A Beginners’ Guide to Running

Shaun Roberts

So you want to get into road running, eh? Well you won’t find anything useful in here, as I haven’t written it yet – check back soon.

Oh, alright, just to get you started, if you’re that keen:

  • Don’t go out in the old pair of Dunlop Green Flash squash shoes you last used ten years ago – you’ll feel all sorts of unpleasantness in your joints that you can do without at this stage. Get down to a running shop and ask them to check out your feet and recommend a half-decent pair of road running shoes.
  • Get out in the open, nowhere near a main road, somewhere really pleasant, and jog gently for as long as you feel like. Then walk a little – after getting your breath back, try jogging again.
  • Don’t go off hell-for-leather as if doing a hundred-metre sprint like when you last ran at school. You should be able to go at a pace where you could hold a conversation.
  • If it seems too difficult, you’re still going too fast – slowwwwwwwwww down. Take walking breaks when you need to, then see if you can get going again.
  • If it seems too easy – excellent! Keep going …
  • Try and work up to 20 minutes continuous running. This is a bit of a landmark – now you know you can do it. If you can work towards doing this three times a week, you’re on your way. Making running a habit is the key here.

Having got this far, here are a few things you might now want to try:

  • After doing 20 minutes regularly for a while, you may be surprised at how easy it is to go for just a little longer – 25 minutes one day, 30 on another. Some days will seem easier than others, but when it’s going well, try to keep going for a bit longer. See if you can work up to three 30-minute runs.
  • You may have quite sensibly been avoiding hills! When you’re feeling strong, try a hillier route for a change. Two possibilities here: you can either take it really steady up them, shortening the stride, but ideally trying to keep the cadence the same; or else just attack the things – push hard to the top, getting completely out of breath. You’ll need to recover at the top, but you’ll end up with more confidence on hills, and stronger quads, after doing this a few times.
  • If you’ve been keeping to pavements and roads so far, why not try country paths, trails and cycleways? They’ll give a change of scene, it’ll be easier on the legs, and can get you out and about into areas you won’t yet have run in.
  • When you’ve built up a bit of confidence, instead of using the same pace for every run, once a week, or when you’re feeling strong, try pushing it bit harder over one of your regular routes. Use the first ten minutes or so to warm up, then push harder than usual for a mile or two, allowing some time at the end to cool down and end up relaxed and not out of breath. You’ll feel a bit outside your comfort zone at first, but the more often you try this sort of thing, the easier it gets. Honest.
  • Similar idea, but instead of going faster, go longer. Many runners feel the benefit of a weekly “long run”, where long means “long for you”. If you’ve been doing, say, three-milers, at the weekend try and work towards doing a four-miler, then a five-miler. Taking it a stage at a time, you’ll be surprised at the distance you can manage. Keep the pace nice and easy – don’t try to increase pace and distance at the same time.
  • It won’t be long before the idea of entering a race enters your mind. Make it something special, something like a “Race for Life” event, or similar, where the atmosphere will be really positive, and there’ll be plenty of other novice runners about, indeed non-runners. Then you won’t be worried about coming in last, and can just enjoy the run, ideally with a friend or two. You know the difference between a jogger and a runner? An entry form! For a taste of the races popular with Striders, take a look here.

All for now – all submissions on beginning running gratefully received!

Shaun.