THINKING of stepping up a gear and getting into running this year? Not sure where to start?
Our guest blogger Alexandra Cook knows a thing or two about running. A UKA athletics coach and a competitive distance runner, she gives her tips on how to hit the ground running:
When you ask why people run they have many different reasons; the escapism, catching up with friends, having a race in mind, or just to torch calories and get fit. So many want to get into running but assume they can't do it as it's just too physically hard. Although physical fitness counts for a lot when you run, a major part of a runner’s performance also comes down to psychology. Running in a group can really help motivate and encourage. A bit of company can take your mind away from those demons in your head that can make you doubt your ability.
When you are starting out, start slowly. The aim is to increase time on your feet and add the miles bit by bit each week. The increase in running should be gradual enough that it isn’t even noticed.
Here are some tips for you to consider if you are starting out running:
3 is the magic number
Don't exercise every day. Some people get it in their mind that more is more but in most cases, whether a beginner runner or experienced, less is more. Running 3 times a week is a perfect amount to allow for progression but also allow for rest and adaptation. With a new sport, especially one that’s high impact like running, injury risk is high so be careful and taper your enthusiasm. Listen to your body and as your fitness increases you can add in more days of running.
Make each step count
Begin with a mix of running and walking. You need to make sure each step count. The aim is to raise the heart for a prolonged period of time initially, so when you are in the walking phase of the run make sure you are striding out and keeping your heart rate up. This is know as active recovery. As your fitness progresses, time spent walking will shorten and running time will become longer. Before you know it, you’ll be able to run for 30 mins without stopping.
One huge mistake a lot of beginner runners make is running too fast. The aim is to run so you can still talk and smile! Slow your pace from the beginning as this increases the likelihood of running for longer without stopping. If you feel uncomfortable or you are starting to find it hard, make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders and don’t tense up. Also, don’t worry about using a watch to monitor your pace. Learn to judge it by effort and how your body feels. This is an important ability to have for when you start adding faster speed work session when your running progresses later on.
Plan your week
Hopefully you will make one run a week with a running group but you will need to factor in the remaining two runs. Plan them out for the week ahead. Incorporate them with a dog walk or link up with friends. Don't forget, at the beginning, it is only 30 mins so don't talk yourself out of it thinking you don't have time. You could even take any children out with you. Older kids are fast and great to do speed intervals with (as children naturally run at high pace for shorter distances and stop exhausted!).
Talk to other runners
The most important thing is to ask questions. Ask any running coach anything, nothing is too small or silly. They are there to support you and encourage you. If maybe the session is too hard, they can adapt it for you. Soon, you’ll be able to run 5km and it will be a wonderful feeling when you do. Good luck!
Tune in for 2020 when Alex chats about the importance of diet as the miles increase.