Running Tips For New Runners
Starting any new sport or hobby is challenging at the best of times and running is no exception. You are bombarded with information and rhetoric from a wide variety of sources ranging from the local club coach to your mates at the local pub as everyone offers you their own running tips. Sifting through this barrage of information can be confusing and it is easy to overlook the few pieces of advice that can really make a difference when it comes to starting out on your first few runs – be they 500m shuffles or 10mile sprints.
The following five running tips have been put together by a collection of running club coaches and seasoned athletes and although there were a few minor discrepancies about the order they should be placed, the list represents a general consensus amongst a cross section of people involved in the running world about how best to start running.
1. Talk to your Doctor
This is without doubt the single most important thing (and the most ignored!) that you can do when it comes to starting to run. Before you even think about running anywhere you should visit your GP who can assess your general fitness and advise you on how to progress with your running. This is the time to ask about any old injuries or illnesses you may have suffered in the past as your doctor will be able to advise you on the best ways to limit the impact running will have on these weakened areas. The most important thing you can do is listen to what your doctor tells you over anything anyone else tells you whether that be club coaches, friends or even this website!
Shoes are the bedrock of your running career. If you invest in a good pair of shoes right from the word go then you will be helping to limit the long term damage running causes to your body and reduce the risk of injury at the same time.
This does not mean however that you should rush out and buy the most expensive pair of Nike or Adidas trainers you can find as there are lots of things to look for when buying your first pair. Most of the high street sports fashion retailers will not be qualified to advise you accordingly and so if you are going to take the route of searching out your own kit then there are a few points you should bear in mind before you shop.
You firstly need to think about the type of running you are going to be doing. If you live in a city and think you are going to be mainly road running then a running shoe with good cushioning and ankle support is what you need to be looking at. If however you think you are going to be running down muddy country paths and participating in cross country events then a trail shoe with extra grip and support is what you need to be looking for.
Your running style also dictates what type of shoe you should be buying. Over-Pronation is where your foot rolls inwards more than is normal when it strikes the ground and can lead to collapsed arches and all kinds of leg and back problems if it is not properly accounted for. If you have a tendency to pronate then it may be that you need a pair of running shoes that correct this. If your foot tends to do the opposite and rolls outwards then you are an Under-pronator and might need to be looking at shoes that correct this.
As buying a pair of running shoes is such an important event, it is probably best if you go to a specialist running shop where they can identify your running style and advise on the best pair of shoes to fit accordingly. All levels of runners do this so don’t be afraid to ask for help.In fact as far as running tips go, the sooner you ask for advice the better! The staff in most specialist shops are highly trained and and have all kinds of hi tech gadgets to ensure that they are providing you with the highest quality service and will not just point you towards the most expensive pair of shoes in the shop.
When it comes to price, expect to pay in the region of £40-£90 for a decent specialist running shoe such as Asics, Adidas, Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony or K-Swiss, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the more expensive the better. Once you are kitted out with a nice new pair of shoes you shouldn’t need to replace them for about 6months, but this time varies depending on the mileage you are doing and you should periodically check your shoes from time to time for signs of excessive wear.
Looking after your shoes is paramount. Like a soldier is taught to look after his gun as if his life depends on it so should you with your shoes. Many factors can interfere with both the natural flex of the shoe and its breathability such as dirt build-up and water saturation so make sure you look after your shoes.
3. Start gently and build up slowly
Every spring you always see the same sight. Hoards of new runners take to the streets sporting the latest shoes and running apparel all with the same aim of get a bit fitter for the holiday season and losing a bit of excess weight. There is no problem with this motivation in itself, in fact many runners start off this way and never look back. However, most don’t last more than a few weeks and by mid April the influx of new runners tails off to a trickle. The main reason for this is not that people are too busy barbequing to head out for a run (although this does play a big part!) but rather is that people push themselves too hard to fast and end up either injuring themselves or become disillusioned with their lack of running progress. These are the runners that overtake you at a blinding pace with only a half hearted gasp in acknowledgement and a small bit of foam at the corner of the mouth, only to collapse in a wheezing pile round the next corner. This is not a healthy or sustainable way to begin running. One of the most important running tips is to treat your first few runs as if you were driving your boss’s car; stick to the lower gears and make sure you get to your destination in one piece. Start off at a stiff walk to warm yourself up and to prepare your muscles for the main event. Then try jogging for a few minutes, subsequently alternating with periods of walking to catch your breath. You will be able to cover a lot more ground if you begin this way and more importantly you won’t wear yourself out with a pointless thirty second dash.
As the weeks progress and you find yourself becoming fitter, try to shorten your periods of walking and soon enough you will be completing your first proper jog. The danger here is that you will try and push yourself too hard and fast at this early stage of training and become injured or wear yourself into the ground. Try not to increase your distance by more than 10% a week and ever three weeks or so, drop your mileage back a notch as this will give your body a chance to heal and get used to the extra distance. You also shouldn’t be running more than about three times a week to begin with until you build up your base fitness levels and you have a good overall fitness level. It is important to listen to your body at this stage as running can place all kinds of strain on muscles and joints that you may not have exercised for years. You will get used to identifying the usual aches that every runner suffers from after a hard training session, but if you feel any real pain or begin to feel overly tired then stop running straight away and seek medical advice.
4. Warm up and cool down
Although the experts differ on techniques and styles, most runners will tell you that a good warm up and cool down with both prevent injury and make you feel a lot better the morning after a hard run! Running tip four is to make sure that you warm up and cool down effectively.
A warm up doesn’t have to be a complicated affair but it is essential that you get your blood flowing and muscles loosened before you put in that 100% effort. Try a slow jog for a few minutes before you start your main run and you can even add some things called dynamic stretches into your warm-up which essentially get your muscles used to the range of motion they will be expected to cover in your main run.
At the end of most of your runs, all you will want to do is collapse into a bath with a cold drink. However, it is important that once you catch your breath you stretch the different muscles in your legs to ensure that they don’t stiffen up and limit your range of motion for future runs. This will also help to prevent injury and more importantly will ensure that you feel significantly better the next morning than you would have done otherwise.
5. Run with a friend
The last running tip is to fun with a friend or in a group! There is nothing that keeps running more interesting than a little mutual support (or friendly competition depending on how you look at it!). Running with a friend is a great way to keep motivated on those dark and rainy runs or when you really don’t feel like training at all. Just make sure your friend is at least as serious about running as you are otherwise you might find yourself running to the local pub and not the local park!
Another great way to stay motivated is to join a local running club. Contrary to popular belief, running clubs are not all full of professional runners who abide the newbie. Rather they are a great place to meet new people, 80% of whom are joining the club for the same reason as you.
Club membership can cost anywhere from £15 upwards, depending on the level of coaching offered and the facilities available in the club. If you are serious about running you will want to think about mixing your normal runs with speed sessions and other types of training that work different areas and systems of your body. A running track is a great tool for mixing up your training and seeing as most people don’t have one of these in their back garden, you might want to enquire about joining a running club that has an athletics track as well as organised runs.
Find this post useful? See our five tips for injury free running
For more running tips see the RunnersWorld website.