Running for beginners

The Olympic Games are bound to inspire many of us to try a new sport or just to get a bit fitter. And with a new British movie called Fast Girls in production, it could encourage us to pull on our running shoes and get out there for a jog.

Fast Girls is all about the intense rivalry of five girls competing for four places on a fictional GB World Championships relay team. The actresses taking on the roles – Lenora Chrichlow, Lorraine Burroughs, Lashana Lynch, Dominique Tipper and Lily James – have all been put through their paces by former Olympic sprinter Shani Anderson to get into shape to play top athletes.

But if all that seems a bit too much for you, it is possible to start gradually to build up a running plan that allows you to tone up, get fitter, and maybe take part in that event you’ve always said you’ll sign up for. Even if you’re not quite ready for a marathon, a gentle jog in the park should make you feel better about yourself.

First things first

If you haven’t had a physical recently, do check with your doctor that you’re okay to start a running programme before you begin any new form of exercise. Next, you’ll need the right shoes. You don’t want to end up with sore feet – a sure way to be put off straight away – so go and get advice from a sports store which has running specialists to help you. Apart from that, there’s no need to buy special equipment, just find some shorts or jogging pants and a t-shirt, whatever you feel most comfortable in.

Always warm up

All of your runs should start with a warm-up to make sure your muscles are well supplied with oxygen and to raise their temperature for optimal flexibility.  Start with some light aerobic exercise like walking on the spot or cycling on a static bike. This should help prevent any injuries and minimise stress on your heart when you start your run. Some people like to stretch out at this point, while others believe it’s best not to.

One step at a time

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Starting a running programme can be daunting. You may feel as if you can’t even run for a bus, but that’s okay. Try interspersing running with walking.  You’re not going to get fit in a day, but aim for 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. Start off walking for five minutes and running for a minute, gradually building up the length of time you spend jogging. Before you know it, you’ll be running for the full 30 minutes. Allow around eight weeks to build up your fitness levels.

Running technique

Try to adopt a good technique. Keep your arms at waist level, relax your hands and shoulders and maintain a good posture. Think about landing softly to reduce stress on your knees and other joints.

Don’t forget to breathe

It sounds silly but if you’re concentrating too much, you can end up holding your breath. Try inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth, a technique that’s especially good while running outdoors as it prevents you accidentally swallowing bugs. It could help to play music with a consistent beat and having your favourite tunes on your mp3 player should also stop you thinking too much about how far you have to go and help you to relax and enjoy yourself.

Don’t skip your cool down

While the benefits of stretching before your run are often debated, and advice is not to stretch cold muscles, it’s definitely important to stretch out at the end of your exercise.  Breathe deeply while you stretch out your muscles, paying attention to your thighs, hips, calves, lower back, groin, shoulders and triceps. Incorporating a good cool down into every workout should improve flexibility and prevent strains.

Most importantly enjoy yourself and you’ll soon be amazed at how far you can run.

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