1. How to... Buy your first running shoe
With more than 150 different specialist running shoes to choose from, finding the right model can be a daunting task. Don’t worry – you can narrow the choice dramatically by following a few basic rules. Start by shopping at a specialist retail store, where informed, relevant and practical advice is part of the service. Novice runners who don’t know what they want should look for shoes that are neutral in both price (£45-£60) and design. Avoid shoes built strictly for cushioning or motion control; opt for those which combine the features of both. Weight is a good rough guide to a neutral shoe; anything that is extremely heavy (compared to other models) is probably a stability special, while one that feels featherlight is unlikely to have the cushioning and support you need. Try to find one made on a semi-curved last, another indicator of a neutral design. These basics should narrow your choice to the point where you can start thinking about the look, the fit and the feel of the shoe. Fit is crucial. If it doesn’t feel right in the shoe, look again. It should fit snug and tight around the heel but with about a thumbnail’s length of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
2. How to... Run for 30 minutes
Whatever your level of fitness you should comfortably be able to build from nothing to running continuously for 30 minutes in the space of eight weeks. All you need to do is make a commitment to run at least three times a week and follow this simple run/walk programme which will gradually ease you towards the goal.
- Week 1 Run one min, walk 90 seconds. Repeat eight times. Do three times a week.
- Week 2 Run two mins, walk one min. Repeat seven times. Do three times a week.
- Week 3 Run three mins walk one mins. Repeat six times. Do three times a week.
- Week 4 Run five mins, walk two mins. Repeat four times. Do times a week.
- Week 5 Run eight mins, walk two mins. Repeat three times. Do three times a week.
- Week 6 Run 12 mins, walk one min. Repeat three times. Do three times a week.
- Week 7 Run 15 mins, walk one min, Run fifteen mins. Do three times a week
- Week 8 Run 30 mins continuously.
After each session walk for five minutes to cool down and stretch gently for another five minutes. Don’t worry about speed or distance, time on your feet is your only concern.
3. How to... Start running after 40
There is nothing unusual about taking up running later in life, as many of the best veteran runners have shown. The first rule is: Do no harm. If you haven’t done an active sport for more than two years your muscles will be untrained, and that includes your heart muscle. You don’t need a medical checkup unless you have had a serious illness in the last year, or have a family history of heart trouble, or are seriously overweight, but you should start out gently and be sure that you have recovered from one session before starting the next.
The second rule is: Walk before you run. If you’re not used to walking or jogging much, there is a risk in putting too much strain on your joints. I suggest that you start with a four-week period of regular walking, doing one or two miles a day, four days a week, to start with, building up to a total of 12 miles per week. By the fourth week you can start putting in short stretches of jogging on the level bits, but no more than 30 seconds or 100 yards of jogging at a time.
If you are already fit enough to start straight into running, get a comfortable pair of trainers, which give you good support, and find a quiet bit of park to jog undisturbed. Start with four days a week and give yourself a fixed amount of time – 15-20 minutes for the first fortnight, then gradually extending to 30 minutes.
The third rule is: Run at a ‘talking’ speed to start with. This means that you have to go slowly. At first you will probably only run a couple of hundred yards at a stretch, then walk to get your breath back, but soon will be jogging more and walking less. Set your sights on being able to run for 30 minutes or four miles, non-stop, but give yourself as much time as you like. If you feel tired from the previous week, just stay at the same effort level until you’re used to it.
4. How to... Lose a stone
Losing weight is a simple process, if difficult to adhere to. The fat stored around your body is energy waiting to be used, but your body will not turn to it unless you can create a calorie deficit. That occurs when the energy demands on your body through daily living and exercise become greater than the energy you are putting in to it as food. To shed a stone of fat you need a calorie deficit of 49,000 calories, which may sound like a huge number but works out at little more than 500 calories a day over a three-month period.
The best way to hit such a target is through a combination of increased exercise (running is the most efficient calorie burner around) and sensible eating. A 12-stone man running at nine minutes/mile burns 500 calories in around 35 minutes. Your key fat burning session, however, is the long run, because you usually run for a long time, albeit at low intensity. Another great fat burning workout is the am/pm run. Go for a 20-30 minute run between suppertime and bedtime; then, without eating in between, go for a second run for about 45 minutes the following morning.
On the dietary side, reduce the amount of fat in your diet; drink water with every meal; don’t skip breakfast; eat more often and don’t overeat at any sitting. Starving yourself, or heavy dieting, is no way to lose weight in the long run, in fact, dramatically reducing your intake could slow your metabolism and make weight loss more difficult. More on weight loss
5. How to... Get faster
Speed, like weight loss, is a simple concept. The only way to run faster is to run faster. What that means in practice, especially for a beginner, is moving from a single-speed run to variable paced training. This is initially difficult because it requires you to push yourself harder for short periods of your run, which can be a painful experience. In time you then extend those faster periods by cutting back on the recovery time between each burst, or by running even faster during those bursts of speed. You can also try to mix a variety of speed sessions into an overall programme, from short, sharp intervals to longer repetition runs with short rest periods. Running on hills or doing fartlek sessions (long or short repeats at variable speeds) will also help you get faster.
The question of how fast you should go during these bursts of speed depends on the individual. Nevertheless, the best training effect is gained when your pulse rate is somewhere between 70 and 85 per cent of maximum. This should correspond to your threshold value, a point at which if you go any faster you start to respire anaerobically and build up an oxygen debt. In practical terms that speed should roughly correspond to your best 10 mile time. More on speedwork
6. How to... Enjoy your running
Many people start running, keep at it for a few weeks (or days!) then start to slack off. How do you live up to your good intentions?
