The Tech… By no means do you need all the latest gadgets in order to start running, but there are some pieces of technology that I will discuss briefly in case you’re a bit of a tech-junkie and want to enjoy all the toys on offer.
Running watches… There are a wide range of watches available that will not only tell you how long you’ve run for, but how far, what your heart rate is and how many calories you’ve burned. Let’s look at some of the main features that you will want from a watch like this. Being able to log and review the data from your run later on is useful and a great way of measuring your performance and how much you’re improving over time. You will want the watch to be as user-friendly as possible – you don’t want to spend hours just figuring out how to use it before being able to get out and run. It may sound obvious, but visibility is something that many people tend to overlook, after all, it’s all well and good having a state of the art time-piece on your wrist but if the watch face is too small or it doesn’t have a strong back-light then you’re not going to be able to see very much. Some of the leading brands include: Soleus, Garmin, Nike+ and Timex. But, as I said, you don’t need anything as advanced as this – it’s a want rather than a need at this level. You can start with a stop-watch and work your way up to a more complete tracking system once you’ve started logging the miles.
Apps… Like watches, there are more and more running apps coming on to the market all the time. They bring the term Smartphone to a whole other level! There are also a huge number which offer the basic package free! Don’t you just love that word? These apps will do a similar job to the watches – they will measure your calories burned, your distance covered and will give you the opportunity to look back over past activities and see how you’ve improved. Some of my personal favorites are: RunKeeper, Map My Run and Runtastic.
Running Earphones… I know that not all runners like to run with music, but I find it to be a great motivator and a fantastic way to keep those miles whizzing by. The main issue with using normal everyday earphones on your run is that they will tend to fall out – they’re not built for high levels of activity and more often than not they will just make you frustrated. You’ll want running earphones that will give you great sound quality as well as actually staying in your ears! Sennheiser, Nike and Powerbeats by Dr Dre all have great products that will keep you rocking mile after mile.
Gloves… Okay, so this may not be what you were expecting but running gloves are a piece of tech that even elite runners recognize the importance of. When it’s cold or windy outside you will lose about 30% of your total body heat from your extremities, including your hands, so it’s important to keep those babies covered. You will want gloves that are breathable, lightweight and keep you warm without over-heating you. A handy feature of a lot of running gloves is also the ability to use touch-screen phones, so if you’re using a running app or listening to music then you’ll want to go for this kind of a model. It’s also a good idea to get gloves that are reflective so that you can be seen in the dark. There are too many brands to name but Brooks, Asics and Nike all have a great range that you can use as a starting point.
Clothes and Socks… There is no reason that you can’t start running in track-suit bottoms and an old t-shirt but as you start running more often I would recommend investing in some more technical clothes. These are designed to be light-weight, moisture wicking and also aerodynamic. Most technical clothes are synthetic rather than cotton to avoid chafing and moisture retention, for example using synthetic technical socks can help to avoid blisters.
Right, you’ve bought your running shoes and invested in a good sports bra and you’ve decided that today is the day that you are going to start running. Before you head out, here are some of my top tips on getting started.
Start Slow… One of the main points to bear in mind when you start running is to start easily and to build up slowly. There’s no point in over-exerting and injuring yourself on your first run. In fact, one of the safest and best ways to start running is to combine running and walking. Start off with 5 minutes of walking and then do alternate running and walking at regular intervals. I’ll go into more detail on the exact timings for this in the 5km plan in Chapter 9, but what I’m trying to get at is to let you know that although you’ve decided that today you are going to run, you don’t have to push the envelope on your first time out. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Be Seen… When you are running it’s good to get into the habit of wearing reflective clothing, even during the day. If you’re crossing roads or running in the evening you want to ensure that drivers and other road users can see you. Don’t assume that drivers have seen you – they may well be using their phone, their satnav or just plain not paying attention. Don’t put yourself or other people at risk and err on the side of caution and try to use pedestrian crossings as much as possible during your runs.
Stay Safe… This section is not meant to scare you, but to make you aware that your safety should be a top priority. Running is a fantastic sport allowing you to use our local area as your gym and just using your common sense and taking a few precautions could help you to avoid getting hurt or becoming the victim of a crime.
If you’re running at night, keep to well-lit and transited areas; you don’t want to put yourself in unnecessary danger or to trip over a lose paving stone because you can’t see where you’re going! It’s a good idea to run with your phone and with some cash, most running trousers and jackets will include a small pocket for just this kind of thing. Having your phone to hand will make you feel safer and it is also a sensible safety precaution in the unlikely event you need to call for help. Tell someone where you are going. If you live with family/friends/partner let them know what time to expect you back and also which route you will be taking so they’re aware of where to find you in case of an emergency. Varying your routes is also a great idea, not only will it keep you on your toes and alleviate boredom, but it will also help to prevent any unsavory characters from being able to work out at what time you will be in a specific place. You can also run with a friend or a local club; it’s a great way to stay safe. Lastly, listen to your gut, if something doesn’t feel right or if you feel uncomfortable running in a certain area then don’t.
So, we’ve covered the gear that you should be aware of when getting started as well as some top general tips. But I know it’s not as easy as all that and it’s often tempting to get to this point and decide that running sounds too much like hard work, that’s when the excuses start to rear their heads; all the reasons why you can’t, shouldn’t and won’t run. In the next chapter, I’ll be going through some of the top reasons that people stop running before they’ve even really started and how to motivate yourself to get up and get out there (even when you may not feel like it)!