We have all heard that running is one of the easiest ways to get a good cardio workout, but it’s also just as easy to find excuses as to why we can’t. What most people don’t realise is that getting off the couch and starting a new running habit doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, all it takes is a pair of good of running shoes, the willingness to get on the road, and a running buddy or group to meet on a regular basis.
Whether you are planning on becoming a casual runner or looking to participate in a marathon, running is a great activity for anyone to try, regardless of fitness level or age. Mapule Ndhlovu, fitness guru and Wings for Life World Run ambassador shares some of her easy running tips. Even if you have little or no running background, Mapule believes that these five tips are all you need to start your running journey:
1. The right tools
Just as a golfer needs golf clubs, a runner needs the right running shoes and kit. The right shoes will keep you free from injury and the correct gear will ensure your comfort so that you can enjoy your runs. While both are a fair investment, it’s really the only cost towards your new fitness goal.
When buying your shoes, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance because this will ensure that you get the right fit, flexibility, durability and support you need to enhance your performance. The same applies for choosing your running attire. Avoid cotton clothing and opt for synthetic fibres such as CoolMax or DriFit that keep moisture away from your skin and prevent chafing. For women, a good, supportive sports bra is strongly recommended.
Apart from your shoes and clothes, hydration is the most important tool for any runner. When you exercise, your muscles get hot, and they disperse this heat through sweat. It is of paramount importance that you replace the lost fluid when you are running, otherwise, you run the risk of adding additional pressure to your cardiovascular system. How much water should you drink when running? Because we are all different, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Consider the temperature and climate, as well as your reaction to exercise and establish a hydration plan that responds to your needs.
2. Ease into it
The biggest mistake beginners make is to go full steam ahead by running as fast as they can and for as long as they can, right out of the proverbial starting blocks. Like most things, starting off slowly will help to build up resistance and will help to get your body used to the new strains of running. Warm up with some basic stretches, and then start by adding one minute of running for every four minutes of walking. This will help your body to make small adaptations that strengthen your feet, hips and knees. When you feel confident, gradually increase your running time until eventually, you are running for twice the amount of time as you are walking. By easing into it, you will avoid overexerting yourself, which could lead to injuries.
3. Have a plan
To remain committed, you need to set yourself a goal so that you have something to work towards. Be specific when you set yourself a running goal. Why not start with entering Wings for Life World Run for a great cause? In preparation, the Goal Calculator tool will help you calculate your pace. Also, be realistic by setting something that you know you can achieve. Put a timeline to it to keep you motivated and measure your success throughout the process.
4. Listen to your body
If you have never run before, it can be a shock to the system. So, although you may feel accomplished about your first run and want to keep the momentum going, you need to give your body a day to rest. The last thing you need is an injury! Your body needs time to adapt, and it needs to prepare the bones and muscles for the next run. Incorporating rest days into your programme will help to build endurance and maintain overall motivation. Also, learn to differentiate between an ache that’s part of the process or a pain that’s telling you to stop.
If you’re loving your new-found fitness feeling, rest days don’t have to be spent on the couch. Join a gentle yoga class or go for a swim, or simply do some light stretches at home to massage those tired muscles.
5. Find your style
At the end of the day, you need to make running enjoyable for you. Whether that means joining a running club or being alone with your favourite tunes. Be sure to find a running surface that works best for you. If you are looking to run fast, then a pavement surface is ideal as it lessens the chances of twisting your ankle. Alternatively, try a quiet tar road. If you want a softer surface, then a great place to run is in a park or in a forest. On the other hand, sandy surfaces are favourable if you are looking to build your calf muscles. If you prefer the indoors, a treadmill allows you to run with good cushioning all year round, no matter the weather.
No matter what your intention, following these easy tips makes running more achievable than you think. The sooner you start, the sooner you will feel the magical effects that running has on your body and your mind.
About Wings for Life World Run
On one day each year the Wings for Life World Run is held simultaneously in numerous locations and via the App across the world, everyone starting at the same time, whether day or night and all with the same goal – to raise money for the Wings for Life Foundation. Under its unique format, participants run as far as they can until they are passed by a moving finish line, the “Catcher Car,” which chases runners along the course or virtual in the App, gradually getting faster until each participant has been caught. This moving finish line allows participants of any ability to complete the run – the slower ones are passed early while ultra-athletes go on for hours. 100% of entry fees and donations go toward helping to find a cure for spinal cord injury; and in the four editions, since it was launched in 2014, the World Run has attracted more than 435,000 people from 193 nationalities to participate in more than 58 countries across all seven continents. Altogether they have raised €20.6 million euros while covering more than 4.2 million kilometres.
Are you entering the Wings for Life World Run? Do you have any running tips to share?
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Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.