Run regularly with friends. If you are busy talking, the miles will go more quickly.
- Have a regular slot in your day. If you try to squeeze running into a day that’s already overloaded, it just becomes another source of stress. The best times to run are first thing in the morning or after you get back from work.
- Find nice places to run. It may be that two runs a week have to be ‘round the block’ because of lack of time, but if you can do your weekend runs and one of your mid-week runs somewhere different, it will be much more pleasant.
- Join a running club. This will also answer points 1, 2 and 3 at the same time. Go to your nearest running shoe store or ring RUNNER’S WORLD. Don’t worry about not being fast enough – there is always someone slower – and if you are the slowest you will be made very welcome.
- Set modest short-term goals. Aim first just to complete certain distances – two miles, 5K or 10K – regardless of speed. When you have done this, aim to improve your times at the distances which suit you best.
- Variety in training. The danger is in getting into a rut and becoming a one-pace runner’. If you vary the training between track, road and parkland and vary the speed at which you run, you can easily work out a dozen different training sessions, so that you don’t repeat yourself too often. Find out about interval running, hill running, threshold runs and repetitions.
- Competition. Whether you are competing against other people, or competing against yourself with other people, it is competition which makes the sport interesting, so get involved with your club and look around for interesting races – there are hundreds of them, all over the world. There are track, road and cross-country races, orienteering and fell races, everything from a sprint to the 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Who knows where you may end up?
7. How to... Run a race
Some runners are content to stick to a training routine, but many feel the need to test their progress against other What distance should you choose? Start by choosing a distance you are confident of completing. Don’t enter a 10K race unless you have run at least as far as that on one of your training runs. Don’t worry about your speed – there are people of every speed in races. There is no harm in running shorter distances to start with – a 2-mile fun run, for example, just to get the feel of racing as opposed to training.
For your first race, rest the day before, and make sure that you have shoes and running gear that you feel good in. Give yourself at least 10 minutes of easy jogging and loosening up before you start, and walk for a few minutes afterwards.
To train for a particular race – say, your local 10K – don’t try and run the whole distance fast in training. Train over distances between three and eight miles – long, slow runs for endurance, and short, fast runs for speed. Once a week, do an ‘interval’ session, running two minutes fast, then jogging slowly for two minutes, and repeating this five times. More on racing
8. How to... Decide when to run your first marathon
There is a point in every runner’s life when they start thinking about the marathon. Some merely dismiss it as a ridiculous but for many it remains the ultimate endurance challenge, something that will mark you indelibly as a person and a runner. When you decide to run your first marathon, if at all, is of course a personal decision that varies with the individual. But it is not something to rush into without forethought. While a number of people take up running merely to meet the challenge of the marathon a better long term plan is to build slowly and integrate running into your lifestyle before taking on the pressures of training for 26 miles. There are no hard and fast rules about how many races, or how much training you should do before taking on a debut marathon. Nevertheless it is unwise to go from nothing to the marathon in less than six months, just as it would be foolhardy to make the marathon your first road race. Don’t ever believe you have to do a marathon, you are not any less of a runner for foregoing the pain and pleasure of 26.2 miles.
9. How to... Avoid injury for a year
Scientific studies have shown that around 65 per cent of runners are injured during an average year. The good news is that you can prevent most of these injuries by training sensibly and using a little common sense and fore thought.
Build up your training programme gradually and incrementally and be realistic about the goals you set yourself. Mix the intensity of the sessions and ensure that you integrate rest days into your programme, no matter how motivated you are to improve. Ensure also that warming up, stretching and cooling down become second nature. You could even adopt a programme of self-massage for the muscles of the legs, lower back and hips immediately after running.
Shoes are a common cause of injury, either from buying the wrong model in the first place or using a shoe beyond its effective life. Simple things like buying a big enough shoe can prevent a host of toe and foot problems brought on by an ill-fitting model. Even with a shoe that you are happy with pay, close attention to the wear on your shoes, particularly in the midsole, the key protective element of the shoe.
You don’t have to be obsessional about it, but you should be aware of symptoms within yourself that are harbingers of illness or injury. Don’t ignore lower limb pain which is another of the body’s warning systems and don’t be afraid to seek medical help for what seem like a minor problem.
Finally, buy a heart rate monitor, which is a good way of controlling your training programme and tailoring it to your individual needs. It will also tell you when it’s time to cut back and when you are over-doing things.
10. How to... Keep running forever
One of the complaints often levelled at running is that it’s boring. If all you ever do is 20 minutes on a treadmill three times a week at your local gym, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. In such a situation, just as if you are running the same training routes and races year after year, it’s easy to lose interest in running. Running has to be more than a habit – it should be fun. If it isn’t, then maybe it’s time to shift your focus, away from short, fast runs, for example, to long, slow ones, or from the marathon to the mile, or from road running to trail running. Anything that breaks you out of a rut will help you stick with the sport and enjoy its benefits Running and your response to it are not static items; they change, and so should your running. Most long-term runners go through cycles. In some you run for health, in others you are doing it to compete, for social interaction or for the simple joy of the sport. Try to start each year by rethinking your goals, decide what you want to achieve from your running and set yourself targets. This don’t have to be competitive targets, in fact, avoiding competition and simply enjoying running for running’s sake can revitalise your whole attitude. Don’t be afraid to take a break from running. If you don’t feel like running on some days, don’t get neurotic about it – do something else, or just rest.