Okay, so I can probably categorise myself beyond the beginner stage now but I remember all too well being there and all the struggles that go with it. Instead of following tips and recommendations I was just gung-ho to get to a certain level. I basically ignored all the advice out there in my rush to be a “runner” and therefore fell victim to all the hazards I could so easily have avoided. Here’s my little acronym of advice on starting out in running. Note I’ve used “trail” rather than “run” – gave me a few more options hehe.
T – Too Hard too Soon
They say don’t go too hard too soon. Yeah, yeah… (That tip doesn’t really apply to me does it?) This one is so important. If you haven’t run before your body (your cardiovascular system, muscle and bone) needs to adapt to this new workload. Building up slowly will allow this to happen smoothly with much less chance of injury. After the first two weeks of running my left ankle blew right up (turns out I’m one of the many “overpronater’s” out there who’s ankles roll further inwards than they should upon landing). Some expensive physio later and I was back on track, but not for long before other niggling issues flared up, such as ITB syndrome. (More on this under Injury Prevention…)
Your first few runs should be easy and natural, I would leave the watch at home and don’t give yourself any time or distance goals. Just listen to your body and enjoy yourself. Give yourself at least a day off between runs as your body adjusts. If possible run on a soft surface like a grassy park or oval as the road surface can be pretty tough for your unaccustomed joints.
R – Realistic Expectations
Don’t compare yourself to others or feel you need to be hitting a certain speed or distance too soon. “Run your own race” applies to your journey in running also. Giving yourself unrealistic expectations will lead to frustration and disappointment and ultimately running is something that should enhance your life and bring you fulfillment and enjoyment.
A – Assess Your Weaknesses
So my number one tip when starting in running is to have your shoes fitted by a professional who will also do gait analysis for you (basically watch you run and see how you naturally land). Shoes are designed for protection and traction but many of the good shoes out there also incorporate correction due to many of us having these biomechanical weaknesses.
Up to 2/3 of all runners overpronate (where the ankle rolls inwards – past neutral on landing) and around 1/3 of all runners supinate (where the ankle rolls outwards – past neutral on landing). The right shoes can help correct these weaknesses and avoid injury further up the leg. A lot of the time other factors will need to be addressed also, it won’t just be a matter of get the right shoes and all problems solved.
I – Injury Prevention
Your biomechanics (and their potential weaknesses) are a complicated thing. “ Your knee bone’s connected to your, thigh bone…” Basically, issues within your foot structure and/or ankles can have effects on your knees which can have effects on your hips which can affect your back…. It’s all connected. So along with having the right shoes correctly fitted to you, correct running technique and strength and stabilisation work play a huge part in your running being enjoyable and injury free.
Having a strong core will play a big role in injury prevention and should be a regular part of your training. Cross training will not only complement your running but also keep things interesting. Ideal activities include swimming, cycling (ooh, triathlon), yoga, Pilates and strength training at the gym.
Correct running technique will have a huge effect on not only your enjoyment of running but also on injury prevention. There are some great videos out there in regard to this and I would advise you to watch several of them to help set you up running correctly. Basically the principles are to stay relaxed, lean forward, take short, easy steps rather than powerful strides and be light on your feet. This will be more energy efficient and provide a smooth enjoyable ride rather than creating an uncomfortable breaking motion with each stride.
L – Love the journey
The main reason you’re doing this is because you enjoy it! How many people have you heard say “I hate running!” I was one of them! If you follow the above tips you can avoid some of the pain and frustration that can come from running.
Above and beyond that is a little key element we all need to keep going – motivation! It’s hard to continue to enjoy something that can sometimes be difficult and that pushes us mentally and physically without a little motivation. So set yourself up for success by running with a friend or friends – it makes SO much difference. When you can get out early with friends and chat and have a laugh along the way you barely notice the miles you’re covering. Not only is it more enjoyable but you instantly have an accountability buddy so you are far less likely to back out of a scheduled training run.
Another great incentive to keep going is to enter your first race. Enter with your friends of course! Your first event should be a fun event of short distance (no marathons!) Something like a 5km Colour Run which ultimately has no pressure for you to run a PB. I have entered several runs with a great group of girlfriends and it always turns into a fantastic weekend of fun, frivolity and memory making. The run itself purely becomes the event to center our entire trip around and the weekend is almost a therapeutic retreat where we get to push ourselves physically, support each other, laugh as we’ve not laughed before and totally disconnect from our daily routine.
And finally (one of my favourites of course) – get out on the trail! Running is SO much more enjoyable out in nature with no pavement or tarmac in sight. Get out in nature and reconnect with yourself – the mountains, the forest, the smell of pine – hard not to enjoy yourself doing this and breathing in all that beautiful pure oxygen. I was out on a trail run the other day and I looked down at my watch and was shocked to find we had run 9kms already. In our busy, hectic and sometimes disconnected lives what better way to look after our physical, mental and spiritual health!
I hope these tips will motivate you to get out there and enjoy all the amazing benefits running provides. Don’t be discouraged by any small set-backs, they are an inevitable part of the process and the end game is well worth it. Start small, take it easy and “run for your life!”