This year I rediscovered my love of running after a two year break following an injury. I had to start my journey from scratch and relearn everything both physically and mentally. It’s been really hard and there were plenty of times on my first 10 runs where I really wanted to give up and quit. I didn’t though, I persevered and after four tough weeks I celebrated running my first continuous 5k.
Two months later I’m out running three or four times a week and I feel so much better for it!
So here is my bumper Beginner’s Guide To Running full of everything that I’ve learned over the past four months.
Well, I’ll be completely honest here: I love running, but I don’t love to run!
I get up early 3 or 4 times a week and run a 5k before breakfast, but I’m not the sort of person who glides along in a state of zen feeling at peace with the world, nor do I think I’ll ever be. Quite often I spend the majority of the run telling myself “it’s okay, it’s nearly over, you can stop soon, just a little bit more!”.
The magical part for me is the second that I pull up having completed my run. Despite having bitched and whined my way around, I suddenly get an uncontrollable urge to turn around do it all over again! Running is as much a mental workout as a physical one and I love the immense gratification of overcoming whatever my mind and body have thrown at me, because I know that it’s made me stronger, and I want more of that!
My aerobic fitness has vastly improved and I feel more content, both of which are helping me to sleep better.
In short running is hard and it’s painful, but it’s also exhilarating and addictive and rewarding.
So now that I’ve (hopefully!) persuaded you that running is a beautiful beast, let’s talk about what you need to get started!
Running isn’t an expensive activity long term, but there are a few items of clothing and accessories that I’ve found are worth investing in and would recommend that you think about before you get started.
Years ago when I first decided to take up running I wore a pair of casual everyday trainers from Nike. They weren’t proper running shoes, but I was trying to save a few quid and thought they’d be fine. They weren’t. A few weeks into my first attempt at a couch to 5k programme my ankles had swollen up and I was in agony. It took 3 weeks of rest from any physical exercise to get them back to normal and I was seriously worried at the time that I’d caused myself a long term injury.
Before running again I went to a specialist running shop first to have gait analysis done. I went to Advance Performance in Peterborough who were brilliant. They filmed my legs and feet as I ran on a treadmill and examined the video. I was diagnosed as over pronating, which means that my foot lands at an angle rather than distributing the weight evenly, causing a strain on my ankles. They fitted me to a pair of trainers that would correct this. The trainers cost me £110 but completely solved the problem and the same pair are still going strong, so if you spend money on one thing, I’d say trainers every time!
I developed horrendous blisters and bruised two of my toes when I first started running. (Sorry for the ickyness, but it’s true!). I now wear anti blister shock absorbing, sweat wicking running socks which help to keep my feet cushioned and dry.
Although I’m not particularly gifted up top, a shock absorbing sports bra is still a must! I find Marks and Spencers reasonably priced with a good selection of different styles – I love racerback ones best. I don’t pay extra for pretty designs because I wear a top over mine so it’s unlikely that anyone will ever see it properly!
The last thing you want when you’re running is to get all sweaty and find that your skin chafes against the fabric as you move, so I recommend choosing cooling, quicky-dry sweat wicking fabrics for the summer.
I have a couple of cheap pairs of running leggings from George that are still going strong despite frequent washing, however Musto kindly sent me a pair of their Spring Leggings* and they’ve instantly become my new favourites. They’ve got reflective stripes down each side to keep me visible to oncoming traffic and a handy zipped pocket which I find an absolute godsend. I used to have to carry my house key in my hand or wear a bumbag – ugh!
Musto’s High Summer Vest is another favourite because it’s super functional but has a lovely design which actually makes me feel stylish on my runs. I’m pear shaped and this has a longer mesh layer which skims over my hips and is really flattering. The material feels cool, almost silky to the touch and performs really well in hot muggy temperatures to keep me comfortable.
If it’s raining or very sunny I wear a lightweight rainproof jacket to shield me from the elements.
This all depends on what you prefer! You can run on tarmac, concrete, grass or go trail running in the woods, hills or mountains.
Personally I like the stability of solid flat ground so I run on a sturdy road out by the fields in my village, which also gives me a beautiful view! I mapped out my route online, just google ‘Map My Run’ or ‘Map My Route’ and you’ll find lots of helpful sites to get you started. I use the trees on the route to tell how far I’ve gone.
Parkrun.org.uk organises timed 5k runs all over the country so if you want an easy way to measure and time your runs then this is a good way to do it.
Beyond physical tiredness, the number one challenge for me has been getting my breathing under control. I’ve learned not to think too hard about it as that only makes it worse so I distract myself by listening to an audiobook.
I have an Ipod Mini which I clip to my top. If I’m engrossed in the story I soon forget about my breathing and it stabilises more naturally.
Note: If you listen to audiobooks or music just make sure that you can still hear what’s going on around you.
I always make sure I’ve got moisturised lips before a run too as my lips do get drier if I’m breathing heavily.
When you start running you might find that your shoulders hunch up and you clasp your hands into fists. If this happens shake out your arms and twiddle your fingers and relax those shoulders – it will help prevent a stiff neck and muscle strain, and your stride will improve too.
When you make your body work harder than it is used to it will protest, but a lot of this is your mind telling you that your body can’t do it, whilst your body is perfectly capable of doing more. By pushing past this your body will adapt and get stronger.
Don’t be frustrated if you can’t run far or fast to begin with, but every time you go for a run try and do a little bit more than the time before. This could be running for a minute longer before you have to walk, or adding an extra bit of distance, or speeding up slightly. Push yourself and ignore the voice telling you to stop.
When you go for a run it takes about 20 minutes for your body to fully adapt and ease into it. Until then your breathing might not come easy and your legs might ache. However get past that magic 20 minutes and your body will relax into a steady rhythm, so just keep going!
Stitches are a pain, but you can usually run through them. Don’t let stitches bring you to a stop as all this will do is make it more painful when you have to start running again. Instead, slow down a pace and take big deep breaths that inflate your stomach. Imagine that the oxygen travelling to the painful area and soothing it. Your body WILL be able to handle it, it’s only your mind telling you that it can’t. It WILL go away, just keep going.
Unless you’re running endurance length routes you don’t need to eat more to compensate for your runs. On average you’ll burn between 260 and 310 calories for a 5k run – so think before you congratulate yourself with a 700 calorie Macdonalds feast!
Top: Musto High Summer Vest Top*
Leggings: Musto Summer Sprint Leggings*
Sports Bra: Marks and Spencer High Impact Crop Top Style (similar here)
Socks: Karrimor Dri-Run Ladies Sports Socks
Waterproof Jacket: Sports Direct (no longer available)
Trainers: Mizuno (similar style here)
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my Beginner’s Guide to Running. It’s such a big subject that I’m sure that there’s lots of other things that I could have talked about, so if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help if I can!
Now I’m off for a run… who’s with me???