Grab your trainers – it’s time to make tracks. If you’ve never run for anything more than a bus before, marathon runner and all-round amazing lady Josie Cox is here to get you hooked on the joys of running in five steps.
How to start running: Turn yourself into a runner
I’d like to say that I remember the moment I fell in love with running, but like the most sustainable romances, it was a slow, gentle process that happened without me noticing. During the early days, I approached it in a shy, half-hearted manner, occasionally going for the odd trot around the block in a pair of battered hand-me-down trainers.
Gradually though, and unbeknownst to be, I was turning from a now-and-then jogger into a fully-fledged runner, winning a school cross-country competition at the age of 13, entering my first 5k and finally crossing the finish line of a first half-marathon at just sweet sixteen. Of course I remember the frustration at the beginning: trying and failing to find a rhythm, not knowing how to pace myself and quickly getting out of breath, but I realised that all you need is a little bit of patience to get the hang of it.
I can’t promise that you’ll all encounter a long-lasting love affair with the sport, but here are my five tips for how to start running and how to develop – at the very least – a small crush on it. Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
1. GET THE GEAR
Getting kitted out for your debut run will not only boost your confidence and make you feel the part, but could also prevent injury and danger. Shoes are the most important piece of equipment and while you don’t need to spend a fortune, you should invest in a solid, sensible pair to support your foot in all the right places, keeping niggles and aches at bay.
Any old pair of short and cotton t-shirt will do the trick in most conditions, but if you’re running outside and especially if you’re heading out in the evenings or during the winter months, consider investing in some hi-viz gear. Gap has a great range of fluorescent shorts and shirts that won’t break the bank – or if you fancy splurging on payday, check out Nike, Adidas or Sweaty Betty.
2. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
Pace is the essence of all exercise. If you hit the track at a sprint pace, you will tire quickly, give up after only a few hundred yards and probably not enjoy the experience at all.
I always advise people to start off by running at what you feel is a very slow pace and then take it down a couple of notches. You can always accelerate during the second part of your run, but if you’ve overdone it early on, you won’t have any tiger left in your tank to complete the second half at all. If you’re still not sure how fast you should be going, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold a conversation while you’re running. If you’re breathing too hard to be able to do that, slow down!
3. REST, RECOVER, REWARD
Once you can cover a few miles without cramping up or succumbing to a stitch, the most important thing is not to overdo it.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t be running more than 30 minutes three times a week; anything more than that and you’ll risk overtraining and injury. Build up your training gradually and keep your workouts varied – some fast, some slow, some long, some short, some flat, some hilly.
If you feel any pain or discomfort, give yourself a day off or cross-train by going swimming, cycling or walking. When you’ve achieved a certain goal – perhaps you’ve run your first 5k or your fastest mile – reward yourself with a massage or a new pair of shorts. Incentives help us stay motivated and focused.
4. KNOW THE BENEFITS
We’re most likely to stick with running if we keep reminding ourselves how good it is for our physical and mental health.
There are scores of advantages of being a runner: it is thought to reduce the chance of different types of cancer developing and cut the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. Running outside in the sunshine will provide us with a healthy dose of vitamin D while the oxygen we inhale is thought to enhance brain and nervous functions.
Some studies have shown that running can improve emotional stability too. In fact, doctors recommend it as a coping technique for depression. So if you’re feeling hormonal or just a little bit blue, get your heart pumping, your pulse racing and sweat all the badness out.
5. SEEK A CHALLENGE
If you’re running regularly, enjoying it and reaping the benefits, start setting yourself goals. You don’t necessarily have to sign up to an Iron Man, but how about a 5k charity run or even (eventually) a half-marathon? There’s nothing quite like being cheered on by hundreds of people while you conquer the home stretch of a 13-miler. Training will be hard, but as we all know, while pain is only temporary, pride is forever!