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Why you will love running too

running woman photo

It Makes You Feel GreatThe first one may be blatantly obvious but I can’t overstate how true it is.   Let’s look at some of the science behind this statement.  Running, like other cardiovascular exercises e.g. swimming and cycling, helps to stimulate your body to release endorphins, which are one of the brain’s chemicals known as neurotransmitters; they send electrical messages to the nervous system and tend to relieve stress and also pain.  They can make you feel energized and often euphoric during and after your training and the effect is usually referred to as ‘runner’s high’.  It’s a guilt-free pick-me-up!

Lose FatOne of the most common reasons that women turn to running is often the knowledge that it helps to burn fat.  But what are the figures behind it?  This question is a little like ‘how long is a piece of string’?  The number of calories that you burn will depend on your weight, how long you run for, your fitness levels and the speed that you’re running at.  But as a very general rule of thumb you will burn an average of 100 calories per 10 minutes of running at about 6 miles per hour (which is about 9.65km per hour).  So, if you run for 30 minutes you’re burning the equivalent of a small Mars Bar.  Not bad!

I Heart RunningYour heart is a muscle and, like any muscle it gets stronger when it’s used.  Engaging in cardiovascular exercise, will help to strengthen your heart and improve your circulation, which can lead to a decreased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

It’s (almost) Free!What’s the saying?  The best things in life are free!  Well, running comes under that heading.  To become a runner, you won’t need to pay hefty gym membership fees or invest in expensive gear.  Aside from a good pair of trainers and, for the ladies out there, a supportive sports bra you won’t need much more to kick-start your running.

Running BuddiesRunning can be a way of socializing as well as a great way of getting fit.  There are running clubs all over the world that accept new members; you can meet new people while you improve your health and well-being.  It’s win-win!  Running is also a great way to catch up with friends or to spend some quality time with your partner.  You’ll be surprised how fast the miles go when you’re chatting and enjoying the company of others.

Be Kind to Your Bones You may think that running damages your bones but it’s actually the reverse that is now believed to be the case.  It has been demonstrated that engaging in moderate running can actually increase bone density.  This is particularly important for women as bone density starts to decrease after the age of 40, especially in menopausal or post-menopausal women.  So how does it work?  When you run you put more strain on your bones than you do when you’re walking, your bones notice this difference and respond to it by activating reactions to increase in strength.  Clever bones!

No SAD for YouWe all need Vitamin D; it helps our body to absorb essential minerals e.g. calcium, iron and zinc.  We can ingest it from our food (from oily fish, eggs etc.) and our body also makes Vitamin D from sunlight, but many of us don’t get enough of it.  This can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) a form of depression, some common symptoms include: lack of energy, moodiness, sleeping too much, change in appetite.  By running outside, even for only 20 minutes a couple of times a week you can top up your Vitamin D levels, avoiding SAD and keeping your bones and teeth healthy in the process.

Keep Cancer at BayThere are many kinds of cancer that experts agree can be reduced by taking part in regular exercise, some of these include: breast, lung and colon cancer.  So, in short, running regularly can help you to steer clear of cancer, sounds like a pretty good reason to get those trainers on to me!

Enjoy Some ‘You’ TimeRunning is a great way to spend time with others, but it’s also a fantastic way to get some peace and quiet.  Lacing up those shoes and going for a run, no matter how short or how slow, can give you some much-needed head space and time away from the problems of the day.  It’s amazing how a run can help to clear your head and give you some time to reset your brain, ready to take on the next challenge. 

Remember when…?Running can help to give your memory a (sometimes) much needed boost.  Being physically active, especially while you age will help to keep your mind sharp as a tack.  It’s been demonstrated that regular exercise can completely halt the decline in the part of our brains that deals mostly with learning and memory, called the hippocampus, which is also one of the first parts of the brain to be damaged in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Why I Love to Run

running photo

Congratulations!  You have taken the first step to start improving your general health and fitness just by purchasing this E-book.  Having the right mind-set and thinking positively is such a big part of running and, by motivating yourself to get active; you’ve already proven that you have a real desire to be a fitter, healthier and better you. 

I’ve been running for quite some time now, years and years in fact, and I still get a real buzz from slipping on my trainers and hitting the road or trail or wherever my run takes me on that day.  But I was a beginner once too, everyone was.  I used to think that running was a great way to lose weight and that was all I was interested in, but when I became more of a regular runner and found myself hooked on the sport I was amazed at all the advantages there are to it.  It’s not just the health benefits that make running such a great activity, there are also a huge number of positive effects that running can have on your emotional and mental state.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Throughout the course of this book I will be giving you information about what, in my opinion, is the best way to go from a low activity lifestyle to running your very first 10km.  If you’ve had a look through the chapter sections you’ll notice that I have also included a 5km plan.  Now, it’s not essential for you to take place in a 5km event before you race double the distance.  But I have found that getting involved in a 5km race is a great way to improve your confidence and to make you feel more comfortable with taking part in a longer run, especially if you have never raced before.

