Your frequently asked questions

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How far should I run?
Running is really simple – To run further you need to run further. When you take up running you will probably struggle to do a few hundred yards and to run further you will have to increase the amount of time or mileage you do. However, don’t increase your overall weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent or 2 – 3 miles because pushing too hard too soon will only lead to injuries and exhaustion and this will not help you improve. Early on, every run can feel difficult but if you’re steady, train smart, and take your time, eventually the pain goes away, and running becomes natural, powerful, and enjoyable.

How fast should I run?
As I said earlier, running is really simple. To run faster you need to run faster. But, if you are new to running concentrate on building up your endurance before anything else and the good news is this means running slowly. Cardiovascularly you may feel very comfortable but your bones and ligaments take longer to adapt to the weight bearing exercise.

Can I walk?
It makes perfect sense to mix running and walking. All world-class runners use interval training as part of their training. They run hard for one to five minutes, then walk or jog until they’re ready to run hard again. Ultra-distance runners inevitably alternate running and walking in their long-distance events. Don’t view walking as the enemy.

Should I be out of breath when I run?
You should be able to talk in complete sentences while running which means that you have to go slowly. At first you will probably only run a couple of hundred yards at a stretch, then walk to get your breath back, but soon will be jogging more and walking less. Set your sights on being able to run for 30 minutes or four miles, non-stop, but give yourself as much time as you like. If you feel tired from the previous week, just stay at the same effort level until you’re used to it.

Where can I run?
Probably just about anywhere where it is legal and safe to do so. In fact the more different routes you run and the more variety there is in your running the less chance there is of you getting into a rut and becoming a one-pace runner. Vary the running between tracks, roads and parks and vary the speed at which you run and you can easily work out a dozen different training runs so that you don’t repeat yourself too often. Off-road running is also much easier on your legs.

What’sspeed Work?
The only way to run faster is to run faster. Speed work usually takes the form of repeated short-distance sprints. This helps to increase strength, stamina and speed and is a vital part of any long distance runner’s training. For a beginner it means moving from a single-speed run to variable paced training. This is initially difficult because it requires you to push yourself harder for short periods of your run. However, in time you can extend the faster periods, cut back on the recovery time between each burst or run even faster during the bursts of speed. BUT: When you start running don’t attempt any speed work until you have completed our 10 week beginner’s programme. This will allow time for you to strengthen your legs so they can cope with the extra pressure of speed work.

What are warm ups and cool downs?
Running and exercise stretches your muscles and to stretch a muscle that is unprepared can cause an injury. Walk or jog slowly for 10 minutes before your proper run to prepare your muscles for the work ahead. A warm up prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing blood flow and raising core muscle temperature. Do the same at the end of your run to help your muscles flush out the lactic acid and help your recovery. Stopping abruptly can cause leg cramps, nausea, dizziness and muscle soreness.

To stretch or not to stretch?
After warming up or cooling down is a good time to stretch your muscles. 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. At this moment there’s a lot of debate about stretching and how and when it should be done so you need to talk to a UK Athletics coach at a running club to find out more.

What should I aim for?
When you start running set yourself some modest short-term goals like working through our ten-week programme. The goal of any run could be to feel better, get in better shape, reduce tension, lose weight, and train for an upcoming race and so on. Once you’ve got a bit of confidence and experience you can aim to complete certain distances – two miles, 5K or 10K – regardless of speed. When you have done this, aim to improve your times at the distances which suit you best.

How can I keep track of my running?
As you do more running you will notice the difference in yourself but you should also keep a training log as a record of all your runs. What you record in it is up to you, but as a minimum you can record when you ran, where you went, how far it was and how long it took. You can also record what the weather was like, how you felt, who you were with, in fact anything you like. It’s useful to read back through your logs to find out what you used to do, what worked well and how far you have come.

What if I really want to go for it?
Running as fast as you can for as far as you can on every run will only have one result – injury and exhaustion (ok, two results). When you first start running don’t struggle to keep up with other runners who were faster than you but run at your own level and then, over time, slowly increase your own pace. After a few months of sensible running you will be able to rejoin the fast group for harder work-outs. If you wake up in the morning and your legs are still aching, it’s a sure sign that you overdid it the previous day. Take it easy and get extra rest and sleep before training hard again.

I’ve got aches and pains everywhere, what should I do?
Pay attention to your body and be aware of symptoms that suggest possible illness or injury. Don’t ignore lower limb pain and don’t be afraid to seek medical help for what seem like a minor problem. If part of you hurts during or after you run, take a couple of days off, or more if you need. If in doubt, rest, and don’t worry because even taking five days of complete rest from running will have little impact on your fitness level. It’s more important to stop a niggle becoming an injury.

Have I got injured because I’m new to running?
No. About 65 per cent of all runners are injured during an average year but you can prevent most injuries by training sensibly and using a little common sense and fore thought. Build up your training programme gradually and incrementally, be realistic about the goals you set yourself, integrate rest days into your programme no matter how motivated you are to improve and ensure that warming up; stretching and cooling down become second nature.

I’m 42, surely I’m too old for this lark?
It’s never too late to start running (within reason). There is nothing unusual about taking up running later in life. But if you haven’t done an active sport for more than two years your muscles will be untrained, and that includes your heart muscle. You don’t need a medical check-up unless you have had a serious illness in the last year, or have a family history of heart trouble, or are seriously overweight, but you should start out gently and be sure that you have recovered from one session before starting the next.

So when will I be ready to run a race?
Taking part in races can make running much more interesting. There are hundreds of races all over the world to choose from. Start with a distance you are confident of completing. Don’t enter a 10K race unless you have run at least as far as that on one of your training runs. Don’t worry about your speed – there are people of every speed in races. There is no harm in running shorter distances to start with – a 2-mile fun run, for example, just to get the feel of racing as opposed to training.

What about a marathon?
Too many novice runners focus on the marathon right away. If you concentrate on shorter races early on it can help you run a faster marathon because it will get you used to racing and the extra rigors that this puts on your body and it could also reduce the chance of injury.

So what about a marathon?
Most runners at some point think about running a marathon. Some would say the sensible ones dismiss it as ridiculous but for many it remains the ultimate challenge – one of the things on your list of 50 things to do before you die! When you decide to run your first marathon is a personal decision that varies with the individual and should not be entered into lightly. There are no hard and fast rules about how much training you should do or how many races you should run before a marathon but to go from nothing to the marathon in less than six months would not be sensible.

How can I keep running forever?
One of the complaints often levelled at running is that it’s boring and if all you ever do is 20 minutes on a treadmill three times a week at your local gym it’s hard to argue with that assessment. In such a situation, just as if you are running the same training routes and races year after year, it’s easy to lose interest in running. Running has to be more than a habit – it should be fun. If it isn’t, then maybe it’s time to shift your focus, change you running routes or join a running club like Striders. Anything that gets you out of a rut will help you stick with the sport and enjoy its benefits.

(reproduced by permission of Stowmarket Striders)

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