When I started training for the Great North Run last year, I never thought I'd still be running now - nevrmind actually doing it again this year! I was always the one that hid at the back in P.E class and avoided doing any exercise in life that didn't involve walking to a fridge or getting up to change the TV channel, so I never expected to get so addicted to running.
Despite running for over a year now, I'm still very much a beginner and thanks to my IC, my progress hasn't been as great as I would have like, but I still haven't let that stop me from falling in love with it. Since I work from home, it's the perfect excuse to have some time out of the house in fresh air, as well as just having some time to myself in general. It's way more therapeutic than I ever would have expected! It's free, you can do it anywhere and it's the perfect way to help boost your mood and clear your head.
I'm in no way an expert, but thought I'd share with you some tips I've learned along the way for any other beginner runners out there to help you in your running journey.
1. INVEST IN THE RIGHT GEAR
Running doesn't require much investment in gear or accessories, but it's so important to make sure you have the right pair of running shoes - you don't have to spend a fortune, but do your research and make sure you get the right pair to suit your needs and budget. It can also help to invest in running socks (your feet will be extremely grateful) and a good sports bra. The rest of the running clothing isn't as essential, but for longer distances it can help to have proper exercise gear. Most high street stores have sports sections now making it so accessible to work out but stay fashionable, and places like Sports Direct and TK Maxx also tend to have the basics at a super affordable price.
2. IT'S OKAY TO TAKE YOUR TIME
Ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually - try to increase distance by no more than 10% a week. Don't be disheartened if you can't run non-stop for miles at a time right at the start - even if you're doing a short run that involves mostly walking, you're still doing more than if you'd stayed at home on the sofa. Build yourself up slowly and let yourself walk when you need to.
3. DON'T OVERDO IT
I never believed people when they told me running is addictive, especially after my first few runs when I genuinely thought I was dying ha! But you get hooked so quickly, and it can be very easy to try and do as much as you can as quick as you can, but it's important to remember to take a break. Your rest time is just as important as running - you need to give your body time to heal after each run to avoid injury. I try to aim for 2 runs a week, and mix in yoga and cardio workouts on my days off.
4. STICK TO A SCHEDULE
Plan your runs in advance. One thing I really struggled with was trying to consistently fit running into my weekly routine. Running my own business means I work over 15 hours a day, so the idea of being able to fit exercise into that too terrified me. But I've found if I schedule out my weeks in advance, I can set a realistic amount of time aside for running, and it helps keep me motivated if I know I have set running days. Work out when and where you're doing to run in advance, and keep it in a set schedule or diary to help you keep track and make sure it doesn't slip your mind.
Keeping a diary of your runs in general including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt is a great way to help keep you motivated - when you feel motivation flagging, you can look back and see your improvement.
5. APPS ARE YOUR FRIENDS
There are so many fitness apps out there, and it can help make all the difference when keeping track of your progress. My personal favourite is Map My Run, which I use to keep track of distance, average pace and pace v elevation. It's free and can also be used to keep track of other workouts too.
6. MAKE THE RIGHT MIXTAPE
I'm not sure about others, but I personally find running to music really helps. When I first started, I loaded my phone with all my favourite songs and off I went, but over time I've learned there's a certain beat per minute which really helps me keep my pacing, and oddly it's not the music I would usually choose to listen to! I need faster dance music to help with my pacing, so I've now made myself a playlist specifically for running, with a few wildcard songs added in to give me an excuse to walk for a few minutes every so often.
7. SET YOURSELF GOALS
Whatever your level, setting challenges is a useful way to stay motivated. This can be training for a specific race, distance or even just how you pace out your runs. When I first started I found it easiest to walk for one song, run for one, then repeat until I started feel confident enough to run for two songs, walk for one etc. It also works if you use the same system but with set amounts of time or a set number of lampposts to help structure your run and keep track of your progress.
8. INCORPORATE OTHER EXERCISE
While running can be great for you, it's important to try and incorporate other forms of exercise if you can too. At least 5 minutes of warm up and cool down is absolutely vital before and after you run to make sure you minimise any chance of injury as well as making it a little easier to walk the next day! There are plenty of other forms of exercise that will help you improve your running. Trying to add in some extra cardio and strength exercises throughout the week can really help too - pilates can help build core strength and swimming can even help stretch sore muscles. Incorporating other exercise means if you're injured or just can't face running, you can always do something else that day to help keep fit.
9. STAY HYDRATED AND EAT WELL
The few times I've gone out for a run and forgot my water have definitely been the hardest. It's important to not only replace the water you lose via sweat while running, but you should make sure you drink plenty before and after running too. Never underestimate the importance of staying hydrated! You should also try and have a little snack an hour before running, and a post-workout snack within 30 minutes afterwards. I tend to have banana or honey on toast beforehand, then a peanut butter, banana and almond milk smoothie afterwards. If I don't have time to make a smoothie, chocolate milk is always a good shout too as it's supposed to have the perfect post exercise carb/protein ratio!
10. ENJOY IT!
If you don't enjoy it, you won't carry on. Keep your runs interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring, so try to vary your distances and routes. Find beautiful local areas to run in, make sure you tailor your music so it's something you enjoy or even listen to podcasts while you run if that works for you. Appreciate the positives even when it gets hard. It can also help to have someone of a similar ability to run with to help spur you on and keep you motivated.
I hope you find these tips helpful - I know it can be hard when you're first starting, but don't give up! Don't be disheartened if you don't see huge amounts of progress straight away, just be proud of the fact you've put on trainers and left the house.
Are you training for a specific race or fancy trying running in general? If you have any tips or suggestions, please do share them in the comments below!