1) Go back to basics
Many people believe that running is just something we can all do, so why would we need to learn how to do it? But while we all ran as children, many people will have done little or no running since then.
As a result, most of us have forgotten how to use our body in the way it was designed and, therefore, we will benefit from re-learning the basic movement patterns of running.
This is really important both for injury prevention and for increasing your potential to be able to run faster, should that be the goal.
So, aherm, why not come to a GTC beginners’ run session and learn the correct skills for great running technique?
GTC sessions for running beginners go back to basics, covering relatively low distances and are suitable for those who haven’t run since their childhood and those who perhaps are recovering from injury or returning to running after some time out.
The group is friendly, fun and confidence building, so why not give it a try?
2) Good quality footwear
Old, worn-out trainers or those with inappropriate support will increase your chances of injury so it’s important that you go along to a recommended sports shop and take advice on a pair of good quality trainers that suit your current running style.
Experts in stores such as Achilles Heel will be able to advise on the right type of trainers for your chosen terrain, eg off road or on road, and your running gait.
The GTC run sessions will teach you how to limit your heavy heel strike, if that’s what you have, but your running style won’t change overnight (in fact, that would do more harm than good) so you need trainers that suit your running style now, not the style you’re aiming for.
While you’re at it, get some running socks, too. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference they make.
3) Start small and stand tall
Build up the distance slowly and only run each time for as long as you can maintain a good posture. It’s okay to alternate walking and running (the NHS Couch to 5K and Couch to 10K can provide good programmes to get you from walking to running longer distances).
And think about standing up tall even before you start to run. Pull your shoulders back, your tummy and bottom in and let your neck relax so you’re not sticking your chin out. Imagine a piece of thread attached to the top of your head that keeps you upright like a puppet. Once you’ve standing tall, you’re ready to run.
4) Always warm up
Start with some brisk walking and dynamic stretching. (If you don’t know what this you should come to a beginners’ session!) The session includes the same warm up each week, so it’s easy to learn and you can easily repeat this with your own runs at home. It’s really important to prepare your body before you demand it to perform.
5) Run with friends
Running solo can be liberating and relaxing but it’s not always that easy to motivate yourself. It’s easier to push yourself to go out for a run or keep going when you have a likeminded running pal. You’ll find lots of people who will be happy to run with you at GTC.
Stretching is not just for girls and hippies! Every time you run or cycle your muscles contract. At the end of each session, you need to stretch them out again to prevent them from permanently shortening.
Overly tight or short muscles will leave you unbalanced and prevent you from moving properly. Eventually your body will over-compensate for these imbalances and this can cause injuries and instabilities in joints.
At the very least, try to remember to stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes and hip flexors and hold (DON’T BOUNCE) each for AT LEAST 20 seconds.
If you’re not sure what stretches to be doing, come to the GTC Beginners’ Session to find out.
7) Fuel yourself
While running immediately after a heavy meal is not advisable, neither is running on empty. Have a light snack about an hour to two hours before you run otherwise you will end up literally running out of fuel and having to walk home.
Try to eat something almost immediately after your run, too. If it isn’t dinner time then at least have a yogurt or a glass of milk and a piece of fruit. It’s immediately after a training session when your body most needs protein and carbohydrate to repair itself.
Don’t forget to hydrate, too, with water or milk. If you’re running longer than 5K or coming to a GTC run session you’ll also want take some hydration with you (water’s fine for this and no fancy drinks needed).
8) Recover well
Don’t try to train every day of the week, especially if you are new to the sport. Running is higher impact than cycling and much more so than swimming, which means the body needs longer to recover.
Don’t try to train on back-to-back days. Start once a week and build to twice a week once you are comfortable, or even three times a week, but be careful. If you’re still sore, switch your session for a swim or a bike instead.
If you’re feeling lethargic and under the weather you could be over training. It’s okay to have a day off regularly and to skip training if you’re not well.
9) Go explore
Use your new-found freedom on foot to explore your local area. You might be surprised how many previously undiscovered routes you can find, hidden in forgotten parts of parks and along rivers and canals.
If your local area doesn’t come up with the goods make the effort occasionally to get out into the wonderful countryside so close to the city.
Ask members of GTC for their recommendations of new places to run and take a note of some ideas. There will be plenty!
10) Wear Lycra!
It doesn’t have to be bright or tight or even expensive but there’s a reason why running and triathlon specific clothing usually includes some Lycra. It’s because it is a supportive, lightweight and fast-drying fabric.
Flappy and heavy garments, for example those made from cotton, will restrict your movement, slow you down and tire you out.
If you feel a bit self-conscious in tight Lycra you could add a pair of loose-fitting, lightweight shorts or a t-shirt over the top.
11) To achieve something new
Running could give you a new goal, such as taking part in 5k, 10k or half-marathon race, or trying a triathlon. Motivation and reward can come from have something to aim for and many people find that running does this for them.
12) It’s great for weight loss
Running is an accessible and achievable way to lose weight and tone up. And the mental boost that comes from running can really help with self-confidence.
- Thank you to GTC coaches Hannah and Rose for helping to compile these top tips. They lead the GTC beginner running sessions at Bellahouston every Thursday evening.
- From September 3, the intermediate and advanced runners will also train alongside the beginners at Bellahouston. See GTC running sessions. Go along to find out more about how to become a better runner, whatever your level.