Running for Beginners. Making Progress in the First Few Weeks.

Check back to your 'Why' list.

You’ve done the hard bit, which is getting started. Now it’s time to focus on getting more enjoyment and purpose out of each run. You may want to re-evaluate your goals and add races, distances or better personal best times. Keep adding the silly stuff though.

10 Top Tips for Easier Running.

  1. Start slowly and don’t expect too much from yourself in the first mile. There’s a runner’s saying that goes ‘Don’t judge a runner by the first mile’. Don’t judge yourself or your run.
  2. Think of your arm swing as it helps to drive you forward. Remember to keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees with your arms parallel to the body and parallel to each other as you swing them. Your hands should not cross the center line of the body (this throws your balance and stops you moving ahead efficiently). Keep your hands relaxed and at waist level. If they start creeping towards your face put them back in the correct position.
  3. When you swing the arms focus on driving the elbows back ward. This will give you a more powerful and faster stride.
  4. To make hills or slopes or easier, keep your eyes level and look at where you’re heading; then take your gaze to the road/track just in front of you. Look at a mark (a twig, piece of trash or chewing gum for example) about 10 paces ahead and keep your eyes on it as it disappears under your feet. Do the same again for another mark and continue until you’ve got to the top of the hill. This is the running equivalent of ‘eating an elephant one chunk at a time’ – you break the hard work into small pieces and focus on those until they’re done.
  5. Relax your shoulders and keep them out of your ears. When we get tired or are faced with a hill/slope we tend to tense up. This doesn’t allow the chest to work efficiently in pulling air into the lungs and you get more tired more quickly.
  6. And while you’re relaxing your shoulders, lift your chin and keep your head and chest up. This will improve your posture, which will also make it easier to take energizing breaths.
  7. Pick up your knees. The quadriceps (thigh) and gluteal (butt) muscles are the powerhouses of the body. They have the most strength and burn the most calories. By lifting your knees just a little you’ll burn more energy and make a more powerful stride, as well as making sure you don’t trip over your feet when you get tired.
  8. Breathe better. Again, this will give you more energy. Most runners find that coordinating your inhalations and exhalations with their foot falls helps to build a stronger diaphragm and therefore better endurance. Start with a 2-2 pattern: breathe in while you step left-right, and breathe out while stepping left-right. When you’re used to this and want to advance, try a 3-3 pattern: inhale as you step left-right-left, and exhale as you step right-left-right. You can go on to a 4-4 pattern as you find the 3-3 becomes easier.
  9. Take shorter strides. The temptation when we want to run faster is to take bigger steps but actually this can increase the risk of injury . The picture illustrates that if you take a bigger stride the forces going through the heel, knee and hip are greater. Taking shorter steps will get you moving faster and decrease the chances of injury because they keep the legs under the body. If you run with music then make sure your playlist includes tracks with a fast beat because you’re aiming for 150-180 steps per minute (this is called cadence).
  10. Lift your chest and keep your butt tucked in. We said it further up the page, but lifting your chest and pointing your breasts forwards, rather than down at the floor, means you’re unfolding the waist. Bending at the waist is one of the first things that happens when we get tired. Just lifting your chest will automatically tuck in your butt and then you’ll take shorter strides too.

Dealing with weather while you’re running.

If there’s anything that can put you off or give you an excuse not to run, then it’s the weather. Here are some physical and mental ideas on who to deal with it.

Wet weather – running in the rain is actually quite nice, especially really heavy rain. Use suitable layers if it’s cold and wet and fewer layers if it’s warm. Avoid muddy areas in case you slip and get injured and protect your iPod etc from the rain. And remind yourself that you’re going to get into a hot shower when you get back anyway.

Cold weather – more of a challenge. Use layers again (see chapter 2) and don’t forget a hat and gloves if you need them. As you get warm you may want to take these off so be sure you have somewhere to tuck them so they don’t get lost.

Avoid running on icy or snow-covered slippery ground.

You might want to have a warm drink before setting out, and make sure you get the blood pumping by doing some dynamic stretches.

If you have asthma or any other condition that’s triggered by the cold the check with your doctor about running in cold weather.

Hot weather – how hot is hot? If your area is having a sudden heat wave and you’re not used to living in high temperatures then think about taking shorter runs and make sure you’re well hydrated beforehand (your pee should be pale yellow).

If you’re used to living in heat then your body is more acclimatized for exercise.

Always consider taking extra fluid (water, dilute cordial or a sports drink) with you when you run, and never run at the hottest times of the day.

Read chapter 2 again for advice on the right clothing for hot weather.

Again, if you have any medical condition that gets worse in the heat then, consult your healthcare professional.

Take on the elements at least once before you use them as an excuse not to run.

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