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Getting Started

Advice for the Unfit

Firstly, it is recommended that you check with your doctor before embarking on any form of exercise. However, illness does not have to be an obstacle as many runners are asthmatic, diabetic, suffer from Crohn's disease, IBS, high blood pressure, heart defects, etc and running can also help to ease the pain/trauma of cancer for some.

Anyone can run and improvement is possible for anyone who tries. You don't have to be young - some runners take up running in their late fifties - so age is no excuse. However, you do need to walk before you can run so use the following programme for guidance.

What to Wear

Wear loose fitting clothes and proper running shoes. There are many shoes on the market to cater for all types of biomechanical faults (pronation, supination, irregular leg lengths, etc). It is important to wear shoes with adequate cushioning and support and these shoes should be used for running only, not for wearing in the gym or for walking around in. They should not be worn every day because the cushioning gets compressed when you run in them and 24-36 hours ideally are needed for them to decompress before you wear them again. Therefore, if and when you run more regularly it would be a good idea to invest in two or three pairs so that you can alternate. Shoes only have a life span of 500-600 miles before the cushioning wears out. Most injuries arise because runners continue to run in their old shoes.

How to start

Before you start your walk/jog you need to prepare your body for what it is about to do. Gently mobilise the joints by following the examples in the table at the end of this document. Mobilising releases a synovial fluid making movement easier around the joints (like oiling a car). You then need to warm the body before stretching as stretching "cold" can cause a muscle to tear so follow the Warming Up and Cooling Down section. If you have never stretched before hold each stretch for about 5 seconds. When you become fitter you can hold each warm up stretch for up to 10 seconds. These stretches prepare the muscles for the work they are about to do. Over-stretching before exercise can also cause injury so be careful. Following your run it is important to stretch again but this time to hold on to each stretch a little longer as this increases flexibility.

And off you go...

Wk No. Tuesday Thursday Sunday
1 Walk 10 minutes Walk 10 minutes Walk 12 minutes
2 Walk 12 minutes Walk 14 minutes Walk 14 minutes
3 Walk 16 minutes briskly Walk 16 minutes briskly Walk 18 minutes briskly
4 Walk 18 minutes briskly Walk 20 minutes briskly Walk and jog 10 minutes
5 Walk and jog 10 minutes Walk and jog 10 minutes Walk and jog 12 minutes
6 Walk and jog 12 minutes Walk and jog 14 minutes Walk and jog 14 minutes
7 Walk and Jog 15 minutes Walk and Jog 15 minutes Walk and Jog 16 minutes
8 Walk and Jog 16 minutes Walk and Jog 18 minutes Walk and Jog 20 minutes

When walking briskly swing the arms and stride out so that you feel the body heating and your breathing becomes harder.

When you start jogging this should be like a shuffle. Don't run too fast. Don't hold your breath (most beginners try to hold on to their breath for as long as they can and then collapse). Concentrate on breathing out on, say, every second right step. Concentrate on breathing out more than in because you will always have enough oxygen going in to your body. Breathing out releases toxins from your body and helps the circulation work more efficiently. Some runners sweat more than others and some lose large amounts of discharge from their noses - neither has anything to do with fitness levels so if you find either of these happening with you don't let it discourage you.

  • Find a circuit which is about one mile in distance - on average, 10-12 minutes of running for a beginner will cover about one mile. You can use this as a guide to see how you are improving.
  • Aim to jog from, say, one tree to the next, or a litter bin or lamp post.
  • You may prefer to use a watch and time your jog so that you run, say, for 30 seconds then walk until your breathing relaxes before trying to run for another 30 seconds and so on to the end of your run.
  • If you find the same route boring use several different routes.
  • Keep a record of how many times you stop on each run as this is a very good way of recording progress.
  • You could also record how you felt before, during and after each run; what the weather was like; how many jogging reps you did and so on.

If you persevere you will eventually run the whole distance without walking (and you can).

Keep the arms low and relaxed. Try not to tense the shoulders and neck (common with beginners). If you get a stitch, this is probably due to using muscles in the diaphragm that you don't normally use. If this happens, squeeze the thumbs tightly and carry on walking. Concentrate hard on squeezing the thumbs to encourage the muscles in the diaphragm to relax. A stitch can also be brought on by eating too soon before exercise so try not to eat for 2-3 hours before commencement.

You will need to increase your intake of water (think of what happens to your car if it runs out of water, your body will react in a similar way and leave you feeling exhausted). You will also need to increase your intake of carbohydrates (just as your car needs fuel to keep going) in the form of potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, etc and protein (cheese, eggs, meat, etc) which is needed to replenish and rebuild the muscles after exercise. Try to cut down on your fat intake (biscuits, crisps, sweets, etc). Eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Repeat the above cycle (Weeks 1-8) with a mixture of jogging and walking until you can run three times a week for 20 minutes without walking. You will then be fit enough to join a local running club where you will gain encouragement and advice from other runners. Or you may be happy to continue running on your own.

If you feel you can start jogging earlier on in the schedule, then do so, following the advice above.

Advice For The Reasonably Fit

If you are reasonably fit, you may be able to start your running programme at, say, Week 5, treating this as week 1. Using the same principle, keep repeating the weeks until you can run for 20 minutes three times a week without walking. You will also then be fit enough to join a local running club. Continuing with the schedule, increase your running time by 5 minutes each time. The secret is similar to climbing a ladder, you have to take one step at a time. If you tire you rest and if you have gone up too high too soon, you step down. The same applies to running; if you do too much too soon you will tire and maybe even get injured. Be sensible and build up gradually and you will come to enjoy this wonderful experience. Have fun and good luck!

Running Advice: Getting Started | Warming Up & Cooling Down | Hill Training | Types Of Training | Marathon Training | Track Training | Overtraining | Shoe Analysis & Selection | Stretching Explained