There are more and more 10km race events taking place, many of them for charity.  You shouldn’t have any problem finding a race that is local to you (at the end of the book you will find a list of websites with race calendars).  I’m sure that many of you have heard friends or relatives that have run a 10km race before talking about their experiences, you will probably have heard these finishers discussing their times and comparing speediness.  I can’t re-iterate how important it is to ignore them, especially at the start of your training.  Running is something that should be done for enjoyment and also for the health and fitness benefits that you receive from it.  When you’re just starting out, the last thing you want to do is to start comparing yourself to other people.  It’s likely that it will just make you disheartened and feeling like “Why am I even bothering?  I’m never going to be as fast as Christy / Sarah / Jenny / insert name here!”

If you’re a competitive person by nature (like me) then I know this is going to be hard for you.  But your main concern should be getting yourself off the couch and out running, be that in the gym or on the road or in a park.  Forget about the other runners that may well whizz past you at the start of your training.  Measure your performance against yourself, and yourself only, not against what the person next to you is doing.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t push yourself.  But try to be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a pat on the back for training for a 10km, that’s already more than most people do.   Don’t be discouraged if you’re not breaking any world records immediately.  Running is better for you than sitting on the sofa in front of the television, so focus on how well you’re doing just for getting out there.  However, I would always recommend consulting a doctor before starting up a new exercise routine, especially if you don’t lead a particularly active lifestyle in general.

In this chapter I want to give you some top reasons to run and also some of the generally accepted health benefits of running.  By setting yourself the challenge of running 10km you are starting on an adventure and I can guarantee that by the end of it you will feel better about yourself.  So good luck and on we go!

 

5km Training Plan – Sub 30 minute race

marathon woman photo

Complete a 5-minute warm up and 5-minute cool down before and after each training session involving a mix of brisk walking and easy jogging.  After the training outlined, make sure to perform some of the stretches outlined in Chapter 4 to keep your muscles limber and flexible and to aid recovery.

For a sub 30 minute 5km race you are looking at running at a pace of 5.59 minutes per km or under, so with this plan you will need to incorporate some speed and strength work into your training.  With this in mind this plan is understandably more advanced than the ‘getting round’ one.  It also includes an introduction to hill work which we will build on in the 10km training plans. 

In this plan, the aim is for you to get around the course jogging/running the whole way without any breaks that will slow your time down.  You will see that in this plan you actually run for longer than you anticipate it to take to complete your race (the 40-minute jog in weeks 6 and 7 and the 48-minute jog in week 7).  Running these longer distances will help to increase your stamina so that on race day you will find that you have more energy in your legs to push forward at more of a pace than you have been going at in the majority of your training runs.  You will also notice that there are a number of checks during this training plan for you to ensure that your pacing level is on track in order to finish the 5km in less than half an hour.  Please note that these checks are approximations.  If you find that you’re not where you need to be at the time of these pace checks don’t throw in the towel, give yourself an extra week to get to that point and if the correct pace is still eluding you but you’re desperate for your sub-30 minutes, then it’s worth increasing your speed sessions (add 25% on to the times covered in the above plan) and this should give your pace a bit of a kick-start.Remember, there are a number of different components that contribute to your time during the race including: the weather, any injuries you’ve picked up, your personal health on the day, the layout of the course and many many more.  Following the training plan doesn’t mean that you will definitely reach a sub 30 minute 5km but it should stand you in good stead and you know what they say – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  You will notice that the two 5km plans are quite different from each other and when you’re choosing which one to go for there is no right or wrong decision.  It’s also important to bear in mind that there are no such things as a one size fits all training plan, what may work for one person may not be challenging enough or too challenging for the next.  So, feel free to mix things up and find what works best for you.As always, my advice is to check with your GP before starting any training plan and to take things easy at the start, don’t push yourself to the point of injury, ease yourself into the plan and see how your body adapts. 

