Health: Out of the blocks to find out if you were born to run

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Inspired by the Marathon? Katie Baldwin has tips on taking up running.

Running is more popular than ever, but it can be daunting for a beginner.

So, here are some expert tips for putting your best foot forwards.

EASY DOES IT

“The cardinal rule of a new runner is ‘be patient’,” says Lee Matthews, head of fitness at Fitness First.

“Your body needs time to adapt to and it may be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll see results fairly quickly.

“Newcomers should follow these three rules: run more slowly than you think you should, don’t run as far as you think you should, and run more often than you think you should.

“If you start too far and too fast, you’ll wind up burned out at best, injured at worst.”

Simon Cabot, a senior physiotherapist at Nuffield Health, echoes Matthews’s advice: “It’s always important to take training slowly, 90 per cent of the injuries I see are related to overtraining and doing too much too soon.”

ALL IN THE TECHNIQUE

Nobody teaches us how to tear around the playground when we’re little, but that doesn’t mean we’re all able to run ‘properly’ as adults.

The team at Fitness First advises not to run ‘heels first’ – avoid striking the pavement with your heels, as this can contribute to back and knee pain. Landing on your forefoot instead will allow your muscles to catch your weight and reduce impact on joints.

Watch your stance, too. “Leaping forward and striding too far is inefficient and will drain energy fast,” says Matthews. “Make sure you stand tall and lean slightly forward, so when you feel like you’re going to fall, step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride. Less motion also means less wear and tear on the joints.”

DON’T SKIP THE WARM-UP

“Warming up can increase performance by up to 17 per cent,” says Matthews. “Keep your stretching dynamic [with movement], as static stretches can make your joints unstable.”

Plus, your muscles and joints will be in motion when you’re running, so it helps to train them this way. Squats and lunges are good examples.

MIND OVER MATTER

Running can be as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. But persevering can bring great rewards, as Alexandra Heminsley, author of Running Like A Girl, discovered.

“You want to start running. You watch the London Marathon, see the others in the park with their fancy watches and swishing ponytails. You decide it’s not for you after all – it’s a sport for ‘other people’,” she says.

“We’ve all been there. 
But what’s important to remember about getting started is that every single step is worth it.

“Whether you start with trying to stay running for five minutes or commit to day one of a marathon training schedule, you’ll never regret a run. It’s the fastest way to flood your body with endorphins, and to feel the first seeds of a new confidence growing inside you.

“The balance of time spent feeling a bit rubbish (sweating, anxious, burning legs and lungs) is so massively outweighed by the time you spend feeling brilliant (shinier skin, swelling pride, proper hunger), that you can’t help but win.”

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