The first rule of running is...

Opinions – everyone’s got one. Warm up, cool down, dream big... advice for the novice runner is endless. But if you are about to hit the road for the first time then we have some tips you really should adhere to

Warm up properly

New runners in particular are susceptible to injury and a short warm-up routine will ensure your muscles are prepared for what’s ahead. You must always prepare the body for the weight-bearing forces it will undertake. In doing so, you can prevent injuries, raise core body temperature and increase performance. The following routine will use the same large muscle groups and movement routines that you will replicate when you run: Forward facing leg swingsSwing a straight leg backwards and forwards, progressively building up the range of movement, keeping the hips facing forwards while you remain supported on your opposite leg with a slight bend at the knee. Repeat ten to 15 times on each leg. Lunges with overhead arm swings Starting with your feet hip-width apart, lunge forwards onto the front foot with a bend of 90 degrees at the knee in both legs. Simultaneously drive your arms upwards, push back strongly from the front foot while keeping the rear foot in contact with the ground throughout. Return to the start position and repeat ten to 15 times on each leg. Squats with overhead arm swingsSquat down by bending the ankles, knees and hips while keeping your chest lifted, with a neutral spine. Swing your arms down and back as you descend into the squat, and as you return upwards drive the arms above the head. Repeat ten to 15 times. Posterior lunge with overhead reach Starting with the feet hip-width apart, take a small step backwards while reaching both arms over your head, making sure the rear heel becomes planted into the ground. Push strongly off the rear leg and return to the start position. Repeat ten to 15 times. Finally, a gentle and progressive build in pace during the first five minutes of your run will prepare the body for running at full speed for the rest of your session. Simon Ward, head of personal training, Liberté Fitness

Tailor your plan to meet your goal

Training works wonders only when tailor-made to the individual. Running goals should be split into performance and process goals. For example, performance goals may be to achieve a certain time or distance, whereas process goals may be to complete a long run twice a week. Having both types of goals helps to turn your intentions into reality. Most of us have a mix of running goals. This is a good thing. Having varied goals means you will do different types of training, so you reduce the risk of getting injured, shock your heart, lungs and muscles into working harder, and your training remains mentally stimulating. Dan Roberts, personal trainer

Easy does it

Once you have made the decision to start running, the one golden rule is consistency. It is much better to be running twice a week, six weeks into your training programme, rather than running six times in the first week only to find yourself injured after the second week. Look to try and increase only one component of the running at a time, so concentrate on how long you can run for rather than how fast you can run, and don’t try to increase this every time you run. Aiming for a 10 per cent increase in running time each three to four runs is probably a realistic goal. Differentiating between muscle soreness and strains can be difficult, but as a rule of thumb, if you are getting pain in your joints or tendons (the part of the tissue that connects the muscle to the bone) then you need to consult a sports physician or physiotherapist before things go wrong. A simple muscle strain can take three weeks to heal, but tendonitis (now called a tendinopathy) can take three months. So start slow and build up even more slowly, watching for pains that come on while running or that last for more than 24 hours. Simon Fairthorne, Physiotherapist at Bupa Sports Medicine Centre of Excellence, London

Know your limits

The best way to start running is to determine the distance of your goal (5K, 10K, even just completing a circuit around the local lake). Now break this up into smaller goals. We’ll use the 10K as an example. An overall goal of 10K equals ten little goals; the first one being the 1K mark – run, walk, even crawl it. Complete it at a pace to suit your fitness level and make sure you time it. You have now set yourself your first marker. Next time you complete the distance, try to beat your previous time. Keep going with this until you feel the first ‘hurdle’ has started to become easy. Now it’s time to move on to goal two – 2K. The stumbling block with your second goal can often be that you have found your comfortable running pace in goal one. Slow the pace back down again, complete the second hurdle, set yourself a new marker time and beat it consistently. Once you feel you can move onto the next goal, do so and start again. In no time you will have reached your overall goal and done so at a comfortable and safe pace. Ian Foran, TLF Fitness Ltd

