Driving along a road these days often brings the sight of a runner pounding the pavements and they are usually all shapes and sizes while training at various speeds. Amongst these runners will be novices, the fairly experienced and those with many miles on the clock. There will also be those who prefer to train on a track or on grass. Providing any running advice to this army of athletes will depend on their level of experience, with beginners and experienced performers belonging to opposite ends of the spectrum and each with their special needs.
Beginner runners are basically testing the water with a view to deciding if the sport will be useful for their needs. They may be targeting a race for charity, running just to keep fit or losing weight, trying the sport or for any other reason not mentioned. The beginner may have read a magazine or book which offers a running guide, but there are so many about these days that there may be conflicting views. It is up to the individual to decide what may be best, but the most essential tips can probably be condensed into the following…
- An appointment with a GP – Before embarking on any strenuous exercise especially if it is the first occasion for some time, a check-up with the doctor is essential. A quick appraisal lasting 20 minutes will cover the heart, blood pressure and a blood test amongst other checks. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- How far to run – At first do not run far and preferably in a loop. 15-20 minutes should be sufficient at a steady pace and a loop will allow for a potential short cut. Walk if necessary. Go out for a few days and then try to maintain a running guide or diary to help plan running sessions.
- Running safety – Make sure you can be seen by motorists if you are running alongside busy roads as road junctions can be a hazard. A light t-shirt or a high visibility jacket is preferable.
- Shoes – To begin with go out in your normal trainers rather than buy an expensive pair of shoes. It may be that after a few training sessions that the great idea of running is abandoned, and the new shoes will have been wasted. Wait a few weeks, determine what may be required and then go to a specialist running shop for advice.
- Stretching – Some experts do recommend this and others do not. Experiment with the process and decide what is best.
- Run with friends and over various courses – This may help to alleviate any monotony and can be a source of great enjoyment and banter.
- Wear appropriate clothing to suit the weather – The early days will not suitable for fast running, so wear warm clothing especially in winter.
- Don’t overdo the running – One of the big mistakes is to go out on successive days over longer than ideal distances. The beginner body is not accustomed to this and will tire rapidly with injuries a definite possibility.
For experienced runners, they will have suffered the odd tortuous run and the days when everything comes together, which beginners have yet to encounter. They will have had good days and bad times but will still be seeking advice on any tips which can make improvements in all aspects of their performances. Running advice for experienced performers is far more in depth than for beginners…
- Improving Performance – Does training have to be modified to increase speed in races. Is there a correct balance between long endurance runs, sprint sessions and interval training?
- Nutrition – It is important to maintain a healthy diet and life style to maintain levels of performance. This means a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins. A regular intake of liquids and sports drinks is also essential, especially if they are non-alcoholic.
- Regular hill sessions – These provide the leg strength and increase aerobic capacity necessary for long distance racing.
- Listen to the body – Most experienced runners may have sustained an injury at some stage and will know the symptoms. Don’t attempt to train through injuries as they will usually become aggravated leading to longer spells of inactivity than anticipated
- Running Shoes – Use shoes which have worked in the past and which have reaped benefits. More experienced runners will have several pairs of shoes, those for long distance sessions, racing shoes and the special grip of the trail or cross country shoe. If a new shoe doesn’t give the correct feel, discard it or sell it.
- Running Clubs – A mixture of athletes of various abilities usually belong to a running club. There will always a runner or several with similar ability. Run with them and it is surprising how a level of competitiveness often arises in a training session, resulting in improved racing performances.
- Distances – The experienced performer will probably have learned their optimum racing distance, just like with a racehorse, and should be able to strike the correct training balance suitable for the distance. A coach may be able to provide more tailored advice and produce a running guide for sessions.
There will be some experienced runners for whom a word of advice will simply be ignored. For them, they know it all and do not need any tips especially from novices. For their personal running safety this may not be the correct approach. Any leading GP will always maintain that the body is always changing, especially as it becomes older. Runners of all descriptions need to adapt, as what might work in the younger days may not be appropriate in later life. Muscles change over time as do breathing patterns, and so alterations to training may become necessary. Athletes are never too old to accept running advice whether that comprises dietary changes, new training techniques or improved shoe technology.
Those runners who accept advice, whether beginners or experienced, will probably be able to sustain their participation in the sport for longer periods.