The truth is that everyone knows how to run. But it can also be hard to start running again after a long period of time without or almost without any activity. This can easily happen due to an injury, after having a baby, laziness, because “this sport is just not for you” or for any other reason that’s good enough to convince ourselves that we can't do it. Even 1 km could feel like an eternity! So, let’s get started, shoes ON, let’s RUN!
1) Ask yourself WHY you want to run today?
Running improves mental health via the release of endorphins. It is a very time/cost effective way to burn calories. We have all heard that it reduces stress and that in general it brings a lot of benefits for your health. This is great to know but it does not always help us to get motivated. It is important to ask yourself why you want to run today. Perhaps it can be to release the tension after a crazy busy day at work, to help you to wake up and feel more energetic before going to work or even just to go out and enjoy the outdoors. Take some time to really think about why you want to run today based on your feelings and emotions of the day. This will help you to determine your objectives. We all have this “today is not a good day for running” feeling and it is also important to listen to it sometimes – not always of course -- but there is no point in going for a run if you entirely lack the motivation to do so.
2) Set YOUR personal GOAL
Every run has its own motivations and objectives. Setting a goal answers the question of what you want to achieve on a long-term basis as well as what you want to achieve today. Did you register for a race? Is your goal to run faster or longer? Or is it all of the above? Having a goal in mind will keep you motivated as you will have a clear view of how to organize your training. Once you have your long-term objective determined, the best approach is to focus on your step-by-step mini goals and making sure you achieve them first. To start running is only the beginning of the journey and there are plenty of things to learn. Plan your week in advance and stick to it. What you really need if you want to see results is CONSISTENCY. THIS IS YOUR GOAL, not someone else’s.
3) SLOWLY INCREASE your base miles.
Running more is always a good objective, as you need to increase mileage to improve yourself but do it in a smart way. Your body will thank you for this! If you prepare for a 5 km run, don’t go crazy. You can start by running 1 km, then walk 1 km, then run again for another kilometre. Increase the distance little by little. The key word here is PATIENCE. It may be frustrating at the beginning, but you will see improvement very quickly if you stay consistent.
4) Work on your RUNNING FORM:
I am stating the obvious here but to run properly, you will need to have a look at your running form. First focus to fall forward when running. When engaging your leg, let yourself fall forward – accept the gravity, it will do the trick. It may sound a bit silly and simple, but this is really effective. So, head straight – look straight ahead of you and avoid looking down at your feet too much, relax your shoulders and hands, hold your arms in a 90 degree angle, keep your arms close to your body, lean forward, don't lift your knees too high and aim for a mid-foot strike. When running, you could picture yourself on a bike: make sure to find a rhythm and try to be consistent. Getting more and more into running, you will see that it is important to have a strong core and hips as well as mobile ankles, but at this stage, let’s only focus on the start. So, have a REAL LOOK at your running form to make sure you are running in the most efficient way.
5) LISTEN to your body
Don't ignore pain, or 'one-sided' soreness. When referring to “pain”, it is mainly the one that remains after your effort. Sorry but the “no pain no gain” mantra is also true, to improve yourself it is also important to challenge yourself and go out of your comfort zone. The one-sided soreness should not be ignored as it means you have an imbalance that will cause problems. So, ADAPT your planning and goals to what your body is telling you – and see a specialist if needed. It doesn’t mean you should stop everything when you are feeling too sore, but you may want to consider other training alternatives like yoga, cycling, swimming etc.
Another point that might seem silly is that you should take the time to find YOUR rhythm in breathing properly. What could help is that once in a while, you focus and “re-set” your breathing. Take a deep breath in and out. It helps you restart correctly and then find your OWN rhythm. It could be very useful at the end of an uphill road. Don’t be tempted to follow other people’s rhythms as you may just blow up or on the contrary not push yourself enough. If you have trouble with this, you can try to switch off your music to really CONCENTRATE on yourself.
7) TREAT yourself well:
Don't think that because you run you can eat junk food. Of course, you will need to replenish your body and muscles with good nutrients, but it does not mean that you have “the right” to eat more than you need or eat food that’s bad for your body. Bad nutrition is the reason for a lot of issues and it will hurt your performance and negatively impact the benefits you are getting from running. It is not the right approach to eat junk food with the excuse that you are running long and hard enough to deserve it. It is fine to have a small “reward” in the form of a sweet treat or a bit of junk food, but just make sure that this does not turn into a daily habit. Treating your body well is also about hydrating and sleeping well. You can also go for a foot massage or deep tissue massage from time to time.
8) DON’T DOUBT yourself!
Running is a long journey and we can have good days but also bad days. That is normal, it happens. You always learn something. Just believe in yourself and never doubt that you can do it! Keep in mind the famous runner top punchline: “Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever”. Stay DETERMINED, you really can achieve anything if you want to.
9) WARM UP and GO!
Warm up, cool down and stretch! This is KEY! 5 min warm-ups and 10 to 20 min cool downs / stretching may look unnecessary but this is just the minimum you should do if you want to avoid any injury. Include warm-ups and cool-downs as part of your routine, you won’t think about it later. You can take this time to remember your goal and why you are doing your run today. For the stretching part, take this time to debrief your training and thank yourself for the effort - a bit of self-motivation is never too much. A really good investment when you begin is a foam roller to help you massage your body. You can be sure your body will thank you later!
10) HAVE FUN!!
Last but not least: enjoy your run, enjoy YOUR moment – enjoy the company you have, enjoy your own moment to think about something specific or just switch off your mind and relax. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about this: to get slowly outside of your comfort zone and enjoy the running. You will feel so much better after. Some will find it easier to run with friends to stay motivated, feel free to go for it but don’t forget that this is your journey and never compare yourself to someone else’s progress.
Put your shoes on and let’s go!!