Running is one of the best forms of exercise for several reasons. Its health benefits include better cardiovascular strength, stronger bones and muscles, increased stamina, weight loss, increased lung capacity and overall benefits to your mental well being. Furthermore, it is cheap and convenient, requiring very little gear and allowing you to choose when to do it.
We know from experience what problems may face a beginner or even an experienced runner and here share our tips for overcoming them.
The best way to start running
MOTIVATION & TARGETS
From talking with the Styrkr team and experts, the very first place to start is to work out your motivation for doing so and set targets. We’ve all made resolutions to ourselves that we’re going to get in shape and be a ‘new me’ and just run out the door like a headless chicken, only for that initial spurt of activity to inevitably dry up as soon as we realise we don’t know what we’re doing and nothing seems to be changing except our tiredness levels.
Motivation is important. But it needs results to keep it alive.
This is where we need to be realistic. For many beginners, running is seen as a way to either lose weight or to combat an inactive lifestyle. And these are worthy causes. However, they may not be enough of a motivator as time goes on.
The Styrkr team all agree that the absolutely best way to get running is to find a race and book it. Having weight loss goals is ok, but you’re setting yourself up for disappointment (and likely a massive demotivator) if you don’t stick to both a strict running schedule and a dietary plan. By booking and paying for a race a couple of months down the road, you’re forcing yourself to get ready and prepared for it.
Additionally, taking part in the race is surprisingly good fun as you meet other like minded people; finishing is an achievement to be proud of and gives you extra motivation to try another one; and you’ll reap the benefits that running is famous for: better cardiovascular health, weight loss, increased lung capacity and stamina and the improvement to your overall well being generally.
So, find a race and book it. There are races of varying lengths, starting from 5km to half-marathons to marathons to ultra-marathons. If you’re a beginner, why not try a local 5km and take it from there. Be warned: it’s addictive.
How to get good at running
Before you step out the door, you should buy the right trainers for the surface that you are running on. It’s worth going to a designated sports shop rather than to a local high-street store as you’ll be able to speak to an expert and explain what you are aiming to do. The right trainers will make a big difference to your comfort, and prevent unnecessary problems such as joint and muscle issues from the shock impacts on the road or trail. Furthermore, a fitness tracker watch is an excellent purchase which will monitor your performances.
QI: Listening to music improves performance by 15%
The Run-walk method
Pioneered by the American Olympian Jeff Galloway, the run-walk method is one of the best ways to get better at running. As the name implies, you run and walk over a set distance. However, it isn’t perhaps what you suppose it is, eg. you run until you get tired and then walk. No, it is all about timing.
Galloway’s theory is that by splitting up your run like this you are allowing your body to produce endorphins and reduce fatigue and general wear and tear which speeds up recovery time, whilst also giving your heart rate a good workout and chance to recover. This last point is extremely good for cardiovascular health.
Once you feel more experienced, move up the run times and lower the walk times. It is a widely followed method for beginners and experienced runners alike.
Distance vs time methods
Runners bicker over what is best: running for distance or running for time? What they mean is whether it is better to set yourself a 5km target where time isn’t the primary concern but endurance or a time-limited run where distance covered doesn’t necessarily matter but the speed. Well, the truth is that they are both full of positives which may suit a person better.
There are those of us who have more endurance and can run further at a slower pace, whereas others can run shorter distances quicker and then taper off. It’s a natural predisposition. For example, I am a sprinter and could whoop Christian (my boss) over any distance up to 800 metres, like really whoop him. But the moment the distances go a bit further I’d be struggling to keep up with Christian’s rhythmic long strides and I'd soon lose sight of him.
So, let’s look at the benefits of both running methods:
Benefits of Distance runs
- Improves endurance
- Trains the body to use fat for fuel
- Increases muscle power
- Sense of achievement at completing distance good for mental wellbeing/confidence
Benefits of Timed runs
- Stronger upper leg muscles and abs
- Faster strides
- Anaerobic exercise - quick, high-intensity workout
- For those with busy schedules
Distance/time method for beginners?
The Styrkr team actually recommends a mixture of the two for beginners.
The Styrkr “running for beginners” method:
- Set a distance and run at a pace you feel comfortable at and mark the finish time for completion.
- Do not set ridiculous distances and don’t push yourself too hard as a beginner as this will most likely cause too much shock to your muscles and inner-workings that your recovery time will be greatly increased.
- It should start as a fast walk to a gentle jog until you find a comfortable, natural rhythm, allowing your underused muscles to get used to the new shocks and stretches.
- As you continue your runs and feel that your muscles are becoming a little stronger, you can up the pace a little and get faster times.