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Week 1

REST

12 mins:

Jog 1 minute, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 6 times

REST

16 mins:

Jog 1 minute, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 8 times

REST

10 mins Cross Train: swim / cycle or brisk walk

18 mins:

Jog 1 minute, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 9 times

Week 2

REST

15 mins:

Jog 90 seconds, walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 6 times

REST

20 mins:

Run 90 seconds, walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 8 times

REST

15 mins

Cross Train: swim / cycle or brisk walk

Easy 10 minute non-stop jogging, try a route with some hills to push yourself a bit harder

Week 3

REST

24 mins:

Jog 2 minutes, Run 1 minute, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 6 times

REST

15 mins:

2 x 5  minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery jog

REST

Hill repeats: 5 x 30 seconds, jog back down each time for recovery

20 minute non-stop jogging

Week 4

REST

Easy 25 minute jog

REST

30 mins:

Jog 2 minutes, Run 2 minutes, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 6 times

REST

Cross Train: swim / cycle or brisk walk

30 minute non-stop jog race pace

(Distance Check: 5km or more)

Week 5

REST

25 minutes:

2 x 10  minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery jog

REST

33 minute non-stop run keeping up a good pace

REST

Hill repeats: 6 x 30 seconds, jog back down each time for recovery

Easy 36 minute non-stop jog (Distance Check: approx 6km or more)

Week 6

REST

36 mins:

Jog 5 minutes, Walk briskly 1 minute – repeat 6 times

REST

28 mins:

Jog 2 minutes, Sprint 30 seconds and, Walk  briskly 1 minute to recover in-between  – repeat 8 times

REST

Cross Train: swim / cycle or brisk walk

Easy 40 minute non-stop jog

Week 7

REST

40 minute non-stop Jog keeping up a good pace, incorporate some hills into this run to challenge yourself a little more

REST

35 mins:

2 x 15  minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery jog

REST

Cross Train: swim / cycle or brisk walk

48 minute non-stop jog (Distance Check: approx 8km or more)

Week 8

REST

35 minute non-stop jog keeping up your 5km pace

REST

22:30 mins: Jog 2 minutes, Run 1 minute and Sprint 30 seconds, Walk  briskly 1 minute to recover in-between  – repeat 5 times

REST

10 minute slow jog

RACE DAY!

10km Training Plan – Getting Round the Course

marathon photo

Your speed/sprint sessions should take place at approximately 85 – 95% of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR), see Chapter 4 for a refresher on how to calculate this.  Your tempo runs should take place at 75 – 85% and your easy runs at around 60 – 75% of your MHR.  During your recoveries your heart rate should drop back down to below the 60% aerobic/anaerobic threshold.

As with the 5km plans, the first 10km plan involves just getting round the course, without worrying about finishing within a specific time frame.  It’s not as challenging as the sub 50 minute plan and will allow you to ease into the longer distances gently.  You may find it helpful to sign yourself up for two 10km races, train for one using the first plan and once you’ve completed the race and are comfortable with the distance, then you can try to better your time by using the more intense training plan.

 

10km Training Plan – Sub 50 minute run

marathon photo

This plan is aimed at all of you out there who have either completed a 10km already and want to improve your time or those who are coming back to running after a hiatus.  This plan will incorporate a range of the running terms you were introduced to in Chapter 7 including: interval runs, tempo runs, hill runs as well as the easy runs sprints you’ve seen in the other plans.

I would recommend doing the interval runs on a track if possible, otherwise you’ll be spending a great deal of time looking at your watch/Smartphone to figure out how far you’ve gone on each interval and that can be very distracting.

Make sure to warm up and also to cool down thoroughly before and after the training runs and to perform the stretches already outlined.  You’ll notice that this plan counts the long and fartlek runs in terms of distance as opposed to time as it’s concentrating more on the distance you’re covering rather than just time on your feet as you will have already achieved a base level of non-stop running of at least 30 minutes.

For a sub 50 minute 10km race you are looking at a pace of 4.59 minutes per km or under.  This is a quick pace and it is not easy to maintain this kind of speed throughout the race.  In order to do so you will need to have a base of long runs but also, some strength work including hills and speed work such as the tempo, fartlek and interval runs that are the staples of this plan. 

As with all training plans, you may find that you need to change things up a bit, perhaps swap around your rest days and long run days.  This is fine, just try to keep things balanced, so giving yourself a rest day after your long run is advisable, it will help with your recovery and knowing that you have an opportunity to put your feet up after you’ve completed some of the long runs will be a good motivator for you.

The plan is designed in a way that it doesn’t just focus on increasing distance again and again, there are some lighter/plateaued weeks worked into the plan to give your body time to recover and to adjust to the increased training.  If you find that on the lighter weeks (Weeks 1, 4 and 8 – the lead up to the race) you have bundles of energy I wouldn’t recommend extending your runs or increasing your speed sessions.  Your body needs time to make the changes that will convert you into a better and faster runner and this won’t happen if you’re continually over-loading it.

As with the 5km timed plan you will see that there are checks to make sure you’re running at the right pace.  In this plan, you will see that they’re based on time rather than distance.  You will also notice that there isn’t a huge taper built into this plan for the simple reason that it isn’t necessary.  When you’re running a 10km race the likelihood is that you won’t need more than a week to reduce your running as you’re not covering the extended distances that you would be if you were training for a half or a full marathon for example.

