Running feels like a great place to start when you’re wanting to be active. There are few barriers to entry for most people - it can be done anywhere, you don’t need much equipment, and you don’t need to pay a subscription to do it. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s easy to start, and you can carry on with ease, but the reality isn’t that simple. How many of us have tried to start running regularly, and then quickly got injured or burnt out?
1. Go really slow - and then slow down some more
It might sound counterintuitive but - running slowly makes you faster in the long run. You should be running slowly enough that you can have a conversation. Running at below 80% of your maximum heart rate for long periods of time actually trains your body to use energy more efficiently. You can find out more about heart rate zones here.
Lots of runners now follow the 80/20 method, as outlined by running expert Matt Fitzgerald. This essentially means that 80%, or 1/5th of your runs should be done at an easy pace, and 20% should be a more challenging run, like interval training.
2. Don’t get ahead of yourself
A classic mistake for novice runners is overtraining. When you’re new to something and feeling motivated, it’s tempting to overdo it. This might mean running every day, or running long distances - a sure-fire recipe for injury. Even if you’re used to walking long distances, running is a different story. Running can have a much bigger impact on your joints, and they need time to adapt. Take it slow, and follow a training plan. There are plenty of different Couch to 5k apps out there, so you’ll find something to suit you. It’s worth following one, even if you think it might be too easy for you - it’s pretty common to overestimate how much you can run, and then get injured.
3. Cool down!
You might just want to get straight into it, but it’s worth starting each run with a warm up, and ending each run with a cool down. This helps your muscles get ready, and prevents you from getting injured. It’s really important to also stretch after you’ve finished your run - stretching promotes flexibility and helps you recover, so you can get on the road again ASAP.
4. Walk if you need to
There’s a reason that the majority of beginner training plans employ the run-walk-run method. It works. It helps your joints and muscles adjust, stops you burning out quickly and prevents injury. The key is to start walking before you’re fatigued from running - this helps you recover quickly, and means you’ll actually be able to cover more distance. Jeff Galloway, the biggest proponent of the run-walk-run method even claims that marathon runners who walk finish 13 minutes faster than those who run the full distance. Even for the most accomplished runners, walking for stretches is a great idea.
5. Get the right shoes
You might think that you can just pick up a pair of trainers and get on your feet - but getting the right shoes for your gait is really important. If you’re flat footed, shoes that are designed for your gait are really important to make sure you don’t get injured. Go to a proper running shop where a member of staff can analyse your gait and recommend the right shoes to make sure you land on your feet properly.
6. Cross-training is key
If you’re new to exercise, it’s good to not overload yourself with too much - you’ll burn out. But that doesn’t mean cross-training isn’t important. It’s really important to have a strong core and strong glutes - strong muscles prevent injury, particular in your back, shoulders and knees. There are lots of strength and flexibility videos targeted at runners you can find online.