Know your fuel

Before any run or training session, you need to have the right fuel in the engine. In endurance sport, lack of carbohydrate is the limiting factor, so you need to address your carbohydrate intake prior to running. Protein and carbohydrate have a key role to play in recovery and adaptation to exercise. During running, in particular on runs of more than 60 minutes, taking on board fuel, in the form of an energy drink or gel, and remaining hydrated using a scientifically designed hydration or combined energy/hydration drink, is important. Making sure your hydration status is maintained or returned to normal after any run is also very important, along with taking on board protein/carbohydrate to improve adaptation to exercise. Correctly formulated recovery drinks are also more likely to contain a good source of glutamine, which will help with your immune function and keep you healthy. The immune function does become suppressed when exercising and if you’re new to running or exercise, it could be an issue and prevent you from continuing. It’s important to look after your immune function and reduce the risk of illness or infection. Below are some of the critical nutritional factors for determining sports performance through hydration and energy supply:Do
  • Carb up for training and events, and take carbs on board during longer runs.
  • Remain hydrated before and during training and racing
  • Re-fuel, ideally within 20 minutes of exercise. with a correct balance of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Have a good, balanced and healthy diet, including oily fish and fruit and veg.
  • Use correctly formulated energy, hydration and recovery drinks, bars and gels.
  • Run on empty – fuel up two to four hours before your run or training session.
  • Run dehydrated.
  • Hydrate or over-hydrate on water alone – you need a balance of electrolytes and minerals, in particular sodium. People need to be sufficiently hydrated prior to any run or any type of training session, no matter what the distance they are running or how long they intend to train for.
Pete Slater, marketing manager for Science In Sport and a finalist in this year’s Kona Ironman

Colour fast

A simple way to monitor your hydration is to check the colour of your urine first thing in the morning. If it is light in colour and plentiful, then you are most likely hydrated. However, if only a small volume of urine is produced and is dark in colour, then you’re most likely dehydrated. To make sure you begin exercise hydrated, drink five to seven ml of water per kg of your bodyweight two to three hours before you begin your run. Ian Rollo, Ph.D, GSSI Science Advisor, UK & Netherlands

Proper posture

Running is an amazing form of exercise, but some people’s bodies are just not ready for it. Activities such as sitting at a desk all day means most people’s biomechanics are going to put too much strain on the muscles and joints when they actually start running. The first step in any running programme, then, is improving your posture and the mechanics of your running technique. The art and science of improving posture and muscle function involves stretching your tight muscles and strengthening the loose ones. Everybody is different in their combinations of tight and loose muscles, but typically most runners will find benefits in stretching or releasing the hip flexors and backside muscles. To do this, use a foam roller and massage the side of the leg from the knee to hip, lie on a tennis ball to massage the area around the hip joint. Strengthen the external rotators of the hip (the muscles at the side of the hip), by controlling any movement of the knees internally. One of the best exercises for this is to perform a squat exercise with a belt strapped tightly around the lower legs, using your external rotators to push onto the belt and keep it taut throughout the movement. Brett Sanders, personal trainer

Act like a big kid, set yourself new goals and reach them...

A kid dreams big and expects big! We tend to lose this playful arrogance as an adult, never achieving what we might with our running. Don’t ever let your limiting self-beliefs, lack of knowledge or your genetic make-up decide your running ability. I see people of all ages, shapes and sizes achieve some eye-watering things in running. Once you settle for what you believe to be your best or what other people limit you to, then you’ll always be running with that weight on your shoulders. It took me four years and eight attempts to break 90 minutes in the half-marathon. Once I achieved this, I broke 80 minutes in less than a year with only two further attempts. Physically, I had not changed, but mentally I released any limits I had put on myself from failed attempts. Now I can achieve this half -marathon time at the end of a half Ironman. Graeme Buscke, Embrace Sports running and triathlon holidays

Changing gear

Having the correct equipment can make the world of difference to a new runner. Perhaps the most important thing to get right is your choice of trainers. These will provide your feet with the right support and assist in cushioning the force through your ankles, knees and hips. Many good running shops will analyse the shape of your feet. However, you can do a similar job just by looking at the sole of previously worn trainers or shoes. Wear on the outside of the heel will suggest you have flat feet, while wear on the inside can be the result of high arches. Armed with this knowledge, and an idea of how your feet strike the floor, you can select an appropriate trainer with support channelled to the right areas of your foot. For fine weather, shorts should allow a good range of leg movement with no restrictions in your running pattern. Minimal seams will also avoid any uncomfortable chaffing. In preparation for the colder months of the year, a pair of running tights will allow your legs to remain warm and dry if you become exposed to the elements. Good-quality shorts can be found for around £10 to £15, with running tights costing around £25 to £40. For the upper torso, a thin and lightweight running vest or T-shirt made from a breathable material will allow ventilation and wick sweat away from the body. Expect to pay around £10 to £35. Your socks should also be made from a breathable material, with minimal exposed seams to avoid a rubbing pattern, which can be exaggerated over time. Prices for good-quality running socks are around £5 to £10.

8-week training plan, courtesy of BUPA

The biggest motivation to keep running once you’ve started is to get yourself signed up to a race. It gives you an immediate goal and helps you structure your training to prepare for race time. A 5K race is a good distance to start with – it’s not too intimidating and you can be prepared for it in just two months, with a mere three sessions per week. This training plan will get you started.
BUPA 8 week plan


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