Remember, no matter what your fitness level or health-status, if you feel unwell then don’t run.  If you’re injured then it’s best to lay off the training, take a step back and recover fully before continuing.  It’s advisable to consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regime.

As you grow in experience you’ll have more of a feel of how to adapt the training plans to work best for you.  You will also discover your strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes when it comes to running.  Some runners love hills, some hate them, but wherever you get your enjoyment from on your run it’s important to remember that each component of your training is there for a reason.  It’s not advisable to skip out on your hill repeats because you’re not a big fan of chugging up the inclines and instead replacing it with speed work or vice versa.  You’re working different muscles during these two disciplines and you’re also conditioning your body to cope with different terrains and speeds. As with the 5km time specific training plan, it’s worth noting that most people do not achieve their PB (personal best) on their first race outing of a particular distance.  It can take quite a few races for you to break the magic time that you have in your head.  For marathoners that may be a sub 4 hour run, for half-marathoners it could be reaching the finishing line in 1hr 30 minutes and for 10km runners it may be the sub 50-minute time that the above plan should help you to nail.Sometimes our pre-race jitters and nerves can get the better of us, which is why it’s so important to plan your run in advance if you’re looking for a PB.  If you don’t know what pace you’re supposed to be running at then you’re running blind, just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping that you’ll arrive to the finish line in the time that you want.  Setting off too quickly or taking too long to reach your running stride are both common reasons behind not achieving your desired time. 

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Week 1

REST

30 minute Easy run

Cross Training 25 minutes / REST

35 minute Easy run

REST

4 miles Fartlek

5km race / (Time Check: sub 25 minutes)

Week 2

REST

25 mins:

2 x10 minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery

Cross Training 30 minutes / REST

5 miles Fartlek

REST

Intervals: 4 x 1000m (400m recovery jog)

4 miles Easy run

Week 3

REST

40 minute Easy run

Cross Training 30 minutes / REST

Hill repeats: 90 seconds, 5 repeats, jog back down each time to recover

REST

5 miles Fartlek

5 miles race pace Run (Time Check: 40 minutes or less)

Week 4

REST

35 mins:

3 x10 minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery

Cross Training 35 minutes / REST

5 miles Fartlek

REST

Intervals: 6 x 800m (500m recovery)

6 miles Easy run

Week 5

REST

Hill repeats: 60 seconds, 6 repeats, jog back down each time to recover

Cross Training 40 minutes / REST

Intervals: 8 x 50m (400m recovery)

REST

6 miles Fartlek

7 miles race pace run  (Time Check: 56 minutes or less)

Week 6

REST

35 mins:

3 x10 minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery

Cross Training 45 minutes / REST

7 miles Fartlek

REST

Intervals: 8 x 600m (200m recovery)

8 miles Easy run (this is a good time to try out your race gear and make sure you’re happy with everything)

Week 7

REST

35 mins:

2 x 15 minute Tempo run, 5 minute recovery

Cross Training 50 minutes / REST

6 miles Fartlek

REST

Intervals: 5 x 1000m (200m recovery)

8 miles Easy run (another opportunity for you to test out your race gear and make any final tweaks)

Week 8

REST

Hill Repeats: 2 minutes, 5 repeats, jog back down each time to recover

REST

4 miles race pace Run (Time check: 32 minutes or less) 

REST

20 minute Easy run

RACE DAY!

Common Marathon Terms

studying photo

When it comes to training for a race, and by that, I mean any race from a 5km run to a 100mile ultra-marathon, there are a number of different component parts and sometimes the jargon can seem like Latin (to those of us that don’t speak Latin)!  You can use this chapter as a bit of a glossary for terms that I’ll be using in the training plans later in the book and also in the second book in the series which will explain how to increase your distance from 10km to a full marathon.

Let’s start with a few of the different types of runs which you’ll be incorporating into your training.

5k 

Distance of 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles.

10k Distance of 10,000 meters or 6.2 miles.

Half-marathon Distance just over 21km or 13.1 miles.

Marathon Distance of 26 miles and 385 yards or just under 42km.

Ultra-marathon Technically any run longer than a marathon.  Official ultra-distance races start at 50km and popular races include distances of 50 miles, 100 and 150 miles.

Easy / Recovery Run This kind of run is pretty straightforward; it’s one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ types of training runs.  It refers to a light jog, done at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation without being out of breath.  Easy runs are one of the building blocks of training, doing slow easy runs help to increase the blood flow to your muscles which allows your body to expel waste from the muscles, leaving them healthier and more effective at carrying out their job.  The recovery runs usually take place the day after a longer run, and they get your body used to running with fatigue.  The recovery runs will come in to play for the most part in the next book.

