Beginners guide

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(reproduced by permission of Stowmarket Striders)

Congratulations! If you are reading this you are well on the way to discovering the joy of running. Abbey Runners are a running club for all abilities and so we attempt to show that through the website too. Before you rush out in a fit of enthusiasm have a quick read through these basics that will help you run faster, further and happier.

Benefits of Running

Running is a great way to remain active at a time when peoples lifestyle generally becomes less active in adulthood. There are many medical studies (although not all are conclusive) showing that running can reduce your chances of developing many heart, bone and physical conditions. It is proven to strengthen your heart & cardiovascular systems and helps to reduce your body’s excess fat.

In addition to the physical benefits there are clear psychological benefits from keeping fit having a positive effect on your life, relationships and coping with the pressures of work. The feeling of achievement can also boost self-esteem and confidence. It is also said to improve your sex life, being fitter and less stressed!

What do I need to wear?

Shoes

The most important thing you need for running is a pair of decent running shoes that suit you and your running style. Our feet have evolved over thousands of years into the ultimate design for moving us from one place to another and we all have slightly different ways of walking and running. As soon as we put on a pair of shoes we compromise our feet’s efficiency and effectiveness so it’s important to get shoes that match our running style as closely as possible.

Shoes are a common cause of injury, either from buying the wrong model or using a shoe beyond its effective life. Simple things like buying a big enough shoe can prevent a host of toe and foot problems brought on by an ill-fitting model. Everyone has different needs and all sorts of things – your biomechanics, your weight, the surfaces you run on, and obviously, the shape of your feet – mean that one person’s ideal shoe can be terrible for another person.

There’s no single ‘best shoe’ and they vary as much as prescription spectacles do. You can get cushioned shoes, stability shoes, motion control shoes, performance training shoes, racing shoes and off-road shoes. There are also over 150 different specialist running shoes to choose from so finding the right model can be a daunting task but you can make the task easier by shopping at specialist running store where you can get informed, relevant and practical advice. Some shops like the ‘Sweatshop’ have a foot scan to map your feet and therefore recommend the most appropriate shoe to wear.

It is also important that you don’t run in worn out shoes. Most running shoes usually last between 400 to 500 miles before the cushioning inside no longer performs efficiently, although from the outside they may look fine. You shoe’s life expectancy varies depending on the type of shoe, your weight, your foot-strike pattern, and the surfaces you run on. Don’t wait until your only pair is worn out. It’s also a good idea to buy a new pair and rotate them for a while.

Clothing

There’s no set running uniform: pick what you feel comfortable in. Depending upon your budget, you may prefer to purchase tops & shorts made from material that is breathable and takes the sweat away from your skin. It’s worth spending a bit more on this so called technical kit as it means that you will stay drier and more comfortable when running. Cotton tee-shirts can very heavy and cold when wet with sweat!

Women often choose Lycra shorts or tights; and non-cotton clothes help you stay drier. Women should buy a high-support sports bra (the more comfortable you are, the more you’ll run!). This one comes down to a personal choice as to which one suits you the best so again seek assistance at a specialist running shop or check out the internet sites.

Don’t overdress in cold weather. If you pile on the clothes whenever it is chilly you will feel nice and warm in the first part of the run but then you will get too hot which will make the remainder of the run feel as if you are running in a sauna. Wear enough to keep yourself from freezing because within a mile you will soon warm up.

If you would normally wear sunglasses on a hot sunny day, wear them when you run as it’s just as important to protect your eyes when you’re running.

As with anything, shop around, there are usually bargains to be found. Read running magazines like Runner’s World where you can find bargains.

Do I need a special diet?

The answer to this question really depends upon who you are talking to. However, it is important to have a good and well balanced diet. Training for long distance runs can take a lot out of your body and it is therefore important that you replenish you body’s reserves.

On the dietary side, minimise the amount of fat in your diet; drink water with every meal; don’t skip breakfast; eat more often and don’t overeat at any sitting. The fuel for runners is carbohydrates which are found in pasta, potatoes, and bread to name but a few. For some of the bigger races it is not uncommon for there to be a pre-race pasta party the night before!

You should wait for about two hours after a meal before running as this will allow the for food to empty from the stomach, especially if it’s high in carbohydrate, If you don’t wait long enough, food will not be properly digested, raising the risk of abdominal cramps, bloating, and even vomiting.

The best way to lose weight is through a combination of sensible eating and increased exercise. Running is the most efficient calorie burner around – A 12-stone man running at nine minutes/mile burns 500 calories in around 35 minutes.

