Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise available to us on a daily basis. All you need is some comfortable clothing, a decent pair of running shoes and some outdoor space. It also absolutely free!! Some of the benefits of running include:
- It’s a weight bearing exercise which helps to build strong bones;
- It strengthens muscles, particularly around the knees;
- It’s great for heart health as it improves cardiovascular fitness;
- It burns energy and aids in maintaining a healthy weight;
- It releases feel good hormones which can instantly lift mood and aid in depression;
- It helps maintain fitness and prevent the metabolic diseases associated with the 21st century such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer;
- It helps to add years to your life.
Benefits aside the thought of running 5km can be very daunting to a person who has never run before and has not been doing other forms of fitness training. I always tell my clients to take one small step at a time and I usually take the first few steps with them to get them started. The key for a beginner is to gradually build stamina without incurring some of the injuries common to ramping up your exercise routine such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, which can be caused by training too hard and fast before your body has time to adjust. Here are my easy to follow steps to becoming a runner.
Start with walking! If you haven’t been exercising at all the best exercise for your body is a gentle start, which will increase stamina, improve cardiovascular fitness and ready your leg and core muscles for a greater challenge. If you want to stop here that’s fine too. Walking is a great way to maintain fitness and can be done anywhere.
OK – you have decided that you would like start running. My usual ‘step 2’ for a complete beginner is to run for 1 minute then walk for 2 minutes. This is very achievable and provides the runner with an indication of where they are starting from. They may feel that they can go further or they may feel that they might have to do 1-minute running with 3-4 minutes walking. It’s all a very personal thing and it’s much better to work within your own limitations to ensure a pain and stress free transition into longer distances. If you haven’t run at all it’s advisable not to head off for a bigger distance even if you feel fit enough to do so – you may pay for this decision with muscle soreness, shin splints or injury. Start steady and be patient – you’ll be running like a pro in no time.
Depending on the runner, my step 3 suggestion would normally progress to running for 2 minutes then walking for 1 minute and this will further progress to greater running durations compared to walking (3:1, 4:1 etc.). You will find that you are running the full 10 minutes in no time.
When you have hit that magic 10 minutes of running you can start increasing the duration. This can be done in 1-5 minute increments and don’t worry about putting a little walk in between some of the time blocks. I find it useful to run a regular route and use landmarks as goals to aim for. For example, the first run I may manage to run to lamp post one before I start walking so I aim for lamp post two on the next run with an ultimate goal of running past all of the lamp posts until I reach home! It’s also good to run with someone as a bit of friendly competition will egg you on.
So you’re comfortably up to 18 minutes running and you decide to sign up for a fun run or competitive race (depending on progress!). Here is a printable or saveable suggested training plan. Please remember to add in your cross training days (prevents overuse injuries) and your rest days (allows the body to repair).
The main thing to remember about running is to enjoy yourself, while steadily pushing yourself past your comfort zone. Enjoy the mental and physical benefits of this exercise and appreciate all that your amazing body can achieve. ENJOY!