In the last couple of weeks, the ballot places have been issued for the London Marathon, but an additional 50,000 places for the Virtual London Marathon have also gone out. Did you get swept up in the excitement, sign up and now wonder what you’re in for?! We caught up with Running Coach Hannah Warne for her top tips on starting out on your running journey.
5 simple steps that will revolutionise your approach to running Couch to 5k… and beyond
New year is traditionally the time people start to think about getting fit… new year, new you… sound familiar? January has now passed, and actually, in my experience, January isn’t always the best time for getting started anyway. You don’t need a new year to start. Every day is a new start. Every week is a new start. There’s no time like the present.
It’s well publicised how running is good for your mental health as well as physical but it can be hard to actually get going. These 5 simple steps will help you approach running with a whole new attitude. Let’s get started.
Find a friend
This is my top tip! As you begin a fitness journey it’s great to have someone to share the journey with. It could be a friend, colleague, fellow school Mum, a neighbour or perhaps even someone you know who already runs and has offered to take you out before (please make sure you keep within current government guidelines on the number of people you can exercise with)! Trust me, once you’re fit and running miles, it is a lot harder to find someone who’ll want to join you!
Set aside some time each week together to run. Making the commitment to go with someone else gives you both accountability and you’re less likely to back out. After all, you don’t want to let the other person down! It’s too wet, it’s too cold, it’s too dark, I don’t feel like it…. These excuses are a lot harder to get away with if you’ve promised someone else you’ll go.
Do you have a competitive nature? A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, but make sure your friend is of the same mindset – you don’t want to put them off. If they’re not outwardly competitive, keep it in and celebrate those victories at home…
If you can’t find a friend who would like to run, look for a club near you. Most, if not all, will offer some form of couch to 5k program. A coach led club will also teach you to run correctly from the off (you thought there was a wrong way to run?! That’s a whole other blog post…).
Running with someone else is a great way to find new friends or solidify an existing friendship. Running friends make the best of friends! You’ll talk about things you never thought you’d ever talk about!!
Start Slow and Breathe
A common mistake when starting out is to go too fast. If you can’t chat to the friend you brought with you then slow down. And don’t forget to breathe.
Don’t forget to breathe?! Surely everyone knows how to breathe?! Yes, but it’s easy to forget when you run. Have you ever listened to a child when they run? They huff and puff and invariably end up with a stitch. You don’t want this to be you so spend some time and focus on your breathing. In for 2 steps, out for 2 steps. Or in for 2 and out for 3. Find a pattern that works for you (bonus points if you can breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, but don’t worry if you can’t). Most importantly, let your breath flow and DON’T HOLD IT!
Don’t worry if you feel like you could walk faster than you end up running. That’s not the point of the exercise and will soon be irrelevant anyway.
It’s important to start slowly to allow your whole body to adapt to running. Your musculoskeletal system needs time to adapt, as well as your lungs. Too much too soon and you could risk injury (shin splints and plantar fasciitis are common results from just this).
Find an app
There are a whole host of apps out there, free and paid for. Pick one, download it and allow it to guide you when you’re out.
Some popular apps include:
- One You Couch to 5K by the NHS. Arguably the most popular and NHS approved! You can choose your own coach, play your own music in the background and it has plenty of advice and tips and tricks. Plus, it’s free!
- C25K by Zen Labs. This app can either access your own music or for a fee you can buy in to their music which will play between the alerts for running/walking.
- Zombies! Run! Not so specific to a C25K journey, but you play the part of an apocalypse survivor, recruited by a team to help find supplies. Create your own missions. If you’re chased by zombies, run faster! In-app purchases available after the basic levels are completed.
Most apps suggest 3 runs a week and despite their differences, the overall sessions vary very little. Expect to go out 3 times a week for approx. 30 minutes.
Don’t be tempted to skip a rest day – they are vital!
All programs have rest days. Do not be tempted to miss them! These are among the most important. When you run you cause microscopic tissue tears. Rest days are when the recovery happens and it’s the recovered tissue that’s stronger. If you don’t allow that to happen, that’s when injury occurs.
