With spring fast approaching, although it’s a shame that the weather, as usual, isn’t playing ball, but with the longer nights and warmer days a lot of peoples’ focus will shift to running and more specifically running, as part of an event for either health, personal or charitable reasons, all of which are normally agreed to following a…. ‘social’ night. With the realisation of what you have signed up to slowly dawning, along with the distant memory of where you actually keep or even if you own any exercise gear. But never fear as I’m here to provide some key bits of advice from experience of where people tend to go wrong:
Set a goal – this is a key starting point if you’re new to running is the goal to complete a set distance/event? if you have run recreationally for a while are you looking for a ‘Personal Best’ or a certain level of performance?
Progression – this links to your schedule, make sure it is realistic, as if too optimistic, you are likely to get disillusioned and stop, too little and it will be too easy to complete but may make the event hard going. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you only progress your weekly mileage by 10% to avoid injury or from becoming overtired. Cross training (using different types of exercise) is also often overlooked, so don’t just focus on running, if you enjoy swimming or cycling then these can be fun ways of staying engaged while also building up your cardio fitness. For help with developing a program a good place to start for a newbie runner is the ‘NHS couch to 5k’ advice, or for those that may have a little more of a baseline, ‘Runners World Smartcoach’ can be a really useful scheduling tool.
Strength – this is also overlooked by all, from novice to experienced runners, an effective strength & conditioning program has been shown to massively reduce injury risk and also improve performance as it can, put simply make you more efficient with your movement. It’s important to strengthen the lower limbs and trunk, but you should ideally seek advice from a health professional or experienced physio for best results.
Equipment – this doesn’t mean that you need to buy the most expensive fancy shoes or running gear just make sure you have shoes that are designed to be run in and that you find them comfortable as blisters are definitely not helpful either in training or on the day. Also, try and make sure that you have more than one pair of shorts or socks, for those days when they are in need of a wash, don’t give yourself an excuse to back out of a training day!
Rest & Recovery – this can and is very much ignored, with people always seeing more as better. During the rest times or days is when our bodies recover and process the benefits of training, this also means trying to give yourself enough sleep as often as possible, as reduced sleep is also a key driver in injury development in runners. You can also help the recovery process by giving yourself time to cool down, with either some low-intensity movements and a foam roller, a painful but must for any runner, as this can help you to self-massage and ease those aches and pains after a hard session.
For anyone aiming to increase their exercise, the key points are: to be steady with your increases to build an effective baseline and just remember to try and enjoy it! At the end of the day, an increase in movement and exercise will make you feel better, healthier and generally more energetic in all parts of your day.