Beginners guide to running

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Patrick Dale

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legs1Running is one of the best ways to get fit and lose weight. Not only is running very accessible and cheap, the fitness you develop from running transfers well to other sporting activities and if you enjoy competing, there are literally dozens of races from 5km fun runs to marathons each and every weekend.

Of course, to get any benefits from running you need to actually get out and put one foot in front of the other so to help you make the transition from jogging zero to running hero, here is our guide to starting running.

shoes 2Running shoes
Running shoes are arguably the most important part of your running wardrobe. A good pair of shoes will cradle, support and cushion your feet as they strike the floor with several times your bodyweight step after step after step! While you don’t have to buy the most expensive, all bells and whistles, running shoes, you should buy shoes that are designed specifically for running – don’t wear regular trainers or tennis shoes.

Buy your shoes from a reputable running shoe store so the expert staff can take a look at your feet and advise you which shoes will suit you best.

Also, remember that, like car tyres, running shoes only last for so many miles – normally around 500 or so. Replace your shoes before they wear out and remember that even if the outside of the shoe looks as good as new, the supportive and cushioning properties may have broken down. Worn shoes can cause injuries so err on the side of caution and replace your running shoes periodically.

Running technique
Running is a very natural activity but to get the best from your runs, you should have half a mind on your running technique. Running with good technique will save you energy, allow you to run further and faster and may also reduce your risk of injury…

1)     Quick feet: keep your cadence (foot-strike rate) high at 85-95 strikes per foot per minute. Don’t over-stride and avoid jamming your heel into the ground ahead of you. Check your cadence by counting the number of times one foot strikes the ground in 30 seconds and multiply the result by two.

2)     Light: think about ’floating’ over the ground – your feet lightly caressing it. Even a heavy runner should try and land as lightly as possible. Heavy landings will rob you of energy and can accumulate to result in injury. Imagine you are running on wet sand and are trying to do so without leaving footprints.

3)     Tall: run tall and keep looking ahead. Don’t hunch your shoulders; keep your head up and your chin tucked in. Imagine there is a balloon tied to the top of your head which is helping to keep your head up and your neck long.

4)     Relaxed: stay relaxed, especially in the neck, shoulders and arms. Imagine you’re holding a potato crisp between thumb and forefinger and must not break it. Clenched fists will put unwanted tension in your forearms which “leaks” up into your arms, shoulders and neck. Tension uses energy which would be better used to drive you forwards.

5)     Quiet: all of the above should lead to a quiet stride. Too much noise means something is wrong. Periodically check to see how much noises you are making – both with your footfalls and your breathing. With practice you should find your running becomes stealthy and almost silent. Remember, noise is wasted energy.

6)     Your arms should assist your running: but they should not be driven backwards and forwards vigorously, like a sprinter. Instead, swing your arms with very little force and remember that an excessively vigorous arm swing will use a lot of energy that would be better of saved for your legs.

Running - smallRoute planning
If you want to get into running, don’t just jump on a treadmill. For starters, treadmill running is easier than and therefore not as effective as real running and secondly, indoor running is nowhere near as much fun as running outdoors.

You’ll get much more from your running if you plan some interesting routes in advance so that, when you head out the door, you know exactly where you are going, how long your route is and how long it will take you. Try to plan a variety of routes over several different running surfaces so that you don’t get bored.

If you are going to be running mainly at night, make sure your routes are well lit but for daytime runs, feel free to get off the beaten path and explore your local area.

Progression
If you only ever run two-miles, you’ll only ever be two-miles fit. If you want to get fitter, you need to gradually increase the length of your runs. Doing the same runs over and over will do nothing for your fitness. To keep your fitness levels increasing, periodically increase the running distance by around 10-percent and your total weekly mileage by the same amount. While you could make bigger jumps, doing so is likely to result in injury so make small, regular increases rather than large, infrequent increases.

Avoiding injuries
Being more active can sometimes result in injury and there are several injuries commonly associated with running. Most of these injuries are chronic which means they come on gradually and are usually the result of doing too much too soon. To prevent developing running injuries make sure you…

  1. Adhere to the 10-percent rule described earlier
  2. Take a couple of days off running per week for rest and recovery
  3. Warm-up before you run by performing joint mobility exercises and dynamic stretches
  4. Cool-down after you run by performing static flexibility exercises
  5. Take additional rest days if you feel tired or sore
  6. Do not ignore minor aches and pains and if they do not go after a few days of rest, seek medical advice
  7. Stay well hydrated
  8. Supplement your running with cross training and strength training
  9. Have an easy week once every six-to-eight weeks to avoid overtraining
  10. Buy running shoes that match your gait, weight running mileage

Follow these tips and you will get a lot more out of your running. Fewer injuries, more productive workouts, better results? What’s not to like!

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