You’re a new runner and your pristine new trainers sit by the front door… but how do you get started and make running something you can enjoy, rather than endure? That first run may be a challenge, but it quickly gets easier and before you know it you’ll be signing up for 5K, 10K and eventually half marathon challenges! The key thing to remember is that building up your running fitness is a journey that requires a certain amount of planning, a lot of patience, sensible progression and a positive mindset. Here’s how to make it easier and, dare I say it, maybe even enjoyable!
Find a target
Goals keep you focused and motivated. Your motivation to run will be vastly improved if you have an overall target, like a 5K race. This distance is achievable for every beginner. It’s also essential that you have a realistic target each month, week and workout that you do. Give every run a purpose and leave the front door knowing exactly what you want to achieve!
How often to run
It’s tempting to tell yourself that you are going to run every day as part of your New Year’s resolution but this zero to hero tactic rarely works! Make the weekly targets achievable both mentally and physically. It is important that the number of runs per week allow the body to recover and adapt to this new form of exercise and also allows the mind to recover and get motivated again before the next run. Consistency is always key and will achieve greater results more quickly. Three or four runs every week for ten weeks is a good goal. This is far more beneficial and will see greater progress than running six times in the first week then once the next, then giving up for two weeks and having to start again. If you are completely new to any exercise then you might just want to run twice a week to begin with.
How to run
Try target blocks of time. All of my schedules run to time (minutes) not distance. This is much more achievable as you don’t need to wear a GPS or have a tape measure to hand! A very simple, cheap stopwatch will do. As you close that front door you are not expected to break into a sprint for as long as you can before you stop! The schedule on page 26 breaks the sessions down with blocks of running interspersed with blocks of walking as your recoveries. Begin by warming up with a five to ten-minute brisk walk; your body will then be ready to begin the running reps.
Running for a bus – PACE!
Lots of people equate not being able to run with “I can’t even run for a bus”. Trying to get to the bus stop before the bus does is not the pace at which you want to execute your run/walk training session. You need to make the pace of your running blocks realistic, achievable and sustainable. Use the “talk test” and initially “run at the speed of chat”. I refer to this as easy pace.
At this stage a faster pace is unnecessary as we are simply looking to build base aerobic fitness; it is all about manageable jogging and time on your feet. You will feel a far greater sense of achievement and are more likely to go running again if you complete the whole session at an achievable pace rather than only half the workout because of beginning too fast.
How should that pace feel?
You should feel as though you are able to hold a conversation if someone was running next to you. Your breathing is challenged but you’re not gasping for breath. On an effort level scale of one to ten (ten being the hardest) you should be starting the block of running at a five. Towards the end of the block you may feel that in order to keep going the effort level is nearing a seven or eight but this is fine as you then have a timed walking recovery. This allows your heart-rate to drop slightly, enabling you to then begin a further block of running. You are aiming for each block to be consistent.
Remember, the heart is simply a muscle that we are strengthening so as you get stronger and fitter the running will feel easier. Eventually the blocks of running will get longer, the walk recoveries shorter, and before you know it you will be running at this “easy conversational pace” for 30 minutes continuously and standing on that 5K start-line. There is no reason why beyond this and later in the year you couldn’t be targeting a 10K and even the half marathon distance. The beauty about running is you can continue to progress and set new goals as your body becomes stronger and fitter.
When the going gets tough…
Yes, it will get tough at times, the mornings may seem cold and dark or work can make you tired. There will be days when runs feel easier, days when running feels impossible, hard sessions that test us aerobically and push us to the limits – you are not alone and every runner experiences these highs and lows! Here’s how to get fired up and stay motivated:
■ Complete a playlist and get those tunes pumping. Not everyone likes running to music but for some people it’s the perfect motivation.
■ Try new routes: avoid sticking to the same streets and parks – variety is the spice of life!
■ Find running buddies: meeting a friend for a run will ensure you get it done, make it more enjoyable and you can practise that “talk test” all the way round!
■ Visualise: picture the joyous glow you will feel at the end and how annoyed you will feel with yourself all evening if you don’t go for a run – use this as motivation to get out there!
■ Run for charity: maybe do your target race for a chosen charity – raising money for a special cause gives your running purpose.