It’s always great to hear about a friend or colleague who’s decided to start running or has signed up for parkrun. I try to encourage them to make it a part of their regular routine to stay active, pointing out the physical and mental benefits of running.
Through my own experiences of trying to start running over the years, I know how hard it can be to keep going once you’ve started. I had a couple of aborted attempts to become a regular runner during my thirties. My failure to keep going was down to some common mistakes that new runners make which discourage them from continuing to run. So I thought I’d include some key tips from my own experiences and those of others I know on how to start off running in the right way to help you keep going for the long term.
1. Don’t start off too quickly
This is probably the biggest mistake we all make when we first start running. We head off from the house and go charging down the street and 400 meters later we’re doubled over out of breath. We knew we were daft to think we could start running and this just proves it. I can remember doing this once when I lived in Sheffield and the first time I ran parkrun. The simple problem is we’ve gone off too quickly. The best way to start off is to run at a ‘conversational’ pace. This is a pace where if we were running with someone else we would have enough breath to hold a conversation with them. For some this can mean starting off at a walking pace. This is fine – you’ll soon get to be able to up your pace to a jog after a few outings. It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to smash yourself each time you go for a run – most endurance runners run about 80% of their runs at an easy pace.
2. Dress for the last mile
It can often feel a bit chilly as we step outside the front door to go on our run. The temptation is to layer up so we don’t feel the cold. Whilst it’s important not to get hypothermia whilst out running, we do tend to err on the side of caution and overdress for our runs. As we run the processes our body goes through produces heat, so the body tries to cool us down by losing heat through the skin. If we have too many layers on it struggles with this process and we find keeping going a struggle as we over heat. We’ve all ended a run with layers discarded or tied around our waste as we do our bets to keep cool. Just like heading off too quickly, wearing too much can end with us struggling to keep going and doubting that running is a good idea. I’ve mentioned previously that I had to stop and walk during my first parkrun, this was partly because I went off too quickly, but also as you can see from the photo (me far right) because I was wearing a fleecy top as it was a bit chilly. The result was and overheating and out of breath related walking spell.
The general wisdom for what to wear for a run is to dress for the last mile not the first mile.
3. Wear the right shoes
My aborted attempts at running when in my thirties mostly came a cropper because my shins started hurting a short way into the run. On these occasions I headed off on my runs in a cheap pair of trainers that were not specifically for running. When I started running again in my mid forties I made sure I had a pair of shoes particularly designed for running. They weren’t an expensive pair, but were made with running in mind. I had no problems with my shins at all after this, which I specifically remember was a big encouragement to me that I could become a regular runner. You don’t have to go out and get the latest spring loaded go-faster shoes that cost you an arm and a leg. A good pair that provides you with the right cushioning and support shouldn’t cost you too much from a local running shop, or even from somewhere like Decathlon or Inter Sport, where you can get proper advice from someone there.
4. Get a running buddy
It’s always easier to do anything when you have someone to be accountable to or to encourage you along the way. If you’re finding the motivation to get out and run hard, find someone else who can join you. Having someone to chat to along the way helps to make the time pass quickly and you don’t notice so much when it gets hard. Arranging to meet someone or call for you at a set time for your run means you have that added impetus to go out when you might not quite feel like it. You’ll always feel great afterwards with the post-run endorphins giving you that runners buzz.
I hope that anyone reading this who doesn’t yet run will be inspired to give it a try and that these tips will help you get going and keep going. Why not try your local parkrun – it’s a great gentle introduction to running. You’ll find plenty of potential running buddies there too.
Have you got any tips for new runners from your own experiences? Add a comment to the blog with your ideas.