10 Tips for Running Beginners
08 January 2019
If you’ve decided to take up running this new year, you’re in very good company. It is estimated that more than two million people in the UK run at least once a week; roughly 10,000 took part in the last Bristol Half Marathon. Why? Because we can, because it makes us feel good and because we are hard-wired to do it.
As soon as we learn to walk, we run. It’s a natural progression; one foot in front of the other just comes easily. Sadly, as we get older life can get in the way. We are taught that we need to sit in our seats at school, stay at our desk at work. In fact, after leaving full time education, for a lot of people the only running they do is to catch a bus!
We are designed to move as much as possible; we should fit exercise into our lives to help negate the effects of a life spent sitting. Chronically tightened hips, weakened back muscles, higher blood pressure, increased cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and even certain cancers all increase significantly in those who sit for more than 9 hours a day. As Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run famously said, “you don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”
Give it a go
Even if you haven’t run since you were a toddler, you still have all the skills you need. It’s free, you just need two feet, some running shoes, and a heartbeat. Exercise releases mood-enhancing hormones, which can result in a ‘runners high’, helping combat anxiety, stress and improving sleep quality. Sounds good right? So what’s holding you back?
Here are ten top tips to help get you up and running successfully:
1. Warm up beforehand. Walking or running slower than you intend to for a few minutes will get your heart rate to increase and more blood flow to the muscles ready to perform.
2. Stretch after you run not before. Static stretching has been shown to reduce muscles’ protective stretch reflex ability, making you more prone to injury during exercise. Stretch dynamically before your run, as this will help increase your range of movement and iron out any kinks before you start. Think leg swings, high knees and butt kicks.
3. Start slow. No one runs a marathon on their first day out, so don’t get put off if you aren’t running very far to start. Switch between walking and running until you can go the same distance without stopping to walk in between. This happens at different times for everyone, so be patient.
4. Focus on breathing. Listen to your body. If you’re breathing too heavily, slow down. Ideally you should be able to hold a conversation as you run until you are running your first race.
5. Run with a friend. If you can start this journey with someone you will be much more likely to succeed. Not only have you someone to keep you accountable, but if you are talking as you move you will be covering miles without thinking about it.
6. Expect to ache afterwards. If you haven’t run recently expect to have some pain in your legs in the following day or two. Do not be discouraged by this, embrace it! Your body is getting stronger. Stretching and walking will help reduce this tension.
7. Run tall. Imagine you are being pulled tall by a string through the top of your head. This will keep you in the ideal posture allowing as much oxygen into your lungs as possible to feed your leg muscles.
8. Think fast… A smaller stride with faster foot turnover offers a more efficient running style putting less strain on your joints.
9. …and light. You can tell when someone has good running style as they are quiet. If your foot is hitting the ground with a ‘thud’ then you need to focus on landing lightly. Imagine you are running across the top of the ground instead of bounding off it.
10. Try not to heel strike. Try running on the spot; think about how your feet are landing. This is the ideal landing position, not on your heels. Large heels can actually lead to more injuries as it offers an unstable landing position, and is harsher on your knees and joints too. To get started, run on the spot and just lean forward!
The biggest challenge is getting your shoes on, so 1,2,3… lace!
This post originally appeared on the blog September 2016, authored by Michael Gallagher from our Clifton clinic.