First things first, I was not born to run. I love it now don’t get me wrong but when I first decided to go on a run about six years ago I absolutely hated it. Within minutes I was short of breath, had a stitch and was crying for it to end. I thought it would be a lot easier, I felt at that time that I was fairly fit, I enjoyed the odd Zumba class and loved to walk, go to the gym etc. Running for me was clearly going to be hard work but I was willing to stick at it and try and train myself to be a successful runner.
For anyone out there who would like to take up running, go for it! Yes it will be hard and if you carry on training, improving your distance, it doesn’t ever get ‘easy’ either. For me running keeps me sane. After a run, no matter what the distance I feel so much better than what I did when I set off. The ‘endorphin rush’ that you get after is the best feeling!
Below are some top tips on how to start from the beginning and gradually improve your running fitness. It can take time but it is totally worth it. I am still training myself and hope to achieve a distance of 20km by the end of 2016. If there are any local ladies reading this, I make a great running partner. Please note, I still haven’t mastered the art of running whilst talking (I am extremely envious of people who can do this) so conversation will be kept to a minimum to enable me to continue to breath at a normal rate!
Before you even set foot on the tarmac, get yourself some good running trainers and a nice outfit that makes you feel good. I strongly recommend Asics trainers, they are reasonably priced and extremely comfortable with excellent support. Lots of funky colours to choose from too! Shop around as the prices do vary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either when it comes to your final choice.
One of the main things that keeps me going is listening to music. I have a specific playlist on my Spotify that is filled with songs that will get me in the running mood and keep me going. Keep this up to date and add news songs as and when you hear a new one that you like, this is guaranteed to make you want to go out for a run!
Download a running app or see if you already have one installed on your phone. My Samsung phone has an app called S Health which automatically starts tracking any exercise you do as soon as you start running/walking. It is extremely useful especially when it comes to increasing your distance.
Stretch! No matter what the distance, makes sure you warm up and stretch. I often get a pain in my left shoulder when I run so stretching this beforehand really helps.
Choose a short route
My short route at the moment is 4km but this doesn’t mean that you have to start at this distance. Whatever distance you start at is an achievement in itself, just be proud that you have made the decision to go for a run! Depending on the weather at the time, consider picking a route that has nice views – I find it helps me to keep going if I have a picturesque view to look at.
In order to improve your fitness you need to push yourself and be confident that you can get through it. I got into the habit of stopping whenever I was feeling a little tired, this would only be for about 20 seconds whilst I got my breath back but I soon realised that my level of fitness was not increasing, it is surprising how quickly you can improve your fitness if you just keep going. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to keep going if you feel sick, dizzy or so short of breath that you feel like you could pass out at any moment. If this is the case then please do stop, get your breath back and make a mental note of where you stopped on that particular route.
On completing your run, make sure you cool down and stretch again. This will prevent any injury that could stop you from going on that run again. Have plenty of water and take in the amazing feeling you are experiencing. You will need to remember this when you go out on your next run!
Schedue your next run
In order to be consistent with your fitness, schedule your next run and look forward to it. I find that writing things in my diary or on a calendar encourages me to acheive it, try it and see if it works for you! I try and run three times a week as well as walking to work each day.
If you stopped at any point when you did your last run, stick to this route until you can complete the whole route without taking a break. Once you feel confident with that distance, you can then slowly increase the distance at your own pace.
Increase the distance
Once you are confident with running your route without stopping, work on increasing your distance by a small amount. I usually run an extra 1km each time, sometimes more depending on how ambitious I am feeling that particular day. You can either stick with your current route and just add a bit extra onto the end or choose a completely new one, it is entirely up to you.
Don’t give up
Easier said than done but try your hardest to keep going and become a regular runner. Keep changing it up by choosing different routes and maybe even ask a friend to join you for support. Set yourself a goal, this will encourage you to keep going! As I said earlier, my goal is 20km by the end of 2016. I really want to achieve this but know that I need to be consistent with my running and keep going. I am currently on 10km at the moment so half way there!
Don’t feel like you have to increase the distance each time you go out for a run. You might not always have the same amount of time to exercise so just go the distance that you can and maybe think about going further next time.
What to eat and when to run
What you eat before your run can make a big different in performance. Some people can wake up first thing and go for a run with an empty stomach, this is not me. I need to have a substantial meal, filled with carbs in order for my body to have the energy to keep going.
If you feel quite negative after a run, have a think about what you have eaten that day and how much water you have consumed. This could be why you felt like you had no energy to keep going. I often find if I run on an empty stomach it gives me a stitch, you know the kind of stitch that is so painful you have to stop! This can also happen if you run too soon after a meal, give it at least an hour and a half minimum.
If you are new ro running, try going out at different times to see if your performance is better or worse at certain times of the day. I find that I am much better at running on an evening, so if I want to increase my distance or work extra hard I always go after my evening meal. As my fitness is increasing I feel like my morning/early afternoon runs are getting much better which is a really good feeling. Try a few options and make a note of your performance, it could make such a big difference!
I hope this post has been useful and hopefully encouraged you to give running a try. Please feel free to comment on this post if you have any further tips that you would like to share!