Running is a great option for exercise, like any new activity we start it’s important to begin gradually. This way we allow the body to fine tune new motor skills we might require and adapt to the specific stresses and strains involved.
As you start to run, try having a session every other day. On rest days try some gentle walking and some stretches just to keep supple and active. These rest days are when our bodies grow stronger: so don’t be tempted to skip them in favour of the ‘no pain, no gain’ approach! Use a good quality pair of trainers that fit your feet well and offer you good stability and shock-absorption, a good sports shop should be able to help you here. For dedicated runners, rotating two pairs of trainers can redistribute stresses on the lower limb and reduce specific loading. Each session should start with a warm up period - this should include some dynamic stretches, like lunges and squats, getting your mind and body ready for some exercise. Find the breath, find glutes and hip flexors. The first five minutes or so of your exercise should be at no more than half your maximum speed - if that means walking that’s fine!
During the session
This will vary as to your experience and conditioning…
If you’re new to running: try alternating between walking and running in two minute bursts. Just a few of these phases, along with your warm up and cool down should fill your 30 minutes quite easily. As these sessions start to feel easier, build on your running times and reduce the walking. Listen to your body and try to concentrate on your posture, breathing and pace. If you’re preparing for a fun-run or other event, you should aim to become comfortable with longer runs approaching your target distance in the weeks before the race.
At the end of your session
Cool down by dropping to a slower pace for five minutes and finish with some static stretches for your main muscle groups: trunk, hips, quads, hamstrings and calves. Start gently with these, work into the stretch with long belly breaths, focussing on a good sighing outbreath. Listen to your body here, repetition of easy range can sometimes work better than fighting for the big stretch... Drink plenty fluid and take on some protein while the demand is in the body - fuel those changes!
The day before the event
Aim to have a light walk or jog, drink plenty fluids and eat a good meal with high carbohydrate and some lean protein content - try pasta with salmon or mixed beans - Mmmm!
The day of the event
Eat a light breakfast two to three hours before the event and drink plenty of fluids. Remember to warm up - most events will have some opportunity for this, if not a group warm up session… You could always do some of your own routine before you set off. Work on big belly breaths, visualise your best runs, do some movements that stimulate your deep hip flexors and glutes - high knees, squats, lunge and ups - feel those glutes work: good to go! Don't get caught up in the rush: breathe, keep a steady, even pace and enjoy it! Drink plenty of fluids afterwards and have something warm to put on. Take some time to relax and settle the system, be brave and meet up with some icy cold water! Get some length back into those worked muscles, they are now in a state of microtrauma - drain the lymphatic system, elevation works wonders, gentle movement too. Keep the good protein and nutrients coming to fuel the re-build. Adaption is just round the corner, make it well informed elasticity not shortening... If it was a big one for you, give yourself a pat on the back and an easy week or two, think about a change of focus before piling on the pressure too much with similar loading... Have a think about future goals and aspirations - keep the joy!