I’ve been running now for nearly 6 months so I wanted to share some of the top 10 tips I’ve picked up along the way. These are by no means all the things you need to know before you start running, or even the most important, but they’re the things I’ve found most helpful!
#1 Don’t go too fast
When I first started trying to follow the Couch to 5k programme, I’d sprint off for my minute interval, then walk, then sprint again. This worked just fine for the first couple of weeks, then as soon as I got to week four or five, the runs started to get much harder, my lungs would burn and my legs would ache. It was about this time that I’d decide to give up.
Joining my running club helped me to pace myself, it’s ok to go slowly! Running at a slower speed meant that the intervals stayed manageable each week as I improved. Even if you start running slowly, you’ll find your body adapts and you’ll gradually get faster anyway. And remember, 5km is still 5km, no matter how fast or slow you finish!
I didn’t used to drink enough water, looking back I’m surprised at how I coped! Drinking enough is so important, especially when you start running longer distances. You need to make sure you’re well hydrated the day/night before a morning run, and hydrated throughout the day for an evening run.
To help me remember to drink more, and to motivate me, I’ve started using an app called Plant Nanny. It turns drinking your daily amount into a game, you water your plants and level them up, it’s what works for me! Other apps such as MyFitnessPal also help you track water intake too.
I can’t stress enough how important this is! You’ll feel lots of other benefits on top of improvements in your running too.
I soon found out from my physiotherapist and running coach that running with bad posture was the reason I was experiencing shin and calf pain while running. I’ve worked with them to correct this and my standing and walking posture has improved too. I feel like I walk and carry myself with so much more confidence now, I’m no longer watching the floor directly in front of my feet.
I’m not trained to give advice about posture so I’ll keep it simple, try and run tall and proud, don’t slouch forward, however much you might want to! For a more in-depth analysis of your own running posture, I’d really recommend checking in with a coach or a physiotherapist. My physiotherapist filmed me on a treadmill and we watched it back in slow motion, it was so helpful to see what I was actually doing with my limbs!
#4 Join a club or a get running buddy
Running alone is great! I’m not disagreeing with that at all, and I think it’s really important to keep some runs for yourself, you can really switch off and focus on yourself for a bit. But running with people can really improve your running. I know for a fact that I would not still be running today if it hadn’t been for my running club.
Having a coach to turn to for advice and having friends there that I run with every week makes all the difference. You push yourself alongside them, you celebrate your successes together and you’re there for each other through the “bad” runs (I hate that phrase!).
If a club isn’t for you, then drag your partner out for a weekend run, or go out with your best friend or people from work. Going running with my partner Joe has become a new highlight in our weekends, we both look forward to it and feel great afterwards!
#5 Ditch the weighing scales
If you’re running to lose weight, my first piece of advice would be to ditch the weighing scales. Since I started running 6 months ago, my weight has only dropped by a few pounds, but the number of compliments I’ve had, and the changes I’ve seen in the mirror are huge!
Even though my weight number hasn’t changed that much, my clothes are fitting better, I feel more toned, my posture has improved and most importantly I feel so much healthier. So please, don’t worry too much about the numbers, if you’re running to lose weight, take photos instead, you’ll see the differences in your body shape, and it will mean so much more than the numbers ever will!
#6 Foam rolling & stretching
I’ll quote myself here from my Couch to 5k blog post: “Injury prevention is much better than dealing with an injury once you have it…”. As a beginner runner, you are using muscles that you don’t normally use in everyday life, and it’s important that you look after these, or injuries will happen.
Foam rolling feels strange at first, but trust me, it helps! Think of it as a DIY Sports Massage. There are loads of tutorials online to show you how to foam roll and you can pick up a foam roller pretty cheaply in sports stores or online.
#7 Don’t compare yourself
This is the one I still struggle with the most. As someone who constantly compares myself to other people, running is no exception. I can’t help but take it to heart slightly when people who start running after me progress quicker, or people I know can run further and faster than me with less training. But I’m getting there. I try to keep all of the positives in mind and remind myself just how far I’ve come on my own journey.
I’m not in competition with anyone, I see races as events, I want everyone to succeed and I want everyone to become healthier. My journey has been amazing, I just need to remember that, and stop comparing my progress to other peoples!
#8 Track your running
With the previous tip in mind, I’d really recommend tracking your progress so you can see your improvements charted and look back at just how far you’ve come every couple of months.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Good ol’ pen and paper: write down the time you ran/walked for, your route distance (You can work this out on free sites such as Mapometer), how you felt and any other thoughts about the run. If you know the time and distance, you can work out your average speed / pace, there are lots of free websites to do this. I use this one.)
- Free running apps for smart phones: Previously I’ve used Runkeeper but I know friends who use a Nike app as well. These apps are great as they do all of the speed, distance and timings for you, some also give you a map of your route too!
- GPS Watch: I try to avoid running with my phone where possible so I’ve now switched to a Garmin GPS watch. I went for the very basic model and so far it does everything I want it to. It is a bit of an investment money wise, so if you’re not sure, I’d stick with the free apps, but I love my Garmin now and wouldn’t run without it!
Following the Couch to 5k meant I saw improvements weekly as my running intervals lasted longer each week. Now I can run continuously, I use my training logs to see improvements, check my speeds and see trends in how I feel on each run.
#9 Sign up for an event
Events (Races) aren’t for everyone, but I’d say it’s always worth trying one once! The atmosphere at events is electric, and the running community is genuinely one of the friendliest and accepting. Yes, there may be elite athletes, but I can guarantee you there will be some ‘back of the pack’ runners like me there too!
As a first event, I cannot recommend Parkrun enough. The 5k Parkrun events are held all over the UK, they are completely free and they are open to anyone and everyone. Seriously. For those following the Couch to 5k programme, it’s perfect for your walking and running intervals! The volunteers are amazing, and it’s not so bad being lapped by a more experienced runner when it’s paired with a shout of “Keep going, you’re doing amazingly”…and it’s aimed at you!
#10 Have fun!
This is probably the most important tip out of all of them. You can have fancy running shoes, the industrial strength sports bra (no?…just me?…), the foam roller, the fancy watch…but if you’re not enjoying it and having fun…then what’s the point?
Track your runs to see improvements, treat yourself to some gadgets and follow a training plan, but enjoy it while you do! Do whatever helps, listen to your favourite music, run in a place which makes you happy, wear fancy dress if you have to! Just get out there and have some fun with it!