It’s been one of my favourite hobbies since I was 21 and left university feeling generally unhealthy and (very) unfit and, in my own father’s words, looking like I needed a month at a health farm. Before turning 21 I had run a little, but never with absolute dedication that spurred me on to fall in love with it and remain loyal. Perhaps it was being an unemployed graduate that gave me the time to keep going for it daily.
Don’t get me wrong – like most people, I don’t jump out of my bed every day excited to run. It takes loyalty, the right fuel, and sometimes copious coffees before I can get any kind of movement in. Some days I can’t bear the idea, other days it’s all I look forward to, and my favourite way to expand my energy and relieve stress. It gives me head space, clears up toxins, gets some oxygen in to my lungs and perhaps best of all, makes me feel alive and ‘in the moment’ – something I struggle with.
So, here are my top tips if you’re thinking of beginning. Please bear in mind I am in no way a professional, and my ‘top tips’ are ones that have worked for me, your approach might be different.
- Do invest in a pair of decent quality trainers. Those dodgy old trainers collecting dust really won’t do the job. With so many specialised running shops selling ultra-durable and comfortable running shoes, there’s no excuse. They tend to be on the pricey side, but trust me when I say that investing is a game changer for beginner runners. Protecting yourself from injuries is the most important thing you can do, plus never underestimate the ‘bounce-ability’ factor that comes with new trainers to get you off to a flying start! A good running shop will have trained staff who will analyse what running shoe is best for you. They give great advice, as well as understanding your needs based on any past injuries you may have. Some even let you try the shoes on and run outside in them briefly. My favourite shop is ‘Run and become’, who also offer a website jam packed with advice. http://www.runandbecome.com/
- Do fuel your body correctly before and after a run. Think of your body as an engine for a moment – without fuel, that engine isn’t going to motor up. We need an abundance of different food groups as humans. Just by breathing, we are using calories. Running means you are going to need even more calories than usual! Everyone’s favourite fuel for running differs. Brendan Foster, a British long distance runner who in 1976 won a bronze medal at the Summer Olympics, said that his pre-race fuel was a few cups of tea, several pieces of toast with honey, and a post-race pint of shandy. Everyone is different, but whatever your fuel, do fuel up. I wouldn’t advise running on an empty stomach!
- Do be positive. If there is one thing running has taught me, it’s how to be endlessly positive. I am blessed with a mind naturally inclined to be on the negative side, so positivity isn’t always easy. But if I told myself repeatedly that I’m too tired, don’t feel up to it, it’s too cold, it’s too wet – I would never go for a run. The feel good hormones that running produces will override any negativity. And if it’s feeling like hard work to get out there, tell yourself you’ll do 20 minutes. And if after 20 minutes you feel okay, try another 10 minutes. And so on. Trust me, after a while, you’ll want to keep going.
- Don’t overdo it. If you are a beginner, take it slow. Be patient with yourself. Your fitness will build. Easing in with a gentle 3-5KM at your own pace will get you to where you want to be eventually. Gently increase your KM at your own rate. If you push yourself too soon you run the risk of injury and burn out. Everyone’s pace is different, and everyone builds fitness at a different rate. Find out what works for you and your body. Never forget, ‘slow and easy wins the race’.
- Do attempt to join the running community! Or at least dabble in it…at first I felt that signing up to running apps like Strava and taking part in Park Runs would ruin my personal enjoyment of running. If anything, it has inspired me to run more by seeing the true dedication of other runners, and that my own running journey is similar to that of other runners. Finding a local running group is also a great way to meet other people and connect about running. You can find your local Park Run using this website: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s a 5KM run that you do at your own pace. Seeing other runners gives you a true sense of community spirit, and also shows you how many other people are going for it!