Top Tips for Runners
For many new to triathlon, getting started running can be a real challenge, both physically and mentally. So here are a few tips to help you along.
1. Check with a doctor or a physio before you start running
Firstly, before embarking on any new or rigorous exercise programme, especially if you have not run regularly for some years, you should see your GP for a check up. This will help identify any problems or limitations you may have which can be accommodated into your training and mean that you set goals appropriate for YOU. This is especially important if you are aware of existing restrictions or there is a family history of, for example, heart problems. Use your common sense: if in doubt, see your doctor.
2. Running shoes (or some slippers!!)
One of the benefits of running is that you do not need to spend a fortune on kit but the one item you should never scrimp on is your running shoes – an ill advised choice could cause injury. Everyone’s running style or ‘gait’ is unique and different types of shoe/brand suit different types of runner. For example, an ultra lightweight shoe may feel great in the shop, but if your goal is to run longer distances such as a half or full marathon, you will soon become all too painfully aware that this type of shoe is not fit for purpose. So, in short, don’t be swayed by marketing speak, brand names or fashion statements! Seek advice from a specialist shop, discuss your running goals and likely weekly mileage and, if you can, get your running gait analysed – many good shops have the equipment to do this. On the subject of kit, if you are female, make sure you also invest in a decent sports bra.
3. Start slowly and build up
The first thing to point out is that just about everyone who starts running after a period of absence (years, months and sometimes just weeks) finds it hard. So do not think that it’s just you – for many the first 3-4 weeks are a real struggle, every time you put on your kit you wonder why you are doing it. But it will, and does, get easier. A common mistake made by new runners is to get carried away and try to do too much too soon, which can lead to injury or loss of enthusiasm. So if you want to enjoy running for the rest of your life, start out slowly – a good way is to begin is to run for two minutes, walk for one and build up gradually until you can run continuously. As a guideline you should also be able to run and hold a conversation so if you can’t, you are probably running too fast.
Don’t expect things to happen miraculously – it takes time. Be patient because one day you will feel the wind at your back, your pace will feel smoother and you are breathing more easily. You feel you can run further and faster. Enjoy it – you have become an athlete!
4. Goal setting
Setting yourself a goal is a great way to keep motivated, especially during those early weeks of running or on particularly uninviting days. A specific target such as a 5km race, your first triathlon or losing a stone will help you stick to your training plan. As a tip, make sure that your goal is measurable, realistically achievable and that it really is something you want to succeed at. Write it down and visualise yourself crossing that finish line or reaching your target weight. Keep reminding yourself of what you want to achieve so it becomes deeply embedded in your mind. Whatever your goal, it is exciting and motivating when you notice how you are improving and getting closer to achieving your target.
5. Keep a training log
Many runners find keeping a training log useful. It is a record of each run that you do, detailing how you felt, the weather conditions, the distance covered and time it took along with any other relevant information. Some runners invest in technology that allows them to download data to a computer but you can just as easily use a pen and notebook, your personal organiser, or a spreadsheet on your computer.
A training log is an excellent way of tracking progress and identifies how/where you have improved plus how changing things round works for you. What’s more, it can really motivate you to keep improving!
6. Stretching and flexibility
There are few runners who would not benefit from running fewer junk miles (too many!) and using that time for stretching, flexibility and improving core stability. Stretching makes muscles more flexible and reduces the chance of injury. Developing your core means you can hold your posture for longer and reduce the onset of fatigue. So consider taking part in a Pilates or other form of flexibility class at your local gym.
7. Make the most of running with a club
Running with a club or others is a great way to remain motivated and to ensure that you stick to your training goals. Beginners can benefit from more experienced runners who are often an excellent source of advice and can really inspire you to achieve your target. All clubs welcome both new and experienced runners and try to help the real beginners progress to get fitter, stronger and faster. What’s more, by running with people who are faster than you, you will improve quicker than training on your own. But be wary of trying to keep pace with more experienced runners before you are ready – use them as a target but don’t push so hard that you injure yourself or fall ill or you fail to meet your goals. You should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% in any one week – this will ensure that you build up slowly. Remember – we were beginners once!
8. Run safely
Take responsibility for your own safety. Use your common sense, stay visible at all times and watch traffic – many people do not run and may not be aware of you. A good idea is to wear a high viz vest which draws attention to you, especially in the dark. If you are female be aware of your environment and do not run alone on isolated roads. It’s a good idea to take a mobile in case of injury and carry some cash should you need to call a taxi.
9. Nutrition, drinking and eating
All athletes need fuel for energy and runners burn more calories than non-runners. Your car won’t start without fuel and it’s the same for your body so you need to eat the right foods to suit you – before and after running. So much has been written about nutrition (there is loads of information on the Internet) but you are an individual so you need to find out what suits you best to get the most from your exercise. One thing is for certain, hydration is key before, during and after running so make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.
10. Enjoying the experience of running
Don’t let running become another stress in your life by setting yourself such a rigid or time-consuming timetable that you struggle to achieve it. It’s important to allow yourself breaks – a day, a week, and month each year – when you don’t run at all. Otherwise you may find your enthusiasm for running waning and your motivation dwindling.
Rest is just as important a part of your training programme as running. Your fitness and strength do not improve while you are running, the improvement comes while you are resting, as your body responds to the stresses it has experienced. When you start running remember to build slowly, i.e. run no more than every other day. As you become more experienced you can run more frequently, but remember you should always take a day off each week.