Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Over my time working in a gym, I'm often asked "how do I start running?". Which is usually a follow up from "I know this is a stupid question". But It's not a stupid question at all! If we look at all the various online posts, blogs, videos and comments about exercise and keeping fit, It's no surprise that we're so confused.
From looking over social media platforms daily, and being bombarded with health adverts, I see videos and comments from different people and companies promoting their best way of staying active. Some people say this, some people say that. It's all very conflicting and a bit of a minefield if i'm honest. So if you're a person who's asking the question "how do I start running?" I totally get it! So here are my 3 best tips for getting out there and running your socks off.
#1 - Walk the route first
Sometimes, it's not a case of poor fitness level, but a lack of confidence. Walking the desired route will allow you to become familiar with your surroundings beforehand. You will not only become familiar with the direction and length of the route, but also the terrain.
Road running is a great place to start due to it's surface. Although roads have a much flatter surface than trail and cross-country, they still have a slight incline and decline in specific areas like anywhere else. So it's important to walk the ascents and descents to get an idea of how it feels under your feet. On the incline aspect, you will find that your body will be working slightly harder and your legs may start aching more. So factor this in when attempting to run it.
#2 - Stick to short distances
If you're anything like me, you will want to go from level 1-100 instantly, rather than going 1-10, 10-20, 20-30, and so on. However, I must stress that if you start with heavy training and long distance running, you are at a huge risk of injury and burnout. Avoid this at all costs!
Instead, start with a light jog for a very short period of time. Everyone is totally different in regard to fitness level, flexibility, muscle mass, strength, cardiovascular health, etc. So you will have to experiment a bit at first and see where you're at with your fitness. If you also have any health issues (especially cardiovascular) or underlying problems, it's always important to check with your GP first before starting any exercise.
Start walking your desired route (no more than 2 km) and break into a jog. Keep a slow pace and focus on your breathing. Ideally, breathing in through the nose and out through your mouth. You will find that you will be out of breath quickly, so when you feel like your breathing starts to become difficult, start walking again.
Keep trying the walk-jog method on the same route until you feel like you can jog the whole route without stopping. A good time to aim for would be 10 minutes initially, then build upon that adding 5 minutes on each week. Once fitness has improved, you can then start running at a faster pace, and for longer distances.
#3 - Implement a healthy diet
Nutrition plays a huge part in exercise. Not only will it fuel your running, but it will also help with recovery. The human body is a multi-cellular organism made up of 37.2 trillion cells! each of which need fuelling and replenishing every single day. Ensure that you're looking after all of your cells, and they will in turn look after you
A usual healthy diet will consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, lean sources of protein, healthy starch-based carbohydrates, and mineral rich foods. I could go on forever about what you should be eating overall, but we will keep it running based.
To aid your running, make sure that you're eating plenty of carbohydrates. This is the macro-nutrient that is broken down into glucose and is your bodies number one source for energy. Ensure that each meal is carbohydrate based, ideally 1/3 to 1/2 of your plate. Good starchy carbohydrate sources include all brown varieties of rice, pasta and bread, potatoes, wholegrain cereals and pitta breads.
Secondly, make sure you're allowing your body to recover efficiently with good sources of protein. These are the building blocks of the body and will allow your muscles to replenish before your next run. Complete sources of protein include red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt). Non-animal sources include tofu, quinoa, tempeh, spirulina, chia seeds and nutritional yeast. Other foods high in protein include beans and pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds.