If you've decided to start running or maybe you've decided to start running again, this is the place to start.
Here we will try to outline what equipment (clue, not much) you realistically need to run and keep running, what to expect as you progress and ways of building up your running without getting injured, fed up or both.
Obviously, how much you do to begin with will very much depend on your current fitness level i.e. if you're already a regular cyclist, walker or swimmer; you'll probably find you can already handle a certain level of running.
One of the easiest ways to motivate yourself to run is to set a goal. This can be a sponsored run, race, walk or other event and even better if you rope a mate in to take part and train with.
Another great place to find inspiration and support is your local running club or group. There are hundreds of them all over the country and always looking for new members. These are really friendly people and always more than happy to take newcomers under their wing, so don't feel intimidated or put off by the idea of clubs just being for the real keen beans! Check our directory here.
And the other place is ParkRun (www.parkrun.org.uk). This has been a massive phenomenon over the past few years, encouraging runners of all kinds to gather in parks across the country and run in a non-competitive environment with accurate timing, great hospitality and a really inclusive atmosphere. If you're looking for likeminded people, this is a great place to start.
Other than that, do a quick internet or social media search and you'll be amazed at what listings are available. Races, events and running partners are all out there waiting to be found!
We've included a list of helpful links at the bottom.
Trainers, running shoes, pumps, kicks, sneakers, runners...:
Call them what you want but what you need is a pair of shoes that aren't too heavy, that are supportive and that will allow you to move around comfortably. Look for a decent cushioning level (how much is under the foot), lightweight materials (means less effort involved in lifting your feet and your feet don't get too hot!) and good fit.
Sloppy shoes that don't offer the correct support can cause injuries later on as you increase your mileage. We have several shoe buyers’ guides that go into much more detail on this and we recommend reading these too.
Shorts, leggings, joggers etc:
Anything comfortable and light that won't get in the way of your movement and won’t start to rub. Don't worry about what they look like, go for comfort and practicality; elastic waist, decent liner (in shorts) and a good fit.
For now, any old t-shirt will do. Synthetic (polyester) fibres dry quicker but do start to smell after a few runs. As with the shorts, go for something that fits above all else.
That's it for kit.
You might also want a water bottle or a waistpouch for phone/keys but they're not essential. A simple watch may also be useful for timing (especially if doing timed bursts of faster running).
Many people choose to listen to music while running, this is fine but make sure you can still hear what's going on around you; i.e. traffic & other people etc. It’s also helpful to be able to hear your breathing and use it as a measure of your effort level.
Similarily, some people will use fitness trackers, GPS and/or phone apps. These can be useful tools for monitoring progress but are not essential for getting started. Not going for a run because your phone battery is low is a terrible excuse for not running so don't even give yourself that temptation!
The hardest bit of any run for any runner, regardless of experience level, is getting out the door. As much as you may love (or hate) running, there is always a list of reasons not to get out and do it but these are just excuses, once you overcome these and you get outside or into the gym, the endorphins take over and it all makes sense.
So pull on your shorts and shoes, lace ‘em up and get out. The biggest thing to remember is no one cares what you look like or what you're doing so don't start getting all paranoid about people taking the micky. And if you see another runner (because that's it, once you're out the door, you're a runner), say hello. These guys are your friends, runners are some of the most supportive and accepting people out there, say hello and smile (if you can!).
Now your kitted up and out the door, what's next?
Don't go sprinting off like Usain Bolt and don't expect to bang out a swift 10k, in fact, don't expect to run much at all.
Aim to jog, and we mean jog, shuffle even.
We're talking faster than a walk but not much.
In fact you could just walk at this stage, that's not a problem.
Do this for a bit.
And a bit longer.
Maybe 5 minutes.
If you're still moving, speed up a little bit.
Try and keep this new speed up for between 1 and 2 minutes.
This still isn't a sprint, your still jogging, just faster.
Once the 1 or 2 minutes are up, go back to the original, easier pace (or similar) for another 3 or 4 minutes.
At this stage, we're not looking at distance or pace, we're just trying out relative effort levels and time on your feet.