- Increase the distance and repeat
Hit the gym for extra strength and speed
It’s important to give your body a chance to recover after a run and most runners would say that having rest days is important to that process. For beginners, you shouldn’t be running more than 3 times a week until your body has become accustomed to it. This means that there are 4 days which you could split up into rest days and gym days.
Going to the gym and doing the following exercises will strengthen your muscles, which means you will be able to go further, quicker and reduce recovery time.
Try the following exercises at the gym, or at home:
- Dumb-bell weights
- Leg weights
As you can see, you can do the majority of these at home but it is advisable for a beginner to seek out an expert who can design a workout routine which is adapted to you with the right weights and so on. The last thing you want is an injury which allows the motivation to fade and procrastination to sneak back into the routine.
What are the 5 basic skills in running?
- Jogging - running at a comfortable pace, perfect for long-distances
- Sprinting - running as fast as you can over a short distance
- Chasing - running and tracking an opponent, changing directions suddenly - for sports
- Dodging - think of side-steps on the rugby pitch. A sharp change of direction while running at speed. Huge stress impacts joints and muscles.
- Evading - the opposite of chasing, you’re the one being followed.
What are the benefits of running?
There are so many benefits of running. On the physical side running will improve cardiovascular health, greatly reducing the chances of getting heart disease (a condition that is largely caused by a sedentary lifestyle). It will also improve lung capacity, endurance, stamina, muscle strength and weight loss.
On the mental side, running, like most exercises, causes the body to produce endorphins (‘the happy chemical’) which will make you feel, well, happy. Runners often remark that they love it due to the headspace it gives them and how it relaxes them or acts as a great stress relief.
QI: It promotes better sleep quality, mood boosts, and concentration levels. Moreover, running aids in the immune system’s fight against colds.
All forms of exercise are good for your mental well being.
What are the best tips for running?
- Get the right trainers
- Warm-up before you go for 15 minutes and warm-down when you get back
- Start slow
- Allow your body to recover properly
- Hydrate and fuel before and after
- Don’t drink lots of water 1 hour before you go running, but rather just a cup 5 minutes before
- Exercise on non-run days
- Choose your distance appropriately
- Sign up for an event
QI: Doing high knees and heel flicks are more effective than stretching in preparing muscles for a run.
How long should I run as a beginner?
For beginners to running we’d recommend 20-30min runs two to four times a week. Each run would be roughly 3 miles. After every 2 weeks, you can add 10 minutes/1 mile to your run.
Can I run everyday as a beginner?
We wouldn’t recommend it. Your muscles, joints and bones need time to recover and if you are just starting to go running, these areas will need more time to do so. Indeed, if you tried it, you’d probably discover for yourself that your body won’t permit it! However, after a few months you can definitely go for a 20 or 30 minute run everyday.
How to run in the heat
After this year's uncharacteristically scorching hot weather Europe-wide, runners have been severely tested. Here we check out the health risks of running in hot weather and steps to take to overcome them.
Is it bad to run in hot weather?
Yes, if you don’t take precautions. The risks of dehydration, heat-stroke, muscle-cramps and other heat-related issues are drastically increased in hotter temperatures.
- STAY HYDRATED
- COOL YOURSELF DOWN WITH COLD WATER ON YOUR HEAD, FACE AND NECK
- WEAR SUNSCREEN
- USE LIGHTWEIGHT CLOTHING
- RUN EARLY MORNING OR LATER EVENINGS, NOT IN THE MIDDAY SUN IF POSSIBLE
- REDUCE YOUR PACE
Is there any benefit to running in the heat?
There are a few. The first is that you are running in a harder climate, which of course means you will be training your body to adapt to that, creating better endurance. If you train in the heat and race in cooler temperatures, you will likely be quicker and able to go further.
Secondly, you burn more calories quicker. However, this comes with a warning: do not go running in the heat for weight loss reasons. You must hydrate more often than you would in cooler temperatures. If you don’t, you will be causing more harm than good.
Finally, you create more red blood plasma, allowing oxygen to be carried around the body more efficiently and in greater amounts.
QI: The ideal temperature for a race day is 7°C.
FUEL FOR RUNNING
It is important to know what to feed your body before you start running and not get your nutrition wrong. The wrong food at the wrong time will negatively affect your performance whereas the right fuel at the right time will greatly enhance it.
Running is a fantastic and usually cost-effective way to exercise. The benefits of running both physically and mentally are huge. Motivation is a key factor to getting started and continuing so we recommend that you have clear and manageable targets which will keep you motivated. Why not sign up for a race?