It’s spring. It’s time to get moving. Get healthy. Get fit. You’ve always thought you’d like to run but just where do you start? Here are our top 10 tips for getting you off that couch or even out of that gym and hitting the road …
- Give yourself a target.
Whether you want to take part in the local community fun run or you want to tackle the London marathon you’ll find it much easier to stick to an exercise schedule if you have a specific goal. For those starting from scratch try and ensure you leave sufficient time to train up to your target – six months should do it.
- Find a running buddy
Like the first tip (above) you need to address the issue of maintaining motivation, especially at the early stages of taking up running – when there feels to be more pain than gain. If possible find someone who, like you is new to the sport but keen to take it on. It will help keep you going.
- Check you have the right shoes
Your footwear is particularly important when you run and this needs to be sorted out early. It’s not much help addressing the issue after your stress fracture develops. A sports podiatrist may be useful here.
This is a little controversial as there have been some studies that suggest that stretching prior to exercise does not prevent injury. The latest evidence indicates that if you have a stretching regime you have to do the same thing each time or else don’t do any stretching at all; either of these options will help prevent injury compared with an ad hoc stretching program.
- Warm up
Start your run with a warm-up walk and/or jogging at low intensity for at least 5-10 minutes. You need to factor this in to your training schedule as it will add extra time to the session.
- Devise a training program
Ok. This is the business end; your training program. Plan to go for a run about four times a week. Start slow with the aim of building up both the time spent running and the distance covered. One of these runs should be a longer, steady run. Mix up the other three runs to include some speed work, hill work and steady running. Get a training diary and plan your weekly schedule incorporating the gradual increase in intensity of the training.
- Cross train
This is particularly important if the running is causing you pain. Listen to your body – if it’s too painful don’t do it. Substitute a run with another form of exercise preferably one that helps strengthen your legs such as bike riding.
- Don’t forget core strength and balance
Exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles, and balance exercises that improve balance such as squats and lunges (think Pilates) will help your endurance when running.
Ensure you keep your fluids up especially in hot weather and when the intensity of your running has increased. Water is usually sufficient, before, during and after a run. If you get to the stage where you’re running seriously long distances you might find those electrolyte solutions worthwhile.
- Recovery foods
Dieticians generally recommend people who regularly run increase their carbohydrate and protein intake to replenish glycogen stores that are depleted with this form of exercise. You will be hungrier but avoid the fried fatty food as this will be counter-productive to your new exercise regime.
Top 10 tips are compiled by the It’s My Health panel of doctors. This article first appeared on It’s My Health.