Be kind to yourself. Life happens, things get in the way. If you need to repeat a week, that’s ok.
If you really can’t find an app that suits you, why not look for a running coach near you?
There’s no such thing as bad weather
OK, so there is such a thing as bad weather, but trust me when I tell you; A rainy run is one of the best runs you will ever have! As for anything else, if it’s;
- Cold? Layer up
- Windy? Layer up
- Raining? Waterproof jacket if it’s cold. If it’s not, get wet! Skin dries quicker than clothing.
- Hot? Hydrate and wear a peaked cap or visor.
Embrace the weather and get out there. One day you might want to take part in an event so it’s important to train in all weather’s so you’re prepared!
The correct kit is important.
Joking aside, you do need to dress appropriately for the weather, but what other kit do you need?
Layers on top is sensible. Depending on the weather outside, you want to consider a sports vest, long sleeve top and lightweight jacket. When you warm up, you can tie the long–sleeved tops around your middle. And ladies. Invest in a decent sports bra, even if you consider yourself not particularly ‘blessed’!
A well–fitting pair of leggings is a MUST. You don’t want to spend your run pulling up a pair that keep falling down, or being uncomfortable. I have tried many many brands and can honestly say that Ruby Fury leggings are the best fitting and most comfortable you’ll find! With most brands, if you find they start to roll at the waist, it’s time to size down!
Wear the right shoes. Find and independent store
and try as many pairs as you can.
You wouldn’t set off to walk the dog in a pair of high heels, and the same goes for running. The right shoes are important, but I won’t recommend a brand. Shoes are very personal and what works for one person does not for another.
The advice I always give, is to find a store (independent if possible) where you can get a proper analysis. Trying to figure out for yourself what to buy online can be a complete minefield! Additionally, in-store, you can try as many pairs as possible and find what suits you best.
It’s worth considering that an independent store, whilst possibly slightly more expensive, will have considerably more knowledge and expertise to help you. That is what you’re paying for. Plus, they’re more likely to give you a decent follow-up service. I.e. in the event you did have an issue with your shoes, they will help you and may exchange for a different shoe if appropriate. This is less the case in a chain branch.
That’s the kit sorted, what else do we need to know?
Running is a mental sport
What people tend not to realise at the start is that running is as much, if not more, a mental sport than a physical one.
Your body is capable of anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.
It’s so easy to give in to the little voice in your head that tells you “you can’t do this”, “it’s too hard”, “it hurts”, “the hill is too steep”, “you can walk faster”…. But you are stronger than that voice. You can learn to ignore it and there are lots of tricks you can use. How about;
- I’ll just go to the next tree/lamppost/signpost/marker
- Count to 10 in a foreign language (in time with your breathing)
- Recite the phonetic alphabet (as above)
Remember the reason you wanted to start running in the first place.
The first 10 minutes is the toughest.
Train yourself to get past that and you can do anything!
There is a reason the first 10 minutes of all exercise is the hardest. Your body is warming up and beginning to work hard. It’s working out and flushing out all the toxins in your body. It’s called the ‘toxic 10’. Get past that and the rest of your session will be amazing!
If you struggle with boredom, think about music, or even an audiobook or podcast. You might even be able to use the time to learn a foreign language!
Celebrate all the small victories. Whether it’s that you’ve just run for 1 minute, 1 mile or more, or even that you made it out of the door in the first place, celebrate! Show yourself and the world that you can do this! Celebrate with the friend you took with you and keep encouraging each other!
My hope is now you have some easy to achieve tricks up your sleeve, you’ll apply them the very next time you want to give running a try. By following these tips;
- Running with a friend
- Starting slowly and practising your breathing
- Using an app. If the first one you chose didn’t work, pick another – there are plenty to choose from
- Be comfortable. Wear well fitting and appropriate clothing. Buy some new kit and give yourself the additional motivation to get out there!
- Remembering your motivation, and
- Train your brain as well and your body
You’ll be well on your way.
So treat yourself to some fabulous new leggings and talk yourself (and your friend!) into this and not out of it! Go, get out of the door and out for that run, because actually, you can!