If you’ve lost your usual fitness activity or simply need to make walking more of a challenge then you may be thinking again about whether running is worth another shot. If you’ve always looked at running as boring, difficult or painful then there is no better time to take on the new project of Learning to Run.
We’d all like to think running is simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other but if you want it to become something you do for fitness then think again. Running can lead to amazing benefits but it’s like jumping up and down repetitively...on one foot...moving forward...up and down hills...for 20 minutes or more!
Learning to run is not just about teaching your body what to do but making the right decisions at the right time, similar to any team or racket sport.
Take a moment to read through these seven important tips for beginner running success.
1. Go Easy on Yourself
If you’ve lost your former fitness regime and were fairly consistent with it then you may have got to a level where you could push pretty hard.
Running is different!
Pushing through pain or fatigue doesn’t work when you’re learning to run. It will just mean you end up having to walk more and as soon as you find yourself having to walk you’re going to resent running.
The key to progress is finding out where you are and making gradual improvements which you can see in numbers and feel in yourself.
2. Download a GPS Running App
I know you’re probably using screens a lot more these days but if you’re even remotely competitive then your instinct will be to push harder, which only leads to disappointment.
Download a running app to your phone which uses GPS. This app can tell you how fast you’re running and while you may think this will make you more competitive, the point is to slow you down.
Start off as slow as you can and at the end of each run look at the stats. Average speed and time are your most important numbers.
The slower you run the more comfortable you’ll feel during the run.
3. Increase Duration Before Speed
If you’re new to running then the first priority should be on increasing the time and therefore distance of your jogging, in between walk periods. If you’re increasing the speed of each session but only able to run for a minute or two at a time then you’re prioritizing speed at the expense of running distance.
When you can run at a comfortable speed for the distance you want then you can start increasing speed slowly and with the knowledge of what average speeds you’ve achieved in the past.
4. When to Run
In the current climate you’ll find less people on the streets before 9am and after 8pm. These are also cooler times so likely to be more comfortable physically and psychologically. Be courteous to others when you run and give them lots of room.
Some people dislike the idea others are leaving their homes to exercise and the only way we can change their mindset is to smile, give them space and thank them if they return the favour.
5. Warm up to Make Running Easier
Warming up before a run serves a few purposes but I’ll discuss the most relevant for this time of year and the fact you’re just starting out.
When you step out the door in the morning or at night, it will likely feel cold unless you’re dressed in long sleeves. If it feels warm in short sleeves then it’s going to be too hot once you’re warmed up.
Dress for cold weather and do a walk and jog lap of the block, finishing back at home. If you do a brisk 6-10 minutes you’ll want to remove some clothing before heading back out for your main running set. It will feel great to know you’re not going to have to take further clothing off and wrap them around your waste due to excess heat.
Make the Main Run Easier
This warm up will also make the main set of running much easier. Think of your blood vessels as hose pipes. Before warm up they’re thin and unable to allow blood to feed your muscles as fast as when they’re warm.
Your muscles need the oxygen from your blood for fuel so if you skip the warm up then it’s like trying to put out a bonfire with a small water pistol vs a firefighter’s hose.
More blood flow means less cramping, less stitch and less labored breathing.
6. Where to Run
We shouldn’t be driving to our exercise venue so you’re going to have to get used to running from home. Hopefully you have some options and if so you’ll be able to choose different options depending on your stage of progress.
Avoid hills as much as possible in the early days but if you can’t avoid an incline then walk up it. Walking briskly up a hill is often just as hard as jogging on the flat. In the future you’ll start challenging yourself with these hills but running inclines will likely lead to more suffering later in the run.
Downhills will allow your lungs to recover but increase the shock on your joints significantly so could lead to pains you wouldn’t have experienced if you’d managed to stay on the flat.
Head winds are much like inclines and tailwinds have a similar effect as declines. Don’t let a windy day stop you from doing a run you’ve planned but if you have an option which means less wind then take it.
Road vs Grass and Gravel
If you plan on doing most of your running on any given terrain then don’t avoid it for fear of extra impact, ankle sprains or resistance. You’re going to be running slower now then ever and this will give you the opportunity to tread carefully. The more you walk and jog the limited routes you have the less likely you’ll become injured on them.
Road running does mean more impact on your muscles and joints but if you look after those with regular stretching and address niggles early then your body will adapt to running on firm surfaces.
7. Share Your Progress
In the very early days you may be resistant to sharing the fact you’re learning to run. You may have tried and given up in the past so don’t want to risk others finding out if it happens again. On the other hand sharing your intention with the right people can help you keep at it.
There will be challenges along the way and it will be far easier to give up if no one finds out you’d started in the first place but a positive friend or family member might just provide that little bit of accountability you need to find solutions to your challenges.
Learning to run isn’t supposed to be easy, sorry but that just makes us feel even better when we make it work. There are many online communities with members who have been through the process you’re taking on and will be happy to support you.
Running is one of the few sports we have available in a lockdown so it’s important we get it right from the start. Your future with running will depend on your ability to keep the intensity low and recognise consistent progress.
This article has summarised the 7 key ways to keep that intensity down and maximise your chances of staying positive through the process.