Running is such a big part of my life, without which I would struggle.
Not only is running an all around great exercise, but it can provide an outlet for many other things such as depression, anxiety, stress and all the other trials that come with adult life.
I’m definitely not an expert on running, but below are a few things I’ve learned during my running journey, which I hope will benefit anyone thinking of taking up running. Knowledge picked up through friends, other runners and running magazines has proven invaluable even today.
Don’t Put Pressure On Yourself
Definitely a golden rule and one which I have struggled with. It’s all too easy to beat yourself up when a planned distance/time/pace goes out the window. Try not to get focus on a “failure” as being hard on yourself ultimately makes you see running in a negative light, taking the enjoyment away.
If you feel like you’re beginning to see running as a chore due to distance or pace goals, consider completing some “tech-free” runs. No music, no watch, no set time or distance, just running for the enjoyment! This is something that I try to do every month to remember why I got into running and to enjoy the environments that I’m running through, which can pass by in a blur when focussing on your pace with music blaring into your ears.
Accept that some days will be harder than others, just as other days are a breeze and you feel you could go on for miles! These fluctuations can be down to weather, temperature or even how tired/fueled/hydrated your body is. Everyone has bad runs, but focus on how far you’ve come and trust that the next run will more than likely feel a lot easier.
Invest In Quality Trainers / Clothing
Good running trainers are a must! Although they can seem expensive, bear in mind that a decent pair will cover 400-500 miles! If you average that across the years/months they’ll look after your feet, the cost doesn’t seem so daunting. Not having the correct shoes will likely cause a niggling injury (something which can be easily dismissed as normal exercise pains), which could turn into something major. A good investment up front will save you misery and pain down the line. Trust me, having physio just before a big race does not put you in a good place!
Gait analysis is also an excellent service to take advantage of when choosing your shoes. This is something I actually only took advantage of recently and couldn’t believe the benefit of it. A lot of stores offering Gait analysis don’t charge if you sign up for a free newsletter or loyalty card. The analysis itself will allow you to view & discuss your running style and how your feet land/roll when making contact with the ground. This will not only highlight whether you need neutral, supporting or cushioned shoes but may also highlight the need for insoles to correct the way your feet land. The expert that completes the analysis can explain everything and help you choose the right type of trainer for your running style.
Clothing is also important when running, for both comfort & safety. There’s nothing worse than going out for a run and ending up freezing cold as you don’t have enough layers or coverage from your clothing, or melting away as you don’t have lightweight breathable clothes for the summer. The first step is to look at what you have available in your wardrobe and aim to have several outfits you can alternate between depending on the weather. If you don’t have a long sleeve top or a breathable t-shirt then grab one at your local sports store. You don’t need to break the bank, but you do want to be comfortable when running. It’s also important to remember “be visible, be safe” when picking clothing. All dark clothing makes it hard for drivers to spot you, especially if you’re running at dawn/dusk. Aim for brightly coloured clothing where possible to increase your visibility when out on the road.
Build Up Your Mileage Gradually
Most people try to go out for a long run straight away, which is not the best way of starting out. Begin with short runs, or even run/walk/run/walk to ease into running. Gradually increase the mileage each week, aiming for about +10% per week (which is a guide, not set in stone, so can be flexible), to avoid injury or resulting in long rest periods before you can mentally/physically get out for another run. Some days you will hit the road and feel comfortable, tempting you to push on for a much longer run than your last. This introduces a big risk of injury, as your body has not become conditioned to longer distances, caused not only by joints being unused to impact but also the muscles and tendons which are attached to your joints/bones which need to adjust to the new demands.
Sign Up For A Race
The big one! That daunting moment when you actually hit “submit” on a race entry! This can be a scary moment, but also gives you something to aim for. I find it motivational to have a goal when I’m running, whereas some people don’t need an aim at all. But most people that take up running end up taking part in races.
Don’t be tempted to rush straight into a 10km or half marathon. Aim for something to get comfortable with running in a large group of people, along with the general feel of a race environment. Most towns now have local park runs, which are free, relaxed 5km distance routes. Not only is this a great way of trying out a race, but there is great support from everyone involved and they track your progress online for you!
Good luck on your running journey.