Fartlek Yes, I know it has a funny name but trust me, fartlek runs are a fundamental part of your training.  It’s a Swedish word which translates as ‘speed play’.  It involves easy running broken up by bursts of speed, so essentially, it’s about varying your pace.  In fartlek sessions, you’re not constrained by a particular amount of time spent at each different pace, it’s more of a free session, your timings on each part aren’t set in stone.  For example, you can decide to run to a particular lamppost or a sign at speed, there’s no need for a specifically measured distance.  It’s fun to do these sessions as part of a group where you alternate being the ‘leader’ and initiating the speed sessions.

Interval It’s easy to confuse fartlek and interval training and they do have similarities in that they’re both runs of varying pace.  Interval runs are short speed sessions mixed with roughly equal recovery times.  For example, two to three minutes of hard running outside of your comfort zone followed by two to three minutes recovery run to bring your heart rate back down and get your breath back, followed by another speed session.

Hill Repeats I’m sure you can guess what’s involved with this kind of run…You’ve got it – it’s hills!  You should be running up the hill or incline at a fast pace and then jogging back down to recover and repeating this over and over.  Some runners love these kinds of runs, others hate them, either way they’re a great way of building muscle and increasing your stamina.  They also help to break up the monotony of repeated long runs.

Long Runs These are runs that are done at a relatively easy pace and they will take up between a quarter and a third of your weekly mileage on their own.  A long run can be any distance depending on what your goal is.  For example, if you’re training for a 10km then your long run may be 5 to 6 miles or if you’re training for a marathon then it could be around 22 miles.

 

Cooling Down and Stretching

Cooling Down It’s important to go through a warm down routine after you have completed a training run so that you don’t just come to an abrupt stop.  Your body should reduce its movements gradually, allowing a slow decrease in body temperature, in heart rate and in your breathing rate.  If you stop abruptly without a warm-down, especially as a beginner, you may find that you experience feelings of light-headedness as a result of your heart rate and therefore your blood pressure decreasing too quickly.  Think of the cool down as doing exactly the opposite of the warm up, it is providing a bridge between a period of high-intensity activity and rest, it also aids recovery.  Performing a good cool down may well be the last thing that you feel like doing after having finished your training run, but your body will thank you for it.

Carrying out a slow jog for 3 to 5 minutes after you have completed your run will also help to condition your body to run when tired, this is handy for races and also for increasing your distances as you will be doing some runs on continuous days. Once you’ve completed the slow jog I would recommend a similar amount of time walking, you should start briskly and then slow your pace down to an easier rhythm.  Once you’ve completed these two important exercises you’re ready to stretch.

Stretching Many blogs, articles and training books that you will read will suggest stretching as part of your warm-up routine.  This isn’t something that I, personally, would advise.  Stretching should take place when your muscles are already warm, not when they’re cold as they would be during your warm-up routine.  Stretches help to prevent injury and also to improve your body’s flexibility.  As you run the muscles in your leg shorten and stretching helps to lengthen them out again.  Getting into the habit of performing a range of stretches on your legs, your back, neck and shoulders will also help to speed recovery and increase blood-flow to the parts of your body that have been working so hard during your training. 

Key Techniques to Remember when Stretching – Stretching should always be a gentle movement, you don’t want to force yourself into a position that’s uncomfortable and could cause an injury. –  You should try to hold your stretches for a minimum of 20 seconds and 30 seconds is ideal. –  Listen to your body, if it hurts then you’re stretching too far. –  If you have any pre-existing injuries speak to your doctor, you don’t want to hurt yourself!

Now, on to the stretches themselves:

Quadriceps Stretch Take hold of your right foot behind you with your right hand and bend your knee as you pull your foot towards your bottom.  Make sure that you keep your knees together; you shouldn’t be twisting your knee at all.  You should feel the stretch along the front of your thigh, your quadriceps muscle.  If you’re having problems balancing you can place your hand on a wall to keep you from rocking.  Repeat the stretch on the left leg.

Calf Stretch Stand opposite a wall, approximately an arm’s length away and place your left foot one stride’s length behind your right.  Slowly bend your leading leg (in this case your right) forward making sure to keep your back (left) heel flat on the floor and your back knee straight.  Keep both feet facing forward and you should feel the stretch in the calf of your back leg.    Repeat the stretch using the other leg.

Hamstring Stretch Lift your right heel onto a bench, ledge or other surface (the surface should be slightly lower than hip level).  Flex your right foot by pointing your toes up to the sky and bend forward at the hips towards the flexed foot.  Repeat the stretch on your left leg.

