Beth Eck, a respected journalist with Runner’s world, once mentioned that beginners are often introduced to world of running by meeting an established performer with great enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport. There is certainly some merit in this argument, but equally valid is the notion that novices begin the sport by a combination of factors such as a desired weight loss, the wish to run for a charity, the need to become fitter, or just for the challenge. High profile races which feature on television usually generate enthusiasm amongst armchair followers, but there are several factors to consider before embarking on a running program.
Beginner running is not just a case of putting on some old gear and going out for a run. These points must be analysed before setting out…
- A visit to the GP – Have a precautionary check-up to ensure there are no underlying problem which may hinder exercise.
- Select a pair of shoes – When the first thoughts of running surfaces, do not go to the nearest shop and buy the most expensive shoes. Initially try a trusted pair of trainers and after a few weeks go to a specialist running shop – assuming running is still enjoyable.
- Where to run – Run within the immediate locality and on a looped course, so that the run can be shortened if necessary.
- When to run – Spring, autumn and summer should not be a problem, but winter days and nights can be a bit daunting. If it is torrential rain outside with a cold cutting wind, don’t be tempted to go out for the first ever run. It will be demoralising and curtail any enthusiasm for running. Awaiting another night for more sedate weather will be much more productive.
- Gear – Many runners will begin running on a dark night to avoid being spotted by the neighbours. If so wear high visibility gear which can be seen by motorists, cyclists and other pedestrians.
- How far to run – Initially a run of between 10-15 minutes is quite sufficient. Walk part of the way if necessary. New runners will become tired, as this is par for the cause, but complete exhaustion is unnecessary. As the days and weeks progress, runs become less tiresome.
- Have a target – The saying that ‘I don’t like running as it is boring and monotonous’ certainly carries some weight and it can become repetitive. Establishing a target race weeks or months ahead creates motivation.
- Run with friends – This can lead to the sharing of pain, but also the swapping of jokes and banter.
- Establish eating and drinking routines – Don’t step outside after a heavy dinner or breakfast fry-up. Use a bit of common sense when planning meals and drinking.
Basically, beginner running programs should just follow common sense. Respected athletics journalist Erin Strout has argued that the priority is ‘don’t plan to go too far or too quickly right away – doing so is the number one cause of injury among runners’. She advises that the running distance and time allocated should only be increased when comfortable with the current schedule.
More importantly she advocates not worrying about distance covered during the initial stages, as time on the feet is best measurement of progress. Speed will come automatically as progression occurs, sometimes without even realising the fact.
Beginner runner tips have also outlined by Runner’s World journalist Amby Burfoot particularly in the area of running strides. She has claimed a relaxed upright gait with a comfortable short stride gives a great feeling of satisfaction. Running with walk breaks which gradually diminish will also offer encouragement. Her most important point centres upon the use of a training diary which does not have to be sophisticated. Adhering to a planned regime will generate great pride while falling behind will induce the desired motivation to get out there. She also advocates stretching before and after a run just to maintain the flexibility of the muscles which are only just become adjusted to running.
One other factor worth considering is to join a running club. Initial feelings may be one of apprehension that club members will too fast and unwilling to entertain novices. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They are very much open to new members and some may even organise special sessions for beginners. There will be no shortage of volunteers willing to help with those initial miles, and it will be worth it just for the friendship and banter. Remember that many established runners began as complete novices.
There is more to the club than just the running as social events and outings to races are common features of the setups. They are normally engaged in organising a local race for which there is always a need for extra hands. The atmosphere within a club is nearly always conducive to running and improvements in times are guaranteed within an enjoyable framework.
A trend has also developed for workers to relieve the stress of a hard day by going out for a steady jog as a means of relaxation. Often they have MP3 players attached for which there is conflicting opinion as to their use. One argument stresses their role in disguising the pain of running, but for others they provide the hidden danger of making the runner deaf to any incoming sounds of traffic or cyclists. Once again common sense should prevail in such cases.
Even so, when providing beginner running tips, it is essential to promote the sport in a positive element. Running can be fun and can increase mental sharpness. There will be days when it will hurt and with the accompanying temptation to give up, but with the correct analysis of what went wrong, these days can be kept to a minimum. Running is a global sport practiced by people of all shapes and ages. Everybody must begin somewhere and by using a bit of common sense and heeding appropriate advice, there is no reason why it cannot become a very enjoyable pastime.