Five running tips for beginners

As I have mentioned before, I only started running 3 years ago. When I started, I did the classic thing of piling on too much mileage too quickly. I ended up getting injured, but I saw a physiotherapist who identified some issues for me. I have been working on these correctable weaknesses in my core, and with asymmetrical strength in my hips ever since, and have stayed pretty much injury free (bar a weird little calf strain). If you are starting out on the path to running more, or even to start running, here are a few tips you might find helpful:

Get yourself a fitted for a decent pair of shoes. You may think it is a money-making gimmick, but for your first pair of trainers, going to a store that has staff that can assess your running gait and can match you to the right type of shoe can be a very wise investment of time and money. Essentially, you will need a shoe for 3 types of gait: a neutral running gait, or you may over-pronate, or under pronate (this is to do with angle at which your feet tend to hit the ground underneath you) - you will need a shoe to help you correct a little for this. Anything more complicated than this, and you might be advised to see a specialist to asses you for orthotics - little inserts for your shoe to help you stay injury free. If you buy a cheap pair of shoes and try to run any kind of meaningful distance in them, you are asking for trouble. Leave barefoot running, or barefoot style shoes, until you are a little more experienced. Don't buy your first pair of shoes off the internet, unless you have had your gait assessed and know exactly what you are looking for. Even then, you might feel obliged to buy your first pair from the store that did the running assessment for you.

Start with low mileage. If all you can run is half a kilometre (or mile), that's fine. If it is just a few tens of metres, that is fine too. Start with a gentle couch-to-5k plan over a number of weeks - here's one that is three runs a week over nine weeks - that's fast enough. You might be tempted, but resist the urge to add a whole heap of distance to your runs all at once. You will risk injury, or burnout if you have a horrible time.

Don't run every day. Many beginners come to running thinking that they have to run every day. You don't. In fact, 3-4 times a week is plenty. Strengthening and repair actually happens on your non-running days - running every day doesn't give you body enough time to recover.

Drink lots of water. Running can dehydrate you, especially if it is hot. Drink about 30 minutes before you run, after you run, and if you can, during your run. Even being slightly dehydrated can make running harder, and severely impair your enjoyment - which can make you less keen to pull on those running shoes the next time around. Don't overlook your water intake during the week and on non-running days too.

Beware of comparing yourself to other runners. The risk here is that you become demoralised through comparing yourself to faster, more experienced runners. Getting better takes time and practice - running is a skill. No matter how counter-intuitive it seems, we need to learn to do it right. Modern lives mean that we don't use our bodies how they were designed to be used and our muscles are not as strong as they should be in the right places. So, it takes time to learn how to run in a sustainable way. There will be people who are faster, more fluid than you - but there will also be people who are slower, or who do not run at all. Set your own goals and try not to worry about others. For some people, comparing yourself with others is motivating - and that's fine. Just be aware if it starts to become a stick rather than a carrot.

Leave a comment if you want to chat about this more - happy to help or discuss.

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