Groin Stretch Take a seat on the floor with the soles of your feet touching each other and gently push your knees towards the floor.  Keep your back straight and your core strong.  It’s important not to over-extend on this stretch and push too hard, you don’t want to strain your groin!  Push gently and breathe through the stretch but stop before you feel any pain.

Back Stretch Lie on your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent, keeping your body straight.  Try to push your lower back down in to the floor, in order to do this you will need to tighten your abdominal muscles.  Hold this pose for a count of 10 and then return to the starting position and repeat 5 times.

Neck Stretch To perform a chin to chest stretch, stand up straight, feet slightly apart and bend your head forward very slowly until your chin touches your chest.  Hold this stretch for a count of 10 and repeat 3 times.  Then you can move on to the neck extension stretch.  Stay in the same position and move your head back to look up at the ceiling, or as far as is comfortable for you, hold this stretch for the same amount of time.   Next turn your head from side to side, turn your head to the right until you feel your neck muscles tighten, hold for 10 seconds and repeat the stretch on the other side.  This stretch should also be repeated 3 times on each side.

Before we move forward, I’d just like to have a word about treadmills.  Running on a treadmill is often a convenient way to get your training run in, especially if the weather is inclement.  However you will find that running outside, in conditions, is very different to pounding the treadmill.  For one thing, when you’re running outside the ground doesn’t generally move!  Running outside is more difficult as you have to keep pushing your body forward, whereas in the gym, the treadmill is doing some of the work.

 

Getting Started

One of the great benefits of running is that it isn’t a sport that requires you to spend your entire month’s salary on ‘gear’.  But there are two items that I would advise the ladies out there not to compromise on and that is a good pair of running shoes and a supportive sports bra. 

It doesn’t matter what size bra cup you wear, if you don’t have good support while you’re running you will find that gravity will start to let you down.  In case you’re not sold yet on the importance of a solid sports bra I should tell you that the effects of not using one are irreversible – once the damage is done it’s done.  The reason for this is that once the ligaments around the breasts have been stretched, there is no way to shorten them again.   So, to avoid this kind of stretching you need a bra that will restrict the movement of your breasts when you’re doing high-impact sports such as running.  Most normal bras for everyday use will only restrict movement by approximately 35% but a good sports bra should reduce the movement by around the 60% mark.

There are a few different kinds of model of Sports Bras and depending on your size and preferences you can decide which style suits you best.

Compression– these push the breasts against the chest wall.  These kinds of bras are usually more suited to women with smaller breasts.  They don’t tend to offer any adjustments, such as hooks, adjustable straps etc. but they can be comfortable and are good for minimum impact work-outs.

Encapsulation – these looks more like normal, everyday bras, they lift and separate and hold each breast in place.  They often include an underwire and adjustable strap which are helpful to offer flexibility to the wearer depending on your specific breast shape.  This kind of bra generally offers a good level of support.

Combination– these bras work using a combination of compression and encapsulation.  They’re usually more supportive than a bra that is purely compression.  These kinds of bras are often a good choice for women with larger breasts or those that want a little more flexibility as they generally include some room for adjustment.

If you find yourself lost in the minefield that is the world of sports bras then have no fear – we are here to help!  You may have already taken a look in your local sports shop or online and you’ll have noticed that there are a huge number of sports bras to choose from and ultimately your choice will be based on what’s best for your size and your own personal style.  However, for running, which is classified as a high impact sport, I would suggest going for the highest level of support possible with straps that offer some flexibility.  You will also want a bra that will wick away moisture so that you don’t suffer from rashes or uncomfortable chafing as a result of having moisture trapped in your bra while you’re running.  That is no-one’s idea of a good time!

Shock Absorber is a great brand of sports bra and they’re hugely popular.  They’re not only comfortable and cater for a range of sizes, but they also provide a really high level of support.  Check out their RUN line which will stand you in good stead.  Nike and Triumph also offer great variety that caters to a wide range of runners of all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Of course, there are a huge number of other brands available and these are only personal preferences that I am expressing.  The best thing you can do when buying a sports bra for the first time is to try a few on and do the bounce test: jump up and down and see if your breasts move and how comfortable you feel.  Simple, yet effective!

What about my feet? Running shoes are obviously a key ingredient when starting your new running regime.  But sometimes it can prove a bit of an ordeal to decipher which shoes you should be using.  With so many different makes and models to choose from, it can seem like the more you read the less you know.  Here, I’ll be giving you my own recommendations and advice on how to find the best running shoe for you.

