ALL runners have been there. The starting block. It can be daunting, it can be exhausting and initially, it can be very frustrating. But donâ€™t fret! As I said EVERYONE who runs has been there.
I am by no means a running guru. I am a twenty-something full-time employed veterinarian who like most members of the working class actively needs to make time for exercise.Â I am also someone who not so long ago struggled to run 3km. Over approximately 5 years I have come to truly love the sport. I fell in love with the feeling of making progress, entering a meditative state as you are jogging and the elation one feels after a run.Â Iâ€™m therefore in a position to give some advice on how not to only start running but on how to love running.
The beginning is always the hardest. Here are some tips to make it easier:
Just do it
Put on your exercise shoes, walk out the front door and go. Create no expectation for your first run. Your first run is experimental and should revolve around enjoyment and excitement. When you get tired, start to walk for a bit and when you feel revived, start to run again.
You have to commit and you have to make time. On a Sunday evening (or any evening for that matter) plan what your week looks like. Sit with a pen and piece of paper and figure out where you can make time to slot in a 30-45 minute run â€“ Be it in the afternoon after work, in the morning before work or even during your lunch break. Once you have designated a time- commit! If you miss a day or are running (no pun intended) a bit late- donâ€™t fret.Â Make that 45minute run a 15-20 minute run.
Go for your first run and see how far you can comfortably run and then build your program around that.Â Try and run every second day especially when starting, so as to initially avoid possible injury. I try and run on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Google has many readily available free beginner programs.
We donâ€™t have to be too technical at this point (Once you start acing those longer runs, consider looking into it) The basics are: Keep your back straight, your head up and look forward and lift those feet (donâ€™t start the habit of â€˜lazy feet runningâ€™). Arm movement also definitely helps, swing your arms backward and forwards at a relaxed angle.
Plan your route mentally before you start your run. This helps to set a loose goal. Ensure your initial runs donâ€™t include too steep heels or downhills, try to keep the gradient level. This is to allow your muscles to first get used to the motion before placing them under too much strain.
Go running in an environment that fuels your engine. Running is a gateway to spending more time outside and discovering the surrounding environment. Make it fun.
Try and not eat about two hours before you run. Trust me! It will make your running experience SO much more enjoyable. If your tummy is rumbling-Â just have a light snack if needed.Â You will feel much lighter, you will be avoiding that inevitable deep stabbing stitch and when you are done with your run you feel like you deserve to treat â€˜yo selfâ€™.
I cannot emphasize theÂ power of music whilst running enough. A killer playlist with some of your favorite upbeat tunes can make what would have been a slog of a run into a running party. After a long day of work or when you are mentally drained itâ€™s a perfect recipe. A comfortable arm strap for your phone or music device is an excellent investment.
I suggest taking your first few runs by yourself to remove any sort of pressure and to allow you to take a break whenever you wantÂ to. When you start to gain a bit more confidence, find a running friend at a similar level or even join a running club. To find a running club, google should have suggestions in your area or simply go to your gym and enquire.
When you are starting to run donâ€™t get too caught up in the figures of running apps. This is a mistake quite a few people make and because the beginning (as most beginnings areâ€¦) is a tad slow going, some people find it demotivating.Â I started running with an app and whilst I enjoyed it initially, I became quite frustrated once my progress started to stagnate. So for a while, I used no apps or any recording devices and it was quite liberating. I have now foundÂ a happy balance with my Garmin watch and whilst now I find tracking my progress fun, when I know Iâ€™m going for a nice relaxed late afternoon run, I purposefully donâ€™t get too caught up in the figures.
Benefits of running
- Running improves cardiovascular fitness and helps with muscle strengthening
- Aids in weight management and burns kilojoules
- Allows you to spend time in nature
- Can help you meet new people and be part of a running community
- Reduces stress and can help alleviate depression
- It improves overall health. Running improves the immune system and decrease the risk of developing certain diseases such as certain types of cancer.
What to expect
As with all new things the beginning can be frustrating but once you push through the results and progress is very rewarding. Expect to be pleasantly surprised by your progress and the positive shift in your mood and mindset. By improving this one area in your life, expect to experience a positive shift in other areas as well. I personally found that my diet and level of productivity in work improved.
These are my fundamental starting tips for running. Not only will they help you ease into the experience but hopefully enjoy it too.Â Running isnâ€™t just a sport itâ€™s a lifestyle.