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It’s the start of a new year, and most of us tend to take up something new or challenging in a bid to get more fit and healthy. Running can be a fantastic hobby to take up as it’s accessible for all price points, it’s a sociable activity and can be done almost anywhere. When you’re first getting started it can be confusing to know how far to go or how long to stay outside for, but we’re here to guide you on how to start running in a safe way. Starting off in the right way will not only help improve your fitness in the short-term, but it will also help with your motivation and love for the sport in the long-term. If you’re already a regular runner, you may wish to check out some of our other running articles, such as this one on IT Band Syndrome.

Many of us start new challenges for different reasons, and often running can be taken up as a way to lose excess weight, or to train for something specific like a Spring 5K race or a marathon. There may be difficulties when you start, as with starting anything new, but there are things that you can do to make this initial process easier.

Running To Lose Weight

If you’re starting to run because you’d like to lose weight, you’re going to need to be more careful when you’re first getting started. Running is a very high impact sport that can put quite a lot of pressure on your joints. For that reason, you may wish to start off at a very comfortable pace on the treadmill for around 10 minutes, 3 times a week. If you don’t have access to a treadmill then opting for running outside is also suitable, for the same amount of time. Although 10 minutes may not seem long enough to lose any weight, but you’re starting an activity that you hope to carry on for the rest of the year, right? Not just until the end of January.

After the first week, analyse your progress from the week and see if you feel like increasing the time to 12 minutes, then go to 15 minutes and 20 minutes over time. If you’re wanting to explore the sport in the right way, try enrolling in a local Couch to 5K programme – or if you don’t have one near you, many fitness applications that can be downloaded onto your phone tend to have their own variations and may be more affordable if money is an issue. Couch to 5K programmes guide you through the beginning steps of running in a safe environment, while increasing your training at a rate that should prevent you from experiencing any injuries. With running it is all too easy to train too hard, you need to be focused on running smart and you will reap the rewards later!

Training for a Race

If you’re taking up running to train for a specific race like a half marathon or marathon, you’ll need to be even smarter in how you train. Preparing early is key to crossing the finish line strong. One of the main problems that runners face when starting out to train for a race, is choosing a plan that is too intense to be a realistic goal. Nearly everyone can run a marathon with the right training plan, as it teaches you how to increase your distance and time at a safe rate. However, choosing a plan that has you running 5-6 days a week when the furthest you’ve ran is for the bus, may not be a smart move. We see a lot of patients start up activities like running in January, followed by an influx of patients in late January or early February who have injured themselves by going in too hard.

The difficulty in running is knowing when to take it easy, and even seasoned runners are guilty of not following their own advice here. Your respiratory system will acclimatise to increased exercise extremely quickly, so don’t worry if you feel like running to just the end of the road is difficult at first – you will improve. Once you have improved, it can be tempting to think you can go further, quicker, but in reality your musculoskeletal frame will acclimatise much slower – meaning you may feel like you can go further, but that’s when the risk of injury increases. If you take it slow, not only will you be able to enjoy the sport with less chance of injury, but you will also likely stay more motivated in the long-run. There are also many training guides that recommend going slow to become better over time. There are many forms of ‘heart rate training’ that are quite popular at the minute – these guide you to run at a certain heart rate level that will usually be a comfortable pace if you feel like you might be susceptible to pushing yourself too hard. 

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Running When You Don’t Have Time

If you’re looking to specifically become fit, but you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to fit anything in, try a simple 10 minute run to get you started. If you can get to a gym and run for 10 minutes, see where that 10 minutes can take you over the next few weeks. See how far you can go, and try to increase your distance in the same amount of time. This is much easier to do on a treadmill as the time is directly in front of you and the speed can be easily increased. Like the rest of our advice, you’ll still want to take it slow to cut your risk of injury, but check back in with yourself every week to make sure your body is adapting and recovering nicely after each session. If you’re too fatigued for a couple of days after a run, you need to bring down the training. Likewise, if you have a fitness watch and find that your heart rate is higher than normal on your rest days, then you may have been training too hard.