I get lots of questions about running — lots of how to start, how to get back into it, and how to just like it — so I thought it would be helpful to jot down some tips in a blog post for all you newbie runners, and all those wanting to get back into it after a break as well. Before I get into it, I just want to stress, I’m really not a running expert. Nor do I consider myself to be particularly that great at running. Yes, yes I’ve done a few marathons and a dozen half marathons, but no, I don’t run fast, I’m not competitive at all, I (often) get days where I think I just can’t be arsed to go out, and also still have some of those runs that feel so tough I just stop and admit defeat. Just because I keep signing up for more races or drag my arse out in winter doesn’t mean I find it easy. But one day, I promise, something just clicks and you go from dreading it to needing it in your life.
What I’m trying to say is I’m no pro but yes I do love running. I love how it makes you feel, how your emotions change before (dread), after and during, and how much it clears your head without you really even realising. So here are my top tips for you for getting started and (hopefully) enjoying running…
So my best and biggest tip for newbie runners is slow down. Slow it right down. If you’re finding it super tough and getting very out of breath, you’re probably running way too fast — and there’s no need to run fast. Honestly, I never ever run fast. I hate it! I hate feeling like my chest is going to burst, so my advice first and foremost would be just slow it right down, settle in, and plod on. I know some people think “run fast so then it’s over faster”, but if you’re just wishing it over, then you’re never going to enjoy it, and that’s where we’re trying to get to!
When I first started running (years ago, just when I met Ed!) I began by running for a minute, walking for a minute, etc etc, for about 15 minutes or so in total. I’m pretty sure this is how apps like Couch to 5km build it up too and I do think it’s a great way to make steady, bearable progress that you want to keep working at, rather than just belting out 5km, hating it, and never ever going again. Run, walk, run, walk… Gradually reduce the walking segments and run for slightly longer each time, and soon enough…you’re just running!
Though I tend to do it a lot through convenience, I don’t really like running around a park. I much prefer to run to somewhere: to work for example, or to the River Thames and back. You’ll soon find that so much of running is mental, not physical, and the way I’m wired, I really can’t do mindless laps. Instead, up your mileage by running to somewhere. Run to the supermarket. Run to the office. Run to your mates house to wave hi from the pavement.
I like to listen to podcasts when I’m running. They’re a helpful way to get you to zone out and just settle into finding your groove a bit easier. You end up focusing more on the podcast than the running and that’s usually a good thing! You’ll find you can go further and you’ll think less about how far you’ve gone and how far you’ve got left to go, and you won’t end up changing your tempo so much or stopping to change tracks like you do with music. Give it a go and let me know how you find it — my faves are Table Manners, How I Built This, The High Low and HOSTEing by Laura Jackson.
I wince when I see people running holding a phone in their hand. It’s SO uncomfortable, I don’t know how people can bear it. I started out running by just shoving my phone down my sports bra. It broke from sweat so don’t do that. Do yourself a favour and get yourself an armband or better yet a running belt. I invested in this running belt a couple years back and use it for quick laps of the block and marathons too. I can’t bear being uncomfortable running.
Lots of people tell me they started running, pelted out 7km, then got really, really sore shins/ calves/ knees and never went again. Lesson learnt is don’t be overly ambitious! Ease yourself in. Just ‘cos you ran a half marathon 6 years ago doesn’t mean you should jump back in with 10km. Ease yourself in with 1-2kms. If that feels good, work your way up to 5km and see how that’s feeling. If you go too far or too fast too soon, you risk shin splints. And trust me, you don’t want those.
Don’t forget to warm up and stretch down after. However long or short you went, it’s important to avoid injuries, especially if you’re new to running. Plus, it will mean you ache less too! There are heaps of stretching tutorials online — try these and hold each stretch for 15 seconds.