Friday, 21 March 2014

Running for the first time? Do this!

So many people I know who are NOT runners frequently say things like 'I can't run', 'I'm too old/busy to run', 'my knees hurt when I run', 'running just seems like such hard work, why bother?', 'I would run but but but but...' The excuse are seemingly endless.
Well here's the thing. ANYONE CAN RUN! Old people, young people, women, men, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly people, new mothers, people with an aversion to exercise and super athletes.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. You only need five things if you want to start running; 1. A left foot, 2. A right foot, 3. A heart beat, 4. The desire/determination to have a real go at it and 5. A plan.

Its Saturday morning and I have just returned from my local Parkrun event. Parkrun is a free weekly professionally timed 5km event that is in most cities and a great community of runners/joggers/walkers/pram pushers and friendly people. It is one of many ways a person can start running. Having other runners around you is a great motivator.
But lets say you don't feel confident that you can make it that far. You're worried that you might collapse 100 metres in and require a) oxygen b) an ambulance c) CPR d) a priest to read the last rites or e) all of the above. Truth is, it is probably very unlikely you will drop dead the first time you go running but you will hopefully raise a sweat and get a little puffed.
So, how do you start?
First, turn off the TV and put down the remote control.
Now, put on some comfortable clothing (worrying about having the perfect running gear often becomes a point of procrastination, so don't worry about it, you look great!) and shoes (any will do at the moment but preferably some kind of comfortable running shoe. No high heels or those damn vibram barefoot things - you aren't Kenyan! or maybe you are Kenyan in which case you won't need them). If you have a stopwatch, egg timer, sundial or some other kind of timing device thingy-ma-bob that might be handy though not entirely essential. You don't want to get hung up on the little things. You just want to get yourself moving with as little distraction as possible.
Now walk out the front door. The key with your first time out as 'a runner' is to just try. You only fail if you don't get out that front door. The next step is to start walking, not running, walking at a relatively brisk pace (you don't need to wiggle your bum like a race walker, that's just silly). After about five minutes your heart rate will likely be slightly elevated, your lungs will be drawing in more oxygen and you may even be sweating. Don't panic, this is normal.
Now comes the part where you run. It is important you don't try and sprint here (there will be no gold medals awarded at this time) and burn yourself up, just jog slowly for 1 minute. That's it. After 1 minute walk again. If you feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest and splatter all over the footpath after 30 seconds then it is ok to walk, but walk as briskly as you are able. No stopping (I'm watching!!) You want to keep that heart pumping. Alternatively, if you feel like you could run for 2 minutes, DON'T! Just keep it to 1 minute for now followed by a another 5 minutes of brisk walking.
The key to success here is to feel like you can do more. By setting small achievable goals you are more likely to keep going. So many people think you need to feel like shit when you run in order to improve yourself. Well you don't. If you do too much too soon you are likely to a) injure yourself b) not enjoy it thus not want to do it again or, c) need mouth to mouth from a stranger passing on the street.
The 5 minute walk/1 minute run cycle should be repeated three times on this, your first run. So that is a grand total of 15 minutes walking and 3 minutes running. Don't do anymore. I want you to be 'hungry like the wolf' to do more tomorrow. The feeling of success is so very important. It is also important to feel like you've got more in the tank. If you do this, you can now call yourself a runner.
Do this 3 times in your first week. Exactly the same. Next week, change the cycle to 4 minutes walk/2 minutes run. As each week goes by shorten your walk break by a minute (or even just 30 seconds) and before you know it you will be able to run continuously for 15-18 minutes.
Give it a go and I promise you will not regret it.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section below or on Facebook or Twitter
Happy Running
Runner Dan