As we are fast approaching the New year we are always asked for hints & tips on how to start running or to get back into running so we asked avid runner, running coach and Instagram influencer Jordan (@projectmarathongirl) for her Top 10 Tips for the best way to kick start your running journey!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers being dragged along to a well known shoe shop on a Saturday afternoon and getting measured and fitted properly for shoes when they were little… every kids worst nightmare right?! But our parents wanted to make sure that the shoes we were getting fitted us properly, were supportive, comfortable and weren’t going to wreck our feet as we grew up! So my advice for running trainers would be to take the same approach as you would when you were buying school shoes as a child. Get fitted, try on lots and speak to a professional.
There are SO many different trainers out there, it almost seems impossible to know where to start! But something I would really recommend is going to a running specialist shop and getting a Gait Analysis done. In simple terms, a gait analysis can give insight into how you run, whether you are a neutral runner, over pronate, a forefoot runner, whether you need support, cushioning etc etc (don’t panic about this, the shop assistant will be able to talk you through everything!) and depending on this, can determine what trainers would suit you best!
For me personally, I know that I do not need an over supportive shoe, so shoes with a lot of cushioning don’t work for me. I much prefer a lightweight, minimalist trainer. So just remember, even if everyone is raving about the bestest, newest most supportive shoe from ‘Brand XYZ’ make sure you know what works for you!
3) Running Buddy.
I am pretty sure that at some point in your life you would have had to rely on a friend, or family member to get you through something tough – whether it’s a break up, a bad day at work, finding out someone ate your leftovers you’ve been looking forward to all day… but basically, we all need support from time to time! And running is no different!
Starting your running journey with a friend will make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable & motivating. Whether it’s arranging to go for a coffee & cake after Parkrun together, or even just having someone to run with on the dark winter nights could make a huge difference.
Also, I don’t know about you, but when I have made plans with someone I don’t like letting them down. So perhaps if you are the same, one way to guarantee you get yourself out the door is if you promise that you will run together. So even if you’re tired, or had a bad day at work you’ve still got that motivation to get out there!
And finally, you can celebrate not only your own, but your friends achievement too. Which is a pretty great feeling!
Personally, I am a very goal orientated person. Whether it’s running related, or other areas of my life, if I set myself a tangible goal I am a million times more likely to stay motivated and work towards it.
For most new runners, the first goal they usually set themselves is to be able to complete a 5k. In fact this was my first running related goal a few years ago. Now I get it, the thought of running 5k (3.1 miles) non stop when you have never ran before can be daunting, but by setting yourself small, mini goals along the way, it makes it seem so much more manageable and achievable.
Most of us are very lucky here in the U.K to have a Parkrun on our doorstep and I personally believe that for a new runner, this is the perfect opportunity to not only immerse yourself in the amazing running community, but to be able to build up to running a 5k.
Parkrun is for absolutely anyone, from super speedy elite athletes to the complete beginner and whether you want to run, jog or walk, everyone is welcome and encouraged to take part.
Here is a session idea to get you started on your Running Journey.
Walk/Warm Up – 10 minutes. Try to steadily increase the pace to a ‘power walk’ towards the end of the 10 minutes.
Jogging – 30 seconds. Do not worry about pace, anything faster then your quick walking pace is fine!
Walk – 90 seconds. Use this as recovery and try to get your HR/breathing back to a normal rhythm
Repeat x 10
Walk/Cool Down – 10 minutes (or until completed) Try to keep a good walking pace and slow down steadily to get your HR back down.
As the weeks progress, you can then increase your running time, reduce the recovery time or increase the number of intervals.
4) Social Media.
Now, hear me out. I know that at times, social media gets a lot of negative press, BUT it can also be a hugely positive tool for a lot of things, including running!
For me, I personally love Instagram (99.9% of the time) and love scrolling through daily and seeing people’s posts – whether it’s a PB, smashing out a training session, a cheeky #transformationtuesday or anything running related it can really help to motivate and inspire me to get out there & run or workout!
When I first started running and following other runners on Instagram, I was in awe of a lot of people (and still am!) and the incredible things they were achieving, and at the time I never believed that I would be able to do what they were doing, but.. now I am! I am no longer looking at marathon runners thinking ‘how do they do that’ but instead thinking ‘yes! I can do that too’!
So yes, if used correctly social media can be a fantastic way to keep yourself motivated and inspire you – it’s also a great way to meet like minded people! I would now class some of my closest friends as people I have met through the online running community, which is crazy seeing as when we’re younger we are always told to never talk to strangers on the internet
N.B. Just remember though, do not compare yourself to anyone. Every runner has been/is on their own journey, and what may look easy to some may be down to years and years of training! Also, remember that people don’t always post the bad stuff! So use it to help motivate you, but always take things with a pinch of salt!
5) Track Your Progress.
I don’t know about you, but unless I write something down there is about a 100% chance I am going to forget it! I find keeping track of my runs very useful, and especially for beginners it can be really good (and motivating!) to be able to look back and see your progress & how far you’ve come!
