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.