons and knees will start becoming conditioned to movement. (By this time you are bound to start ‘feeling’ better both physically and mentally too). In broad sweeps, this is when you can start running. From here you can begin your running program by including short running intervals in your walks. There are many programmes available, but a good suggestion is to start by alternating one-minute intervals of running with one minute of walking. On your next walk/run you can attempt to increase some of the running intervals to two minutes while keeping the walks at one minute. Do this for two weeks and you’ll be amazed at how much ‘easier’ the running intervals start feeling both in the perceptive mental hurdle and on your body. By now your cardiovascular engine and your muscles are starting to adapt and you will be building a base level of fitness, you should be ready for 20 minutes of sustained running. Try one session where you walk for five minutes to warm up, then run for 20 (keep it slow, but keep moving) and then cool down for five. Don’t get despondent if you can’t sustain 20, push it as far as you can and then walk it off. Remember to celebrate the small victories!
Run at least twice a week
Six weeks in and you should be ready to run for 30 minutes. When you start running ‘properly,’ a good rule of thumb is to run at least twice a week. This frequency allows for two rest days between sessions so your body has enough time to recover and adapt. It’s easy here (once you’ve seen some physical weight-loss results) to slump back into a false sense of security and cut your sessions to once a week only. Running twice a week will accelerate your progress far more than if you do only one session a week.
Get a coach or sign up for digital training
At this stage, it’s time to level up and either get a coach or find a digital training programme/app that suits your needs. Your love for running (aside from the benefits you’ll no doubt be seeing) will grow exponentially if you expand your skill set – improve your form, do some hill repeats or stair sets and perhaps tackle a basic trail run. A coach or digital training aid will be invaluable here. (Stay tuned for an article on the best Apps for runners, coming soon).
Join a club or enter a race
We’ve said it before and this might very well not be the last time we mention it: The best way to stay motivated to train is to have a goal (such as a race) to train for. When you start running you may feel intimidated by bigger events with a lot of people, start with your local Parkrun or similar and then perhaps sign up for the unique Wings For Life World Run (a virtual run with thousands globally where all the proceeds go to spinal cord research and the finish line chases you). Once you have pulled the trigger on a ‘bigger’ event entry, it might also be time to join a running club or social/informal group at your level (or just above). Aside from the opportunity for shared learning and to meet like-minded individuals running groups often train together for a specific race or distance challenge.
Looking for some motivation to take that first step and start running? Read this.