Why should I run?
There are multiple benefits from running, here are just some of them:
Heart – running strengthens the cardiovascular system: it makes the heart more effective meaning it pumps blood around the body more efficiently.
There is evidence that running three times a week for 20 minutes can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 55%.
Lungs – running improves lung capacity
Bones – as a weight bearing exercise, as you run the muscles pull on the bones. To counteract this stress, the bones strengthen which increases bone density.
Legs – naturally running strengthens the legs particularly calves, but there are also gains for the hamstrings, glutes and quads. Despite the myth, running doesn’t ruin the knees – of course there are exceptions – but generally runners show less wear and tear on their joints than non runners.
Mind – studies show that running can enhance cognitive functions as well as relieving stress and anxiety.
The Core – by running on a mix of terrains and trails are the best for this, the uneven surface means that with the small adjustments made to land/take off means the body is constantly conditioning your core muscles. This improves posture, balance and stability.
Disease – There is no guarantee running will make you invincible but studies have shown it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Weight – Any increase in physical activity will promote weight loss, with running one of the most efficient ways to burn calories.
Nowadays there are whole stores that cater for a diverse array of kit options with technical gear, base layers, compression, hydration, hats, gloves and scarves.
In simple terms, all you need is a comfortable pair of trainers, and clothes that don’t chafe, fit comfortably and don’t get too heavy with sweat.
If you’re starting out, the trainers don’t need to be top of the range (which can retail for £150) however you want something that fits without rubbing and supports the foot. A majority of running injuries in newer runners are invariably linked to inadequate or unsuitable footwear. Two local stores that offer gait analysis – check your running style – are Alton Sports and Up and Running.
As for layers, more thin layers are better than one or two thick ones. You can ‘peel off’ as you get warm.
Where do I start?
A warm up is an essential part of any training as it moves the muscles from a “resting” state to that of a “training” state. As you exercise, muscles get stretched and warmer muscles are more elastic than cold ones.
The warm up should start with either slow running or brisk walking: and increase on normal activity, and then introduce some dynamic stretches that mimic actions in running: high knee lifts, skipping, back kicks and lunges. Remember to do some arm and shoulder swings to loosen the upper body.
Where to run?
If you’re new to running, a level park or path is a great first choice, otherwise a level pavement will suffice. Either short loops or a block around the houses work best for beginners as you’ll never be too far from a starting point. Alternatively an “out and back” route works well as after halfway, you’re heading for home!
Running should be relaxed. Posture should be “tall” (not hunched over) and you should run with shorter, quicker strides so don’t over stretch. The knee should be roughly above where your foot strikes the ground. The elbows should be bent at around 90degrees and the arms should be moving front to back rather than across the body. Don’t clench the fists as this tenses muscles in the arms. If you carry a phone/bottle then try to alternate hands periodically.
Depending on your aim or goal, you will gain greater benefit should be able to run a variety of paces (it also makes training more interesting). There are countless gadgets that count steps, record distance and give you untold statistics about your run, but sometimes it is better just to think of perceived effort.
Think of a scale of 1-10.
0 is completely inactive
2 is a steady walk
4 is the brisk walk/easy run at the warm up
5 is your relaxed easy pace running, you can talk and your breathing is fine
7 is a steady run pace, not race pace, but you’re not dawdling either. Words come out 3 or 4 at a time.
9 is full out ‘hard’ pace: either race pace of faster, shorter efforts. Speech isn’t really an option. Swearing doesn’t count.
A variety in your training paces is good but if you’re taking on the 10km or 10 mile distances then the majority of runs, especially your long runs, should be at a comfortable, conversational pace. Indeed you should be able to finish each run feeling you could do another mile or two at the same pace. A common mistake from newer runners is doing too many miles, too soon; too fast which is a one way ticket to fatigue and possible injury. By running the longer runs relaxed means that you can push up the effort level on the harder training sessions.
If you have decided to mix up your paces, then there are various methods to use.
Intervals – these generally involve alternating faster running with slower running and the options are limitless. You can base your intervals on time such as 2 minutes at steady pace (effort 7) with 2 minutes of easy pace (effort 5), or on distance: 200m ‘hard’ with 400m ‘easy’. Distance can be arbitrary, so 400m could be a lap of the park or around the block.
Fartlek – A funny sounding word that is Swedish for “speed play”. Like intervals but random. Run fast to a certain point, run easy to another. Many people use lampposts as markers, or junctions or trees.
Hills – When you have grown in confidence, build some hills into training. These can be steady 2-3 minutes up an incline, or shorter, faster bursts such as run harder up an incline for 30 seconds (effort 7-9) walk back down, and repeat. Hills are an excellent builder of leg strength and are sometimes called “speed work in disguise”.
Listen to your body! A little soreness is inevitable, especially as you start to put your body under new stresses and harder workouts. Always take a rest (or very easy) day after a harder session. DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is the soreness that can appear the day or sometimes 2 days after a hard session.
If anything persists then it is probably worth getting a professional opinion.
It is essential to have a healthy diet and keep fluid intake topped up.
As you exercise, you use carbohydrates for energy, and proteins repair damage caused by hard exercise. A range of vitamins and minerals are also essential to maintain all round health.
There are untold studies of what is and what isn’t effective but in reality for many it is almost a matter of trial and error. Fundamentally though, given the range of requirements, a safe starting point is a good balanced diet. Eating plenty of carbs is good, but just eating carbs alone isn’t good. Plenty of fruit and vegetables and if you think you are deficient in some areas, there are supplements (vitamin and iron) available. Ideally though, you want to be getting these from suitable food sources.
Liquid is vital as even on a cold day you can lose liquids through sweating and breathing. Hydrate before exercise, have liquids available during exercise and rehydrate after exercise. There are a range of isotonic drinks and energy gels available. These tend to be a matter of personal taste so it is probably worth experimenting to see what is effective for you.
A good place to start is with your local running club! Hook Runners offer training three times a week and a regular Sunday run. There are also additional ‘ad-hoc’ runs usually arranged on the facebook page (look for Hook Runners).
A good starting point to find out more about the club is on the website:
The coaches at Hook Runners have put together 8 week plans for all three events that make up the Hook Fun Run and Road Races: the fun run, the 10k race and the 10 mile race.
These are guidelines only but will help you with your training so that you have an enjoyable, and hopefully successful day!