Today I am taking myself back to basics, reflecting on the 14 years I've been running, how I got started and what I believe as a (non professional) marathon runner, are the key things for getting started.
I instinctively did some of these things below and others I learned through my own mistakes and from reading about running and speaking to other runners. I'm not a professional trainer and speak from my own experience so please seek advice if you've never exercised before.
I've had so many people ask me about running recently, how I started and what I'd recommend, so here we go... Here are the top 5 things I did myself/or wish someone had told me from the beginning.
1. The only equipment you need is running trainers
It's tempting to look at all the cool pictures on Instagram of runners with all their gadgets and think you need lots of things to start. You DON'T!
All you need is a pair of decent running shoes. You may already have a pair you can start with. I'd recommend going to your local running shop, like Run4it, and ask them to assess your feet. Most running shops will do this for free and recommend the type of support you need for your feet. You can run in any sports clothing. If you already go to the gym or do another sport you're probably ready to start. I would add a good sports bra here if you're a woman and don't want to end up with a black eye or sore boobies.
I didn't buy a tracker/watch until I was at the END of training for my first marathon and I don't use it much. Most of the time I use Strava on my phone, which is a free fitness app that allows you to track distance/calories/speed etc.
Once you know the type of trainers you need for support, revisit your footwear once it starts to wear out or approx every 300-400 miles. I buy all my trainers from Runningshoes.com which is an online store that nearly always has discounts available.
2. Start slowly with short intervals
If you've never run for anything more than a bus before, it's not a good idea to think your first run will be 2-3 miles. You don't want to end up with an injury or hate it so much you give up immediately. Short intervals are best to begin with, whether outside or on the treadmill.
I started on the treadmill because it was easy to keep an eye on my time. I was already relatively fit and training for a charity cycle in Cuba. I began jogging for 2 minutes and walking for 2 minutes. I built this up gradually. The next time I went to the gym I ran for 3 minutes and walked for 2 and then ran for 4 minutes and walked for 2.
Make sure you watch your speed. Use the "talk test". If you can't talk then you're probably running to fast!
There is not an exact science to this because everyone who starts running will start with a different fitness level, There are however, lots of programmes you can use as guidance. For complete beginners you could try the "couch to 5k" over 9 weeks or if you're already physically fit and do other exercise, try adapting my suggestion above to suit your fitness level.
3. Sign up for a 5K run or park run
If you are serious about learning to run and want to work towards something, I'd recommend you sign up to a 5K organised run such as a local park run.
I know it's scary and you're thinking but I can't even run for a minute right now, but you will be able to do it if you are consistent and stick to a plan. By committing to a goal from the outset, this is the surest way of achieving progress, feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
Give yourself enough time, a few months at least if you're a complete beginner, and stick to a training plan, such as the "couch to 5K".
4. Give yourself time to recover
You may feel so good about yourself when you get started that you're tempted to run every day. If you're completely new to this, you want to give yourself days off to rest. This is new to your body and your muscles may ache a little/a lot to start with. I found that taking a day off between each run was essential to begin with. If you look at your week, that might mean running 3-4 times depending how keen you are.
5. Warm up and cool down
This is something I've learned over time that is INVALUABLE. Do NOT skip this part EVER. I always want to go, go, go immediately with the feeling to run and get started. DO NOT DO THIS. Your muscles are not ready.
If one minute you're sat on the sofa and the next you're running, they're probably going to scream WTF!!! Take at least 5 minutes before you run to do dynamic stretching. I never run to warm up. You are warming up to run! Dynamic stretching is simply stretching with movement and research shows that this type of stretching can improve your performance.
Here is a video with some simple dynamic stretches. Some of my favourite dynamic exercises are, high knees jogging on the spot, star jumps, squat jumps, arm rotations, knee circles and leg kicks. I perform each movement ten times. I like to do this inside so that I'm warm when I step into the cold (it's freezing in Scotland). You might want to do it outside if you don't have enough room in your house.
After your run is when you want to do static stretching, which is what most people are accustomed to doing and associate with stretching. Static stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue. In contrast, if done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
When I started running I never imagined I'd run a marathon and here is me after my first marathon and many half marathons.
Now I'm getting ready for my second marathon and can't imagine life without a running challenge.
I hope this is helpful and I'd love to hear how you get on with your running journey.