Like most people starting out in this sport, I couldn’t run more than 500m without stopping. And then after that first 500m I could only manage bursts of 250m at a time before I had to stop again and reach for the oxygen tank.
I mean, how hard could it be? I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink too much and I was in the athletics and cross country squads at school. And if my memory serves me correctly we used to run 5km at lunch time and still have the time to eat lunch and the energy to play “kill the man with the ball”. Ok, ok I’ll admit that it may have been nearly three decades ago. Clearly the phrase “use it or lose it” was based on sound research.
So where does one begin when the longest you’ve run in over 28 years is from the pub to the bus stop after a big night out with workmates? One word comes to mind …. slowly. If you think you can just recreate your past glories within a few weeks of training you’re going to be very disappointed. However, on the flip side, you will be amazed at how fast you can progress once you take that first step.
My tips for getting started are:
1. Get medical clearance
Go for a quick trip to your Dr and chat about what you’re planning on doing. This is especially important if you’ve been inactive for a period of time or over 40 years of age. From a personal experience I’ve suffered from heart palpitations for many years now. This is something I had to triple check when I started increasing my workload.
2. Buy some good shoes
The importance of getting a good pair of running shoes can’t be overemphasised. There are so many different types of shoes on the market, so if you want to avoid injury I would recommend going to a reputable runners store and finding a pair that’s right for you. If you can, get them to watch you run in a pair. But don’t think you need to take out second mortgage and buy the very latest model. I generally look for last year’s model that stores are selling for a large discount to make way for the new one with extra blah and different blah. Whatever! Two months ago they would have been selling the better blahs and the improved blahs of the old model.
3. Learn how to run
This may sound condescending, but there really is a right way and a wrong way to run. I found this out the hard way as I experienced weeks and weeks of having to ice my knees after a 5km run. As a start, I’d suggest Googling and Youtubing “forefoot running”. Check out these cool drills for Forefoot Running.
Main Points to Remember:
- Lean forward slightly from the ankles not the hips
- Land on the middle to front part of your foot, not the heel
- Land with a slightly bent knee
- Weight over your front foot
- High cadence – 180 steps per minute
- Arms high and tucked in (as if you’re holding a marble in the crease of your elbow when in the running position – you can actually practice with a rock)
4. Start slowly, have a plan and stick to it.
Don’t be in a hurry. You could even start by doing some quick walking sessions to get the heart rate up and get used to regular exercise. If you jump online you’ll find heaps of beginner to 5k running programs. I would suggest finding one that starts off slowly, includes plenty of rest days and provides very specific guidance over at least an 8 week period. Here’s an example of a beginner running plan.
Just remember that if it takes longer than 8 weeks, that’s ok too. And if you need to repeat a few sessions along the way, then do so.
Like all sports you’ll have your good days and your bad days. There will be days where you feel like you’re running through soup. Don’t despair, every runner experiences days like these. Just remember, you got out there, and you did it!
6. Run with other like minded athletes
It’s so much easier to exercise with a friend and get out of bed when you know that someone else is relying on you to turn up. Consider joining a running group or getting a friend to start running with you. Find your nearest Parkrun. Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs all around the world. They are open to everyone, free, safe, no pressure and they welcome all ages and abilities. This is where I did my first 5km without stopping 2 ½ years ago.
7. Make the time
Block out your calendar, take a longer lunch break, wake up a little earlier (which means you may need to go to bed a little earlier), just do whatever you need to do to make sure you allocate the time to run. When you first start it takes discipline but before you know it, exercise becomes a habit.
8. Set yourself a challenge
Book and pay for a future event. Nothing keeps you on track like a stretch target and of course, something you’ve paid for. Speaking from experience, this even works when you need a little motivation to get up and go training through the middle of winter. I pay for my swim squad a month in advance. That way, I have to go to ensure I get my monies worth.
Just give it a go. Everyone has to start somewhere and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in a small space of time if you give it a crack.
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