As this unprecedented crisis has led to a surge of people no doubt new to running, I thought I’d write a post with my top tips for new runners.
One positive about the current lock-down in the UK, is that we can still get outside in the fresh air for one bit of exercise each day. This has led to an increase in people running outside, especially as the gyms are now closed and the weather is getting better.
I have been running for about 5 years now, and I have always found it very beneficial for managing anxiety and basically making me feel better about everything, which is much needed right now.
During lock-down, I haven’t really been doing anything different from usual in terms of my running. I’ve been running 3-4 times a week, which I do anyway. The only difference is that I can’t run with my run club friends and I’ve been doing shorter and more socially isolated route in a bid to avoid people.
If you’ve recently started running and would like to know my top 10 tips for new runners? Read on 🙂
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1. Build up Slowly
If you are not used to running, then it’s important to build it up slowly, and to mix in walking with your running.
2. Pace Yourself!
Linked to the above point, don’t try to go too fast, or too far, too soon. It’s easy to get carried away when you first start running and try to push yourself. If you do this, you WILL risk injury. This happened to me! The best thing to do is to start slow and build up your miles gradually, your pace/distance doesn’t matter.
There are also many running playlists on Spotify, which you can use to help to pace your running. I love running to music as it helps to keep me going! I’ve recently invested in some Aftershokz headphones which I thoroughly recommend, as you can listen to music whilst still hearing everything around you.
3. Strength Training
It’s important to complement your running with strength training such as Yoga, Pilates, kettle bell or dumbbell exercises. I try to do 2-3 strength sessions a week. While in lock-down, this consists mainly of kettle bell exercises on YouTube (I’ve been doing the Joe Wicks kettle bell workouts). Before lock-down, I did Les Mills BodyPump at the gym once or twice a week.
Strength training is important to prevent injury – as running involves many repetitive movements. If your muscles are not strong (or if you have muscle imbalances like myself due to my scoliosis) then you are more prone to injury.
Strength training can, over time, make you a faster and stronger runner. Take a look here at some strength training exercises for runners.
4. Make sure you warm up and cool down
Again, this is important for injury prevention and to make running more enjoyable overall.
One of the main things I have learnt on this topic since joining my running club, is that you should not do static stretches before a run. Static stretches (such as stretching your calf by leaning against a wall for example) can actually cause an injury as you are stretching cold muscles by doing this.
The best way to warm up before a run is to do dynamic movements such as leg swings and lunges. I personally like to warm up by walking for about half a mile, or by doing a slow jog before the main run. I find if I spend the first few minutes walking before a run, my legs feel less tight and I can get into the swing of the run easier, rather than spending the first mile struggling.
Cool down stretches are also important. I enjoy doing yoga straight after a run – check out Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube – she has several videos aimed at runners, including post run Yoga.
5. Invest in some decent trainers
If you are new to running, I probably wouldn’t advise spending hundreds of pounds on some fancy new trainers. However, it is important to wear actual running trainers when you run, not just any old trainers or pumps.
This is important again, to prevent injury and improve your performance. If you are serious about running and plan to do a lot of it, then I would advise getting a gait analysis done. You can get this done at most running shops or online via the Sportsshoes website – which will be preferable in the current circumstances.
Once you have had a gait analysis done, you can be sure that the trainers you run in are right for you and therefore less likely to cause discomfort or injury later down the line.
6. Join a running club
I know at the moment this is rather difficult due to social isolation. But, when lock-down is over, joining a run club and running with others can do wonders for motivation. This is what I did several years ago and it’s the best thing I ever did for my running. Not only did I meet loads of people and made lots of friends, but I learnt so much and my running and my confidence has improved immensely as a result.
With things as they are at the moment, instead of joining a physical running club, there are many virtual running clubs you can join with online communities to keep you going. One example is the Lonely Goat Running Club, who have a very active online community. There are also many online running coaches that can help you with motivation and achieving your running goals.
That being said, there is also a lot to be said for running alone, which can be good for your mental health and anxiety levels. For me, running alone is a chance to be alone with my thoughts and escape everything, which I do enjoy now and again.
7. Remember to REST
Rest days are as important as running days, and, as a new runner even more so. It’s important to take days off in between the days you run to let your body recover. On your rest days, you could do something different to running like walking or cycling. I like to use these days to do some Yoga, to help my muscles stretch and recover ready for the next run!
8. Mix up your routes
Again, I know this is a bit more difficult at the moment with lock-down and all BUT I have discovered many new (and socially isolated) routes close to home, that I didn’t know existed until the last couple of weeks.
I would recommend using a route planner before you go out to plan your route. I like to use Just Draw on my mobile, or Strava route builder. Mixing up the routes a bit can help you to explore the local area and keep things interesting, which helps with motivation.
9. Don’t eat too close to a start of a run
So this one is different for everyone and it’s something you need to experiment with as you get used to running. But what I found was, when I first started running, I got stitch a lot. I think for me, this was from eating too close to my run.
What I tend to do now, is eat a light meal about 1 and a half to 2 hours before a run and this seems to work for me. If my run is in the morning, then foods like porridge or a bagel and a banana are good for me. Sometimes I have a snack about 30 minutes before a run, like a cereal bar or piece of fruit.
Avoid running after heavy or greasy meals like a fry up or takeaway curry as things like this can upset your stomach and make running uncomfortable to say the least.
10. Invest in a GPS running watch
If you think running is something you’ll continue to do going forwards, it’s definitely worth investing in a running watch.
I wouldn’t say you need one right away, as to start with, you could use apps on your phone until you know that running is definitely for you. I say this, as running watches can be expensive. However, once you get into running, having a running watch with GPS can make things so much easier.
I have a Garmin Forerunner 235 and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought for my running. It just makes things easier as you can see your pace and heart rate at a glance and it automatically syncs to your phone and apps like Strava.
I would recommend joining Strava to track your runs, as this can help to monitor your progress, as well as joining challenges and connecting with others for a bit of motivation!
So, there you have it. These are my top tips for new runners. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have built up knowledge over time, from my own experiences and from my running group. If you have your own tips, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
And as always, if you have any health problems, ALWAYS check with your doctor before starting running. I have built up my running gradually over a number of years.
Stay safe and keep on moving!
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I had scoliosis surgery in 2010 and blog about my experiences living with scoliosis. My aim is to raise awareness of scoliosis and help and inspire others with the condition.