Make a run for it: your guide to running
It's free, requires no gym membership or specialist equipment, and can be done anywhere, anytime... whats not to love? By Gabrielle Nathan
The recent news that running for just one hour a week can prolong your life by nearly six years will have prompted many of us to dig out our trainers. But, if the last time you ran to catch a bus left you gasping for breath, or you worry you’ve left it too late, getting started can seem a daunting prospect. However, experts say that as long as there are no underlying physical problems or injuries, then it’s never too late to take up running: ‘Just look at the countless 60- and 70-something female marathon runners,’ says Lisa Jackson, co-author of 'Running Made Easy' (Collins & Brown, £9.99).
Fuel your run
Running on empty is never a good idea, as not only will your mind be on your next meal rather than your route, you’re also less likely to keep up a good pace or achieve faster times or longer distances. And, crucially, the muscles you’ve been working so hard to strengthen and tone are in danger of being used up for energy. But that doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want. Fitness trainer Rebecca Cox advises that you ‘eat properly and ensure you’re consuming a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat, as all three are very important for runners.’ Go for pasta with tomato sauce and low-fat parmesan, salads with meat, fish or pulses, and plenty of wholegrains. ‘You need food for energy and repair,’ Rebecca adds.
Find some friends
Running for the first time can seem a challenge, so get together with like-minded friends or join a running club. Every dedicated runner – even a marathon racer – was a beginner once!
Walk before you run
Most injuries occur as a result of trying to do too much, too soon, so, to avoid hurting yourself, start slowly and carefully, and listen to your body, says Louise Piears, co-founder of the Good Run Guide. She recommends that first-timers aim for a mixture of walking and running in 20-minute sessions, three to five times a week. ‘A walk/run programme is the perfect way for beginners to start, as it minimises the risk of injury when your body is still adapting to exercise,’ assures Lisa. ‘Begin with just 60 seconds of gentle running interspersed with three minutes of walking, and repeat four times – after 10 weeks, you’ll be able to complete a 5k race!’. Although, Rebecca warns: ‘Build up the distance and amount of time you run for gently, and don’t be tempted to do too much - even if you feel you can.’
Timetable days off
Even honed athletes take rest days to enable their muscles to recover and their bodies to rest, so do yourself a favour and schedule in some days off from your running. You can still be active on these days, but try something different, such as swimming, cycling or gentle stretching.
Prepare your body
Reduce the likelihood of injury further by always warming up your muscles before exercising, and stretching properly afterwards so you’re not stiff the next day. It’s also a good idea to run on softer surfaces such as grass rather than pavements, to reduce the impact on your joints.
Like any sport, running can lead to injuries. But with a little care and attention, these can be prevented. Runner’s knee, shin splints and ankle and hip pain can all be caused by wearing the wrong type of shoe or trainers that are past their prime, or by doing too much. As well as wearing appropriate footwear and taking it slowly, Fiona Bugler, running coach and writer (www.sherunsshewrites.com), recommends complementing running with resistance (strengthening) exercises. ‘These will even out muscle imbalances, build a weak core or lower back, and maintain lean muscle mass, which reduces with age.’ She also suggests doing yoga and Pilates to promote flexibility and strength.
Get your kit on
Look good, feel great
‘Invest in gear that feels great and looks good, as it’ll make you more likely to want to train,’ says Fiona Bugler. ‘There’s a fantastic range of clothing available, so take your time choosing pieces you’ll want to be seen in.’ She recommends a tech-top (made from fabric that is lightweight, breathable, stretchy and often high visibilty), sun hat and sunglasses for summer, and running tights, jacket and gloves in winter. Visit www.therunningbug.co.uk for reviews.
Protect your assets
Breasts can bounce up to 14cm when unsupported during exercise (ouch!), so a good sports bra is essential. ‘There are no muscles in the breast, only skin and Cooper’s ligaments, which, once stretched, cannot be restored,’ explains Rebecca Cox. Try the running-specific Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra (£37, www.shockabsorber.co.uk) to reduce boob bounce by up to 78 per cent.
Splurge on socks
The unsung heroes of a running wardrobe, sweat-absorbing socks will keep feet dry, comfortable and blister-free. RunBreeze Anti-Blister Sock in blue or pink (£8, www.runbreeze.com).
Best foot forward
Good shoes are essential, so get fitted for your perfect pair of trainers at a professional running shop. If possible, have your gait (running style) analysed to discover whether your feet roll in (overpronation) or out (underpronation) when you run.
Enjoy the benefits
As well as helping you to shed pounds, regular running can help you reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, tone up and, particularly if you go off road, leave you with a stronger core and tighter rear. As a weight-bearing form of aerobic exercise, it boosts bone density and cardiovascular health, plus it can lower levels of bad cholesterol in your blood, reduce blood pressure and increase your immune response, helping you ward off coughs and colds. Research has also revealed that running outdoors can drastically improve your sense of wellbeing.
You burn approximately 100 calories for each mile you run.
Calories burnt in 45 minutes:
Running = 525
Swimming = 476
Cycling = 381
Walking = 167