Knowing what kind of feet, you have and the way that you place your foot on the floor when you move will be very helpful in finding the right shoe for you.  If you go to any well-regarded running store you will be able to undergo an assessment of your gait, which allows a trained professional to assess the way that you run and how you land on your feet.  Once you have this information you can start navigating the, sometimes baffling, world of the running shoe…

There are three main different types of feet: flat, high-arched and neutral.  Along with these there are three main types of pronation: overpronation, underpronation and neutral.  But what is pronation?  I hear you ask!  This is the way in which the foot rolls inward when it hits the ground, the moment known as initial contact.  It’s a natural movement that helps your foot and leg to deal with the shock of impact

So back to the types of feet.  You will be able to tell if you have flat feet if you can’t see any arch at all.  The base of your foot from toes to heel will be more or less level with the ground.  If you have this kind of foot then it’s very important to choose a running shoe that will give you extra stability in order to keep your foot in the right position when you’re running as you’re likely to overpronate.  This is when your foot moves beyond its natural range of motion, rolling too far inward when you hit the ground, which will in turn exert too much force on your foot as well as your ankle and knee joints.   With this in mind ‘stability’ is the key word that you’re looking for in running shoe descriptions if your feet fit this bill.

With high-arched feet your arch is more raised than normal; essentially, it’s the opposite of flat feet.  If you have high arches then you will probably underpronate when you run, so your feet will roll outwards when they hit the ground.  For this kind of foot your best bet are running shoes that will offer an especially cushioned mid-sole to protect your arch. 

With neutral feet, your feet are neither flat nor do they have a high arch.   If you have this kind of feet then you have a really wide range of shoes to choose from.  It’s likely that you will only roll inwards slightly to absorb shock.  For these people, increased cushioning in your shoes is helpful for more effective shock absorption.

Some of my personal favorite brands are: Asics, Brooks and New Balance.  But whatever kind of feet you have and whichever running shoes you buy, your trainers should be replaced around every 300 – 400 miles depending on the surfaces that you run on, your weight and the way that you pronate.  Replacing shoes at around this distance will help to avoid muscle fatigue and injuries such as shin splints which I’ll go into in more depth in Chapter 5.

 

Injuries

knee pain photo

In this chapter, we’ll be covering injuries and stitches, how to recognize them and how to avoid them.  Injuries happen to runners of all levels and abilities, from complete beginners to professional athletes.  For beginners, a good way of avoiding injury in the first stages is to use a run/walk combination that I’ve mentioned previously.  This is also a useful way of training after coming back from an injury.

Before we dive into injuries let’s take a look at the slightly less bothersome issue of stitches.  If you have done any exercise in the past then you will be familiar with the stitch; an uncomfortable pinching sensation in your abdomen.  The truth is that no-one really knows why stitches are caused, there is a mix of theories including: eating too close or drinking too many high-sugar beverages before a run or not breathing correctly during the run itself. 

It’s unlikely that you will ever be 100% stitch-free but there are ways to reduce the risk of stitches.  These include: taking deep breaths while running rather than quick, shallow breaths and not eating within an hour of going out for a run.  Maintaining good posture and not running hunched over can also help to avoid stitches.  The right posture for running is keeping straight and upright.  When you land on the floor you should try to land in the middle of the ball of your foot and pushing off strongly with the next leg.  Your arms should be kept at waist height, there’s no need to hold them up high near your chest and, in fact, this will likely just build tension along your shoulders and upper back.

Making sure that you’re hydrating little and often is also key to avoiding stitches.  It’s advisable not to drink for an hour prior to your run, but when you return it’s important to replace the water, salts and minerals that you have lost during exercise.  I will be going into more detail about hydration strategies whilst running in the final book of the series.  But to give you an idea, for a 5km run you should be able to cope without drinking any water during your actual run, although this may seem daunting at first and may be something that you need to work up to.  When you’re starting out it’s best to try to limit your water intake to 4 to 6 ounces or approximately 120 to 180ml every 20 minutes.

Let’s move on to shin splints, which are injuries that a lot of runners experience, especially those just starting out as they try to do too much too soon.

But what exactly are shin splints?  There are two kinds of splints, anterior and medial.  With anterior shin splints, you’ll notice pain on the outside part of your lower leg along the shin and with medial shin splints the pain will be concentrated along the inside of the lower leg.  There are a number of theories as to the physiological explanation of shin splints, but it is though that they are a result of small tears in the soft tissue where the muscle connects to the shin bone.  There are a number of possible causes of shin splints including, running on hard surfaces such as the pavement, over-training and doing too much too soon.  Shin splints can also be caused by over-pronation (check out Chapter 2 for a refresher), as well as wearing shoes that have been worn down and not stretching properly.  Normally it’s the runner’s dominant leg that suffers as it’s the leg that we tend to put more stress on.  It has been suggested that spending long periods of time running on treadmills can also cause shin splints, this is partly due to the treadmill actually imitating the effect of running downhill, which requires a great deal of anterior shin muscular strength.  A good way to avoid this is to only use the treadmill on an incline to simulate running outside in more variable conditions, which will be kinder on your shins.

