Before 2020 was even over, 2021 had a slogan: “it’s got to be better, right?” During the last year, many of us learnt to really appreciate time outside in the fresh air. Long walks have never been so popular, and it sometimes seemed like the entire world took up running in lockdown. But if you didn’t, or are coming back from an injury, fear not! You have not missed out – and there is no better time for starting a running habit than the new year. After all, if you can make it through cold dark January, think how much of a breeze summer will be!
So ok, you have the good intentions, but how to actually begin? It’s very easy to say, and much harder to do: but just get out there. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, how fast or slow you feel. Absolutely everyone can give it a whirl. Personally, I started with the NHS Couch-to-5k app and would recommend it to anyone. It is super achievable, starts very gently with a mix of walking and running and you even get to choose celebrity voices to coach you through. That, and a pair of trainers and some comfy clothes you can move freely in, are literally all you need. You can get yourself fancy kit later on down the line, when you are properly hooked.
For beginners, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew, take regular rest days, and never feel like you’ve somehow ‘failed’ if you have to take a walk break. Even seasoned runners need them sometimes! Running really does require patience – it can seem like you are getting nowhere for ages then suddenly you make a bit of a breakthrough. Just stick with it, we promise it will get easier.
At the beginning of your running journey you’ll probably have some aches and pains (DOMS is the technical term = delayed onset muscle soreness). That’s normal, it’s your body being asked to do something it hasn’t done before, and protesting as it gets used to it. But get used to it, it will improve! Having said that, don’t run through pain. If it really hurts, your body is telling you something (And that something is “STOP!”) You can always cross train – and one thing runners learn more and more as they progress is that cross-training isn’t just a substitute for running, it’s vital for making you a better runner!
Perhaps as important as how to run, is why. Runners are often evangelical about their sport because they know how good it feels: for your self-esteem, for your mental health, for your sleep. Once you get over that first, steep, learning curve, you’ll realise how much better you feel after a run. Even on a day when it’s the last thing you feel like, it really does make everything seem a little bit better.
Lastly, do not compare yourself to anyone else. As Rick is fond of saying on Running Channel videos, comparison is the thief of joy! Yes, there are always people who are faster than you – but that’s true for everyone (well, except possibly Eliud Kipchoge). We are all – experienced runners or newbies – prone to only ever seeing the people whizzing past and forget all the people behind us, or who are still on their sofas binging on Netflix while we are out and about getting those miles in.
For more tips on starting out with running, check out our video below.