The best way to start running – it’s not just about the exercise

I remember years ago I was envious of those people who could just get up and go out for a run. How did they do this? I was a fairly fast runner at school but any distance left me feeling shocking, out of breath and sick. Several times I attempted to get into running in my twenties and failed miserably. It was just so exhausting and uncomfortable, and I never seemed to be able to increase my distance. I just didn’t know the best way to start running.

After I had my kids in my mid thirties I tried the running thing again with a little more success. Slow and steady seemed to be the key. If I ran at a very slow pace I could run for around 6 miles. I did however start to get cramps in my calves and back pain which would stop me running for a few weeks and then I’d have to retrain all over again. I carried on like this for several years never participating in any events just running for “fun”.

In 2013, I moved to Perth WA. The weather was fabulous all year round and for me great for running bar a few extremely hot days. I started to run more frequently and even entered the HBF 12k. I completed this run and loved it. The atmosphere was amazing and I loved every minute of it. I ran again the following year and then again the year after that. This year I completed the Half Marathon my longest run to date. But how do you get there?

How to start……

So I am not a running expert. I am someone that tried and failed several times before getting to a point where I can run and enjoy it!

Start slow, most people will set off at a pace that they just cannot sustain. Try half a km then walk fast pace for half a km. Repeat this a couple of times. Listen to your body and see how your muscles react the next day. Don’t rush. Run 2-3 times a week  and try flat and hills to increase your fitness. You will find numerous running guides on the internet but remember these are just guides we are all different. A physio once told me not to increase more than 10% in total distance each week. This is a good guide generally if you want to limit your chances of injury.

If you have existing joint problems seek the advice of a physio. They are fantastic at giving exercises to strengthen muscles so that you protect your joints. No physio has ever tried to put me off running by saying its bad for your back or knees in fact they have said the opposite. Weight bearing strengthens muscles and joints if done in the correct way. Even if you don’t have injuries it’s a good idea to see a physio as the exercises they give you will prevent future bad habits or injuries

The mind game – increasing your distance

So i’ve touched on the physical elements of running, but it’s so much more than that. Before I started running I looked at it purely as a form of exercise. What I didn’t take into account was the mental strength and discipline needed to complete a run. When you start out on say a 5k run you set that distance firmly in your mind without consciously thinking about it. You will find that you set your pace for a 5k run differently from how you start out on a 10k run. You will also find that you become tired towards the end of your 5ks leaving you thinking “how on earth can I run further than this”?

This was where I became stuck in my early attempts at running and increasing distance. I would start my run thinking well if I feel OK at 6 miles I’ll increase to 7. Not surprisingly I never got there.

You need to set your intention before your run. Today I am running 10k (providing you are trained to do this). The furthest you’ve run before is 8k. So you need to start out slowly and focus on the distance you want to achieve. Recently I’ve found it helpful to listen to music and not constantly look at my running app. Monitor how you feel and adjust your pace so that it’s comfortable for you. When running a new distance it’s not about time it’s about endurance and completing the run. Time can be improved on once you have mastered the longer distances. 

One major tip is never plan a run that goes past your front door. Believe me you will not complete it you will find every excuse in the book as to why you should finish and go home.

Why do we do it?

The benefits of running are huge. Other than a decent pair of running shoes the cost is very low and you can do it anywhere. Running creates a strong mind. It can help relieve stress and gives that adrenalin somewhere to go and be used for. It clears your mind when you physically push yourself as your mind cannot focus on the irriating problems you may have encountered that day. Physically it improves your cardiovascular system and builds and strengthens muscles and bones. It tests endurance, creates a positive mindset and gives you a huge sense of achievement. There is always room for improvement so it’s a constant challenge. It can be great socially as well. There are numerous running groups you can join with like-minded people.

Like walking running can also help relieve anxiety and depression. It’s a great way to get out enjoy our surroundings and just breathe. Practically anyone can do it so don’t think because you’ve tried it before that running isn’t for you, give it a go.

Just decide

Like most things we do in life we just have to decide. Change is never easy but it’s so rewarding. So get up, make a plan and enjoy the satisfaction of starting something new and challenging.

As always I wish you the best of luck and will be happy to offer any support.

Best wishes

Deb x