Running was never my forte. I remember the long (5 minute) laps of the school field, my body heavy and lumbering as the minutes felt like eternity. I remember walking down my neighbourhood street around 11 years of age thinking, running is never for me.
Then somehow, in my mid thirties, it all changed.
One weekend away, my boyfriend and I were staying with his sporty friends. My boyfriend was a keen extreme sports nut in his spare time, and he and his buddy that day went out for a casual 20km run in Richmond Park. His buddy’s wife went for a ‘short run’ of 8km – all while I lay in bed feeling left out. At that moment it occurred to me, I didn’t want to be the one not moving. I did not want to be this person, feeling dissatisfaction with my decision not to join in the sport.
So I started to run. My first 20 minute run left me ill and red faced, I had to lie down to recover for a further 20 minutes. But determined, I took my running shoes everywhere – on jobs away from home, weekends away, and I persisted with my 20 minute runs. I even took my running shoes to Budapest weekend trips – and ran the bridges - with running, I discovered different ways to explore foreign places.
This progressed to longer runs and joining a 5-10km fun run. I tricked myself into joining by saying I’d do the 5km run .. and when the road forked, I went for the 10km, non-stop – 1 hour, and it felt fantastic.
I then discovered the ‘zone’ of running, the endorphins, the health benefits and the buzz of just feeling your body move. It helped I was in the country and I saw all seasons with my runs, from frost, snow and spring or summer evenings. I found a running friend-partner and we built our fitness and explored the country.
I joined a running club and decided to push distance or push hills .. neither very successful but I had fun trying. My best was 15km in 1 hour 20 minutes including a couple of hills.
My favourite running club was a Hash Harriers group in the countryside – drinkers with a running problem. We ran 6 mile runs with head torches in country and through woods at night every Tuesday. I was in heaven, and fit.
So along the way I have read a fair few running books and training programmes and want to share these tips with you to get you moving, and feel the benefits of running on your feel good hormones & health.
Here’s 7 tips to get you running -
1. Don’t be afraid to walk, as a beginner or as a more experienced runner. Walking helps you run longer distance and builds up fitness so alternate walk-run to keep you running.
2. Start slow, begin your runs with a fast warm up walk of 10 minutes minimum. This accesses fat burn and warms your limbs to avoid injury. You’ll find you run longer!
3. Don’t over think it, just do it! It’s all about preparation the night before. Go to bed knowing you will get up and do it .. telling yourself you can always turn around after 1km or at a specific point .. chances are, you won’t.
4. Follow a Hal Highdon training programme – they’re excellent and worked for my first 10km. http://www.halhigdon.com
5. Cross train, with weights, yoga, spinning – they protect against injury and will improve your running.
6. Get hydrated the day before, always. You will run so much better.
7. Fuel, you can’t run on empty. I tried a 10km run once on no breakfast and I was left behind for dust. You can run in the morning a short distance (the greater the distance the more fit you become) after an overnight fast, and this is the best way to boost your metabolism for the rest of the day. But don’t push distance on empty – it will just leave you depleted.
8. Keep loose, keep your shoulders relaxed, your breathing even and arms relaxed by your side like you have butterflies in your hands and in your mouth .. tension makes running hard.
9. High tempo music, works for me and works for others. Plug in that ipod shuffle and listen to your favorite tunes. On occasion I unplug and just tune into my surroundings.
10. Remember, the first 20 minutes can be warming up .. so your body as it increases fitness gets better at it.
Finally, just try it. You might just find you like it.
Deborah McTaggart is a registered nutritionist practising in Barnes, South West London, and global via Skype and Zoom. Deborah has a special interest in high energy demand, high performance, travel health, stress and sport recovery and performance for the busy professional, frequent traveller and recreational athlete.
Deborah works as a Consultant with The Resilience Institute, UK who work with global leadership to sustain high performance and long term health resilience. Contact me here for further information on sports nutrition, recovery and performance for the athlete, eating healthy for busy people and improving your health.