Now days it couldn’t be easier to track your runs, and don’t worry, you don’t need to splash out on a running watch straight away, there are many different apps that you can download straight to your phone! My personal preference is Strava, and this would be the one I would recommend to anyone (and it’s completely free!)
If you are looking to treat yourself (or maybe fancy asking Father Christmas for something!) then I would recommend at some point investing in a GPS watch. Again, there are hundreds on the market which vary in price & what they can do, but you don’t need to spend a fortune!
I am a big fan of Garmin, and until I recently upgraded I wore the Forerunner 230 for over two years. It did everything I needed and was a great, easy to use watch, I would definitely recommend, plus it comes it some really nice colours (obviously this is important!)
6) Listen To Your Body.
This one is a biggie. Failing to do so could put a stop to your running journey, and potentially put you off from ever trying it again! If you’re anything like me, when you start something new that you enjoy, you will want to throw yourself in 100% and just keep going! This is what happens a lot of time with new runners once they have got through the initial ‘everything hurts and I’m dying’ phase. And I get it, it’s exciting! But there is no rush to do everything at once!
Getting your body to adapt to running takes time. I remember the first time I ran a half marathon, I couldn’t walk properly for the next 3 days, now days, I’m able to go out the day after a race and do a light recovery run. And although I don’t always get it spot on, I know my body well enough by now to know when to dial it back and take an extra rest day.
So when you are starting, please don’t feel like you have to be out there running every single day, or increasing your mileage too quickly. Running does put your body through stress, there is no getting away from it, and if you do too much too quickly you could be at risk of your body just saying NOPE and then you won’t have a choice but to take a break.
For a beginner, I would say there is no need to run more than 3 x times a week to begin with, and giving yourself at least a days rest in between each run.
Following on quite nicely from number 6, this is another really important factor that a lot of new runners might not consider. Rest and recovery is a key part of training, I know this might sound strange, but sometimes doing nothing is the best way to progress!
Our bodies are pretty amazing things, and whilst we are resting (this includes sleep!) it’s busy working away at repairing the muscles we have temporarily damaged during exercise, pretty clever right!
But unfortunately we cannot let our bodies do all the work, and there are a few key things we can do to help aid recovery, including;
- Foam Rolling
- Epsom Salt Baths
Now, I could pretend that I am the perfect advocate for this and that I stretch and roll after every run, but the truth is, I don’t. And it’s something I need to get better at. But I cannot stress at the beginning how important it is. When you first start running, your body isn’t going to have a clue what’s going on, so the chances are once you start running, your legs are going to hurt a little! All of the things listed above can help to ease the pain and help your muscles recover quicker (although sometimes you can’t get away from the DOMs no matter how much stretching you do!)
8) Strength Training.
I know what you’re thinking… ‘I thought this was a blog about running?!’ Don’t panic! It is, and I’m not saying you need to be in the gym 5x a week pounding the weights, but adding 1 or 2 strength sessions a week can really benefit any runner, no matter what level.
Strength training does exactly what it says on the tin, it makes you stronger! And guess what, the stronger you are there is less risk of injury, you will feel fitter and personally I find hitting the gym a great way to relieve stress!
If you have been following me on Instagram, you will know I’m a big fan of the gym, and it’s one of the things I believe has been key to my progress over the last year. I have said it many times, but there is so much more to running, than running!
9) Take Your Time.
Okay so I am just going to come out and say it… YOU DO NOT NEED TO RUN A MARATHON TO BE A RUNNER!
This might sound like I am contradicting my earlier point about social media, but if there is one thing that is negative about it, is that people (especially newer runners) can get caught up with the idea that they HAVE to run a marathon to be considered a ‘proper runner’ – which is nonsense!
There is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations, but feeling like you have to commit to something as big as a marathon so early on can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. When I started running, the thought of a marathon never even crossed my mind, in fact it wasn’t until I was two years into my running journey I considered it, and by this point I was already comfortably at half marathon distance and this felt like the next challenge.
Too often I sadly see runners rushing to get to marathon level, which unfortunately can sometimes end in long term injuries or perhaps even having to stop running for good.
So my advice? Take your time! And enjoy the victories along the way! There will ALWAYS be marathons, and in fact there seems to be more and more happening all the time, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity! But training for and ultimately running a marathon, is not only a huge commitment, but can put your body under a lot of stress, and if you try and cram it all in too quickly, not only will it take all the fun out of it, but you could also really hurt yourself.
10) Enjoy it!
It really is as simple as that! Running (especially at the beginning) should not be something that causes you stress or makes you unhappy. Run because you enjoy it and how it makes you feel. Enter races because your friends are going and you’ve already planned an epic post race treat. Treat yourself to that new pair of trainers or watch because you deserve it. And just remember, progress is never linear! So enjoy the journey, embrace the highs & the lows and look forward to a new quality of life (sorry for the cheese, but it’s true!)