Repeat this fast/slow alternation as many times as you are comfortable with, ensuring you have enough time/energy for a 3-4 minute slow jog warm down at the end.
Now go home, eat a banana, have a glass of water and a shower. That was your first run.
Aim to repeat this 2 or 3 times a week. After the second week, aim to increase your effort level and/or number of fast/slow repetitions (intervals). You may feel you can easily do more, in this case, feel free to push a little but be wary of injury. At this stage your body is still getting used to the idea of running and it is very easy to pull something.
It is also possible to increase your general activity level during the rest of the week (walk to/from work, go play frisbee with the kids, take the stairs not the lift, go out on your lunchbreak for a stroll), this will improve your running and overall fitness.
Why Am I So Hungry!?
As your body adjusts to the increased activity, your metabolic rate (how quick you burn off energy/food) will increase meaning you will get hungry. Very hungry. Don't worry, this is totally normal. The key is not to load up on garbage (too much). Many of us run because it allows us to eat more cake and that's fine but if you're making up a shortfall in calories, just eating lots of cake is not the answer. Add an extra small meal into your day such as mid-morning porridge. An extra banana and a cereal bar goes a long way too. Snacking on nuts, fruit and oaty stuff will keep you fuller through the day without destroying your teeth and gut.
Having Enough Time
People will often cite lack of time as a barrier to running but the truth is you only need half an hour to get changed, get out, back and showered. Half an hour is one episode of Emmerdale. If you have kids, getting them involved is a great way of combining running with childcare! With a little thought and determination, it is definitely possible to fit a couple of runs in every week.
Once you've done a few weeks of slowly increasing intensity/duration of your sessions, start thinking about mixing it up. Maybe try just running non-stop and see how long you last. We don't mean sprinting from the door, but the same old 5 min jogging warm up and then running at what would be your normal fast interval pace for as long as you feel comfortable with and then another 4-5min warm down slow jog.
If you struggle to progress and aren't getting faster each week or session, don't worry about it, just keep it steady and progression will come naturally. Stick at that distance/pace for an extra week and try again next week or the week after. Don't panic!
The key is to find a pace and effort that feels like you're trying but doesn't put you off doing it again. Vary the route, distance, time and pace (within what you are comfortable doing) to keep things interesting.
Once you’ve got an idea of how far you can run at a steady pace, aim to improve your time over that same route or slowly increase your distance and then decide if you want to go faster or further (or both) and begin building on this in some of your sessions. Be sure to still have shorter or slower runs in the mix as this will help condition your body without excess strain.
Another challenge is to find a hill (be it tarmaced or otherwise) and run up it. Including hills in some of your running routes gives your lungs and legs a real workout. Build up slowly and don't be surprised if your average pace (and your legs) take a battering.
Warm Up/Warm Down
You may see some runners performing elaborate stretching regimes before setting off but the truth is most recent research points to post-run stretching holding more benefit. Static stretching before a run, while your muscles are still cold and stiff, has very little benefit and can even lead to injury. Dynamic stretching (swinging your legs around etc) before a run can help but you still need to warm up before doing this, a gentle jog is a much better option. Stretching after your run however, when your muscles are warmed up, can help improve mobility and recovery. We have included some links to stretching guides below.
Where to run?
If you're not on a treadmill or track, then route choice can be a tricky issue. We tend to use this website: www.gb.mapometer.com. It allows you to measure distances and even estimates calories burnt!
Look for areas without too much road traffic (if running on the road), not too hilly and that you feel safe running along. A run doesn't have to be a loop either, if you don't want to stray too far from the house, you can run out and back along a stretch of road or path as many times as you like. If you have a field nearby with public access, running around the perimeter makes for your very own race track!
Grab a map of your local area and look for paths and bridelways, once you start looking, you'll be amazed at how many there are. If you're tempted to stray off-road, be sure to stay safe in the hills and check out our trail running guides.
Welcome to the fold!
And that's about it, check out the links below for more info and if you have any questions get in touch and if you're in the area, drop into our shop and we'll show you some great places to start!