Training for running marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks – or even just running on the trail or road to get fit? It’s hard to keep running as interesting and motivating as it is on day one, especially if you’re not part of a running club or can’t get a trainer. WideWorld has put together our top 10 tips to keep your running habit going.
1. Use your smartphone every time you run
GPS-based apps like MotionX, RunKeeper and Nike+ have training modes that speak aloud as you run: knowing what your speed is as you go along means you can control your run properly and adjust it, giving you confidence when faced with a set distance or time. Bring a plastic bag with you to protect the phone in case of rain. Read more about running apps here.
2. Don’t stress about stretching
While some people probably benefit from stretching routines, if you’re doing a simple run then the best limbering up you can do is just to start running. You’re using the same muscles, after all – and if you can cut out 10-15 minutes of stretching time from your exercise plan, you’re far more likely to stick to it. Just get out there and get back. One study even found that stretching can reduce your performance – read about it here.
3. Map your routes beforehand
Use a website like sportdistancecalculator.com to create accurate and planned routes before you step out of the house. This gives you several advantages: firstly, you know you will end up back home after the correct amount of time, avoiding over or under-running. Secondly, you get to vary your routes far more, and novelty means you’re more likely to stick to your goals. Thirdly, going back to your map on your return is like a good debrief – you assess what was good and bad while you warm down, and think harder about your next run.
4. Choose a race to run
Don’t leave your training open-ended: pick a real, organized event that you can realistically achieve after a set period of training. You’re spoilt for choice these days, with 5K, 10K, 10-mile, half-marathon and full marathon races giving you brilliant opportunities to enter running and progress upwards.
Races like Helly Hansen’s Beauty and The Beast offer marathon distances that you can run as team relays, breaking up the race into chunks you feel are challenging without being impossible, for instance, while BUPA Great Runs organise long and short versions of many of their famous races. Use the brilliant race finder page on Runner’s World to pick a race that suits you.
5. Get the best kit you can afford
While you can run naked if you like, you’re more likely to stick to your new hobby if you look the business. That means buying or borrowing dedicated kit that is specifically designed for running, from trainers, shorts, leggings, base layers, hats and jackets. As well as being more comfortable in the sun, wind and rain, simply looking like you know what you’re doing is enough to give the confidence to get out and run more often. Check out WideWorld’s reviews section to see what’s out.
6. Don’t fall for the hydration myths
Drinks companies are always pushing the same agenda on runners: drink constantly otherwise you risk damaging your health. Like most advice that comes from a profit motive, this is mostly bull. Your body is equipped to alert you to dehydration: it’s called thirst. Drink when you want to. This will probably be between the 45-minute and 1 hour mark in average UK weather, but just listen to your body and follow orders from it. Panicking is more likely to hurt you.
If you’re putting in lots of hours on the road, then by all means sup some sports drinks, but a pinch of salt and teaspoon of sugar in a glass of tap water when you get home does the same thing, practically for free – and contains no weird artificial additives. Find out about the most common hydration myths here.
7. Go soft and slow to build up better
You must avoid doing anything that stops your running habit forming. For most people, there are three things that seem to get in the way: strained muscles in the legs, painful knee/ankle joints, or injuries like twisted ankles. Following three simple rules can eliminate these: Firstly, build up your distance and pace slowly, run by run. Walk between bursts of running if needed.
Secondly, try starting your regime on soft ground: grass, dirt tracks, and sand. This will relieve pressure on your joints and allow you to build up strength slowly until you’re ready to introduce road and pavements to your routes. Thirdly, if you start to stumble, if you can’t think straight, and if you can’t get your breathing right, stop immediately and walk home. This is the point where injuries and strains begin to become inevitable.
Get expert runner’s advice on avoiding injury here.
8. Introduce variety to keep your motivation
Running is only boring if you are. Try swapping day for night runs in the dark. Go urban. Tear up the roads during rush hour to wind up commuters. Head for the hills and take a photo of the best view. Visit local running clubs for trial runs. See how far you can go without crossing a road. Go out with someone faster than you, then next run take out a newbie. Try listening to music, or audio books, or podcasts. Go to your nearest running track for a day-pass and rinse it out. Variety helps your confidence, breaks boredom and reminds you why you started running in the first place. It’s crucial.
9. Breathing doesn’t have to be complicated
We’ve read a few training guides that suggest different breathing techniques for running better. Most explain how you should time your breaths to your footfalls – like the classic 3:2 ratio of three counts in, (left then right, then left foot) to two count in (right then left foot). There are also disciples of nose breathing for long distances: a technique that some ultra marathon runners feel slows the heart rate and delays fatigue. Whatever makes you most comfortable seems to be the rule.
When you are able to talk and run, you’re around 50-70% of your VO2 max – the amount of oxygen your body can usefully metabolise. If you can’t talk, you’re at 70% or more and might find it hard to sustain over longer distances. Find out about the different breathing patterns you can try here.
10. Tweak running form a bit at a time
We tend to train with the words of running legend Scott Jurek ringing in our ears: “Running is just controlled falling.” Jurek’s autobiography explains in more detail that it’s really just about letting gravity assist you as much as possible: lean forward slightly with the whole body and hips, keep your arms bent and don’t swing them in front of your chest and restrict your breathing.
There’s so many ways you can target your technique – and many of them are revealed right here. Pick one or two things at a time and target them on each run rather than trying to remember everything at once. You find a natural balance between what your body wants to do, and what experts say is ideal, and that’s probably the best place to be.