Running can have huge benefits for both physical fitness and mental health. It’s something that can be done alone, with a friend, or as part of a group or club. It’s also something you can fit into your own schedule, choosing a time that suits you best instead of having to be available at a certain time for a class.
There are lots of benefits to running, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to start.
Benefits of taking up running
If you’re looking for a reason to start running, here are some of the benefits it can have:
- Helping to keep fit
- Strengthening leg muscles
- Improving your cardiovascular fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
- Helps to maintain a healthy weight
- Helps to clear your head
- Boosts your mood
- Helps to reduce stress and anxiety
How to get started with running
The hardest part about running can often just be showing up, especially when you’re new. If you’re planning on starting to run, or if you tried and found it was harder than you expected, here’s some advice to get you going, and to keep you going.
The best thing you can do is start slowly, and set a manageable distance. When you start out, begin with walking for a few minutes. Then introduce a few minutes of running, and switch back to walking. Continue to alternate between walking and running. Eventually, you can increase how long you spend running each time. Always start and end with walking.
The best way to use this method is to download the Couch to 5k app. This will guide you through the run/walk method each time you go out, and by the end of 9 weeks, you’ll be able to run 5k with no problem.
Setting goals is a great way to motivate yourself to get out for your run. When you’re starting out, make sure to make these goals manageable. If you have one big end goal, set smaller goals to reach before then to help you build up to it. Completing Couch to 5k is a good goal to begin with.
Signing up for races is also good way to stay focused on a goal. Begin with a 5k race and work your way up to longer distance races. You can also set a goal to finish within a certain timeframe, giving yourself more time to start off, and making it shorter as you continue to take part in races.
It’s important to take the time to warm up before you break into a sprint. This can include walking for around 10 minutes before you start your run, or taking time before you start to stretch by doing lunges, stretching out your thigh muscles, and stretching your side muscles.
This is really important to avoid leg cramps or a stitch in your side, which will slow you down or bring your run to a halt completely.
Just as warming up is important before you start, cooling down is equally as important when your run is over. If you come to a sudden halt when you have reached your target, your body won’t have a chance to wind things down after working so hard to keep you going. Doing a cool-down gives your heart a chance to reach its normal tempo, your muscles can relax, and your breathing can go back to its normal rhythm.
As your run comes to an end, start to slow down the pace, and continue to slow until you are walking. Spend at least ten minutes walking after running, and try to also fit in some stretches.
Wear the right shoes
Wearing the right shoes when running is important. You might think any old pair will do, but your feet with thank you if you make sure to wear proper runners. Find a pair with good support that feel comfortable on your feet. Wear good, breathable socks – your feet will sweat and you want them to feel comfortable in your socks too.
What to eat
Your body needs the right food to keep you moving. You’ll want to eat something that’s got enough carbs and protein to give you energy, but try not to have a large meal. You don’t want to feel hungry going out there, but you don’t want to feel like you’re too full either.
A high-carb, high protein snack or light meal 1-2 hours before your run should be enough to keep you going. Something like toast with peanut butter and banana, a small bowl of porridge, or some yogurt and granola are good options.
It’s really important you are properly hydrated before, during, and after your run. Dehydration causes headaches, tiredness, and muscle cramps along with other, more serious problems.
Not only should you drink some water before you go out, it’s best if you can keep up your hydration levels throughout the week. Bring a water bottle with you on your run and drink whenever you’re thirsty. Continue to keep drinking water afterwards to avoid feeling dehydrated a few hours later.
Figure out what the best motivation is for you when it comes to going for your run. Doing something like creating a great playlist to listen to when you’re running can encourage you to get out there, and it also helps to keep you going. Other people find that joining a running group or having a friend to go running with is the best way they can make sure they’re going to do it. Find out what the motivation is for you.
Take rest days
Taking rest days is part of a healthy training schedule. When you run, your body is working hard from the top down, with different muscles and organs performing different jobs. Exercising causes body tissues to break down, and rest days gives your body time to recover. While running will make you stronger overall, if you overwork your body, it won’t have time to restore itself, and you’re more likely to get injured.
Know it gets easier
Starting to run is not always as simple as you might think. You might find after a few minutes into your first run that it’s more difficult than you expected. You will find it tough the first few times you get out there, but if you stick with it, you’ll notice improvements each time.