Probably the most important thing is to drink lots, and we don’t mean the alcoholic type. In normal conditions you can lose about 2 litres a day through the body’s processes. So get in to the habit of drinking plenty of fluids, not just while you are running but all the time. Your body needs time to absorb and store the water that you need when running. Waiting to drink until you feel thirsty or until you start exercise is too late. When running your muscles generate heat and in order for your body to maintain its constant temperature of 37oC it sweats to cool the body down. During prolonged running you body can lose between 1 to 2 litres of water an hour. It is therefore vital that you take on water during your run. If you suddenly slow you to a crawl or you have bad runs on some days and good runs on others it may be because you aren’t drinking enough. On all your long runs carry a water bottle, or plan your route through areas where you can find water.

Tips for Beginners

There are a number of tips to assist beginners to running.

Build Steadily. To become a better runner you will have to increase the amount of time or mileage you do. To push hard too soon will only lead to injuries and exhaustion: this will not help help you improve. It is recommended by many to not increase your overall weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent or 2 – 3 miles. This rule applies to experienced runners too.

Warm up and cool down. Running and exercise stretches your muscles and to stretch a muscle that is unprepared can cause an injury. It is recommended that 5 – 10 minutes of walking or slow jogging is sufficient to prepare your muscles for the hard work ahead. A similar process is suggested at the end of your run to help your muscles flush out the lactic acid and help your recovery.

Stretch. After warming up or cooling down is a good time to stretch your muscles. Having flexible muscles is one of the best ways to stave off an injury. A lack of flexibility is a major contributor to several of the most common running injuries. Stretching also helps to ease those stiffening muscles at the end of a run.

Speed Work. Speed work usually takes the form of sprinting short distances or up hills. This helps to increase your pain threshold, stamina and speed for those longer runs. It is considered a vital part of the training for any long distance runner!

Beginners Training Schedule

First steps

This is a ten-week training schedule designed to get you from running for the bus to running 20 minutes non-stop. At this stage it is important that you concentrate on your running time and not the distance ran (this will come later). You should complete three sessions a week before moving on. Walk or jog slowly for 10 minutes before your run and afterwards walk for five minutes to cool down, stretch gently for another five minutes and allow at least a day between runs.

Week Time in minutes Total running time
1 Run 1-1-2-2-1-1 (2 min walk in between) 8
2 1-1-2-3-2-1 (2 min walk in between) 10
3 1-2-3-3-2-1 (2 min walk in between) 12
4 2-5-5-3 (1½ walk in between) 15
5 2-5-8-3 (1 min walk in between) 18
6 2-3-10-3 (1 min walk in between) 20
7 4-12-4 (1 min walk in between) 20
8 3-14-3 (1 min walk in between) 20
9 2-16-2 (1 min walk in between) 20
10 20 non-stop 20

Next steps

If you find the above well within your capabilities, try progressing to this intermediate programme. Alternatively, if you have finished all 10 weeks of the above programme, then start from week 5 of the schedule below. Again, you should complete three of these sessions each week.

Week Time
1 Run 10 mins, walk 1 ½ repeat once
2 Run 12 mins, walk 1 min, run 8 mins
3 Run 15 mins, walk 1 min, run 5 mins
4 Run 20 mins non-stop
5 Run 20 mins non-stop
6 Run 22 mins non-stop
7 Run 25 mins non-stop
8 Run 28 mins non-stop
9 Run 30 mins non-stop
10 Run 30 mins non-stop

Walk or jog slowly for 10 minutes before your run and afterwards walk for five minutes to cool down, stretch gently for another five minutes and allow at least a day between runs.

If you find that running 20 minutes non-stop is well within your abilities – Congratulations, it’s time to join your running club on their training nights. Most clubs (including the Stowmarket Striders) have club coaches who can help structure your training or prepare you for your first race.

Whatever your level of fitness you should be able to complete one of our schedules by setting aside about three hours a week for ten weeks. In ten weeks you’ll feel fitter, more energised and you will be comfortable to run three or four times a week. Running will become part of your routine.

Now you can run – what next?

The answer to this one depends upon your own goals. Many people join a running club to maintain their fitness and to enjoy the social aspects with other similar minded people. You could revise your objectives by running longer and longer races until you finally go for the big one – the London Marathon.

However it is your choice as to how you progress your running. Don’t forget that running is a sport and it is important that you enjoy yourself, have fun and feel good!

You need to enjoy the running experience if you want to continue and succeed at it. But this can take time. You need to be patient. Running doesn’t always jump out at you as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Eventually though, you realise it is.

Best of Luck!

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