So how do you treat shin splints? Although the experts may not agree on exactly how shin splints occur, they do agree that when you start feeling the effects of them, you should stop running immediately, or at least tone down your training to the bare minimum to avoid any further damage.  Using an ice pack on your lower legs can help to reduce the pain, but make sure that you don’t apply the ice directly to the skin, cover it in a towel or something similar.  The ice pack should be administered after you run and it’s a good idea to keep the ice on your shins for between ten to fifteen minutes.  It’s helpful to do this a couple of times a day, perhaps the morning and the evening or whenever is most convenient for you.  

If you continue to run and try to run through the pain then it is likely that you will only make your injury worse.  Shin splints are one of what we call overuse injuries; they’re a way of your body telling you to step back and take it easy for a little while to let yourself recover.  There are some stretches that will help to ease the pain such as stretching your calves, using for example the stretch I’ve outlined in the previous chapter.  If you’re concerned that by giving yourself time to recover you’ll be losing the stamina that you’ve worked so hard to build up, then cross-training is a good idea.  It’s a good opportunity for you to start doing other cardio work such as swimming or cycling, which will also help to strengthen your leg muscles and hopefully protect them from further outbreaks of splints.

As I mentioned, wearing shoes that aren’t right for your feet or wearing shoes that have long past their use by date may also lead to developing shin splints, so it’s important to check your shoes on a regular basis.  It’s a good idea to check your shoe to see if you need more stability and cushioning and I would recommend heading to your local running store if you do develop shin splints.  They’ll be able to check your current trainers and suggest other running shoes that may be more beneficial to you.  If the pain doesn’t improve then it’s time to see your doctor, there may be an underlying reason why your leg isn’t healing as it should.

 

More benefits of Running

Strong CoreRunning will contribute to developing a strong core.  Your core muscles (obliques, rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus and erector spinea) all have to work together in order to keep your spine straight and aligned while you’re running, especially when you’re jogging on mixed terrains rather than just pounding the pavements.  So, run – your spine will thank you!

Sleep TightThe more active you are during the day, the likelier you are to have a good night’s sleep.  By indulging in regular aerobic (or cardio) exercise it has been shown that the quality of your sleep can improve.  So instead of rushing to the medicine cabinet the next time you go through a bout of insomnia, try to go for a run the next day and enjoy a restful night.

Live LongerResearch completed by the Stanford University School of Medicine on two groups – one of healthy non-runners and the other of healthy runners – over a period of 21 years found that, as time went on the levels of disability were much lower in the group of runners than in the non-runners.  It also found that, at the end of the study, a higher percentage of runners were still alive than the non-runners.  So, running really can help you to live a longer and more active life!

Run Your Way to Better SkinIf you have chronic skin conditions (e.g. acne, psoriasis) then you should take steps to protect your skin when you’re working out.  But generally speaking, working up a sweat can assist in removing the dirt and grime that clogs pores and causes break-outs.   When you exercise you also increase blood flow which will help to give your skin cells all the nutrients and oxygen that help to keep your skin healthy.  As well as bringing all that great stuff into your skin, increased blood flow also transports waste products away from your cells.  So, sweat it out and enjoy that post-work out glow!

Be the Change I’m sure you will have received an endless number of emails from friends, relatives, colleagues, even people you haven’t heard from in years, to ask you to sponsor them for running a 5km / 10km / marathon or completing a triathlon.  Well now it’s your turn.  Taking part in a race is an excellent way of raising money for a cause that’s important to you.  It’s also a great incentive to keep on running when you’re hitting that metaphorical wall; knowing that what you’re doing will change people’s lives will spur you on for those final kilometers.

Explore Your Local Area Running outdoors is an excellent way to get to know your surroundings.  On your runs you will discover places that you never even knew existed and changing up your routes will also help alleviate boredom.

And finally, It’s Fun!  I Promise The paramount reason that you should run and the reason that once you have started you won’t be able to stop is because it is fun!  You will have a great time running, challenging yourself and doing things that you never thought you would be able to. 

As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on about all the reasons to run, but we only have a limited amount of time!  Suffice it to say that the benefits of running are dramatic and can be long-term and the sense of achievement that you will get from reaching your goal (even if it’s just about getting to the next lamp-post) cannot be underestimated.  That said, it’s very easy for me to give you all the reasons why you should lace up those shoes and head out, but you probably won’t be sold until you see for yourself.  So, what are you waiting for?  Let’s get started!