Running: a quick start guide

by Lee Gregory, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Social Policy

During lockdown many will be looking to find ways of staying active, especially in their allowed daily exercise. For some this will lead them into running, perhaps a return to this activity, perhaps starting for the first time. There are plenty of “couch to 5k” apps out there offering good programmes to follow (although I personally dislike the term “couch” as it implies no activity whatsoever prior to running, which is unlikely). But often these don’t provide much information in terms of useful tips for new runners.

Having led eleven “to 5k and beyond” groups with my running club and two groups so far for CoSS, here are a few tips for new runners to help get you started:

  • Please where trainers you are comfortable doing some Leephysical activity in (short bursts of running). You don’t need to rush out and buy running shoes (although you will want to get these later one the running habit kicks in). But, suitable trainers designed for sport are a fine starting point (don’t as one participant once did, use hard sole shoes like netball shoes, they are designed with a specific sport in mind and don’t have the flexibility for running).
  • Clothing wise you should wear something comfortable and suited to sport. I recommend layers rather than anything too think (the ladies who turned up in winter coats always comes to mind). You will get hot whilst running but you will start cold. So, the ability to remove layers rather than staying in one heavy layer is ideal. Especially at this time of year, a light waterproof is always handy (again, you don’t need the more expensive running jackets).
  • If you wear glasses, like me, a running cap is ideal as the peak will help keep the rain of the glasses and you can continue to see! For the sunny days if you are “follicly challenged” like me it keeps the sun off your head too!
  • Starting off with the run and walk approach is ideal! This helps your body to gradually adapt to the increase in activity. Importantly it will help your metabolism to adapt so that you are able to move into more continuous running, quicker than you think: this is the beauty of the 5k programmes.
  • Try to run twice a week, maybe three times as you need some recovery time between runs but also want to build a good base by regular running.
  • After each run, make sure you stretch. This only needs to be a few minutes max, but hit all the key stretches.
  • Try to build up some body strength on your non running days. Again there are plenty of apps that offer guidance and activities here, but I highly recommend the good old plank: try searching for a 30 day plank challenge, it’s a few minutes investment each day which will really pay dividends.
  • Finally, the couch to 5k is one of the hardest psychological challenges when it comes to running. To keep going, even when you’ve had a bad session, is difficult. Especially if you are running by yourself. Having taken almost 250 people from no running to 5k (and many going beyond to other distances) there is one thing to remember: you are doing fantastic, even when it doesn’t feel great. Even the best runners have a bad run at times. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You’re stressed with work or the kids. You have lockdown frustration. Each run will be different. But stick to the programme, and when you get to week six or seven just take stock of the progress you have made. You will realise how far you have actually gone.


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