Planning a run

Planning a run

Tips on when and where to run and route-planning.

Before you take that first step on the path to a new, healthier lifestyle, it makes sense to think about where to run. It's worth getting a good local map. The depth of detail on Ordnance Survey 1:25000 scale maps mean these are often the easiest to plan a route with. If there isn't one available for your area, then look for an Ordnance Survey 1:50000.

What to look for

country lanes make perfect running terrain
Once you have your map, you can think about your goals and find suitable routes that will help you to realize them. If you are running to compete in a specific race for instance, consider the surface you will be running on and try to find an area nearby with a similar surface. If you are running to stay healthy, you can be more flexible and vary your routes and choice of surface.

Common areas for running are
  • Parks and recreational grounds - these have good, flat surfaces such as tarmac paths or large grass areas which are ideal for running.
  • Fields - often a good place to run, but make sure you are able to use them. Local schools will often allow you to use their fields, but ask first.
  • Pavements/footpaths - designated pedestrian routes that are ideal for running, away from town centres of course.
  • Trails e.g. bridleways and country footpaths - can be found in the most unlikely places at times, even going through large city centres. These are ideal for getting away from traffic into the countryside. These are mostly off road and can be very inspirational.
  • Canals and rivers - provide a good source of traffic free running. Following towpaths can be rewarding and motivating - just keep away from the edge!
  • Golf courses - offer excellent areas for running, but you must have permission to use them. Always give way to golfers and don't run on greens and fairways - stick to the perimeter.
Running on roads

Avoid main roads if possible - country lanes make perfect running terrain. Ensure you are visible to other road users:
  • Run towards oncoming traffic.
  • Run on the outside of blind corners to ensure oncoming traffic can see you.
  • Wear bright, reflective clothing.
  • Always use the pavement if possible - it's safer and probably slightly softer than the tarmac road.
Running off road is refreshing...

Running off road

Running off road gives the body a break from the stresses of running on hard surfaces and refreshes the mind as you venture into new areas. When running off road for the first time, take it a little easier than usual - it's more demanding than using pavements, but more rewarding in other ways. You need to pay closer attention to the terrain - potholes, tree roots, rabbit holes and nettles are all potential causes of injury.

Vary your runs

Consider varying the terrain you run on - continual pounding of joints and muscles on roads is not ideal for a beginner unaccustomed to the stresses running places on the body.

Varying the direction of your run is also important - running on the same road camber day after day can cause problems to legs and hips. Running the same route in the opposite direction can seem like a completely different run with new scenery and new challenges.

Treadmills

Treadmills play an important part in many running programmes and they are rapidly increasing in popularity, perhaps because of the advantages they have over running outside in adverse conditions. Also, on modern treadmills you can control the pace and incline to create specific workouts that target personal goals and areas for improvement.
Note: it's best not to rely on a treadmill for all workouts as the way your foot hits the ground (called a 'foot strike') is the same each time. This means the stress on your body will always be on the same area, increasing the risk of sustaining a running injury. 

Common treadmill features include:
  • Electronic feedback - speed, time and distance are a must. Additional features include heart rates, calories and preset programmes for storing personal runs.
  • Speeds - walking speeds vary from 0 - 5 mph, jogging speeds usually start at 5 mph and go up to 12 mph.
  • Percentage incline - ranges from 1% - 15%, with some commercial treadmills going as high as 25%.
  • Length of the running belt - the longer the belt, the more room you have to stride out and the more comfortable treadmill running becomes.
  • Thickness of the running belt - always use a two ply belt where possible as it is stronger and more resilient than a one ply.
Specific sessions on a treadmill combat boredom and give a really good workout. Always set your treadmill on at least a 1% incline to compensate for the lack of air resistance.
Specific sessions on a treadmill combat boredom and give a really good workout

Example basic workout:
  • Warm up by jogging for 15 minutes.
  • Run a 3 minute interval at approximately 15 seconds a kilometre faster than a 5K pace.
  • 3 minute recovery period.
  • Repeat this five more times.
  • Run for 10 minutes afterwards to cool down.
Example indoor hills workout:
  • Jog for 10 minutes.
  • Set the treadmill at around 15 seconds a kilometre slower than 10K pace.
  • Run a 1 degree inclination for 2 minutes, then a 2 degree inclination for 2 minutes and back to a 1 degree inclination for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Then run a 3 degree inclination for 2 minutes followed by a 1 degree inclination for 2 minutes to recover.
  • Increase the degree of inclination thereafter by 1 degree until you get to 8 degrees, always giving yourself 2 minutes at 1 degree to recover in-between repetitions.
  • Jog for 10 minutes to cool down.
When to run

You now know where you are going to run - you just need to decide the best time of day. For most people, this will be determined by a combination of commitments and working hours. The most common running times for working people are:
  • Before work - this could mean you have to make an early start, but exercise can get the day off to a great start and leave you feeling invigorated and well prepared for the day ahead.
  • Lunchtime - a great time to get out of the office and forget about work, but you probably need somewhere to shower and change.
  • After work - you'll often find that after a day's work, the last thing you feel like is going out for a run - but once you're actually exercising, you'll feel surprisingly alive and really relaxed afterwards. Remember to wear reflective clothing in the dark.
Obviously the weekend not only allows you to run further, but also at a time when it suits you and your body.

If you have more flexibility

The human body clock is a pretty good indicator of the best time to exercise. Although this varies from person to person, the body's favourite times to run are generally:
  • Late morning - this allows the body time to refuel, digest, fully wake up and gives the joints and muscles time to stretch.
  • Early evening - many people feel active and alert at this time.
you can nearly always find somewhere to run, no matter where you live or where your workplace is
Summary

Deciding where and when to run:
  • Indoors or outdoors, on road or off road? A good local map is invaluable when route-planning.
  • When to run depends on your commitments to a large degree. Your body clock may well prefer to run at certain times of day - experiment to find out what works for you.
Remember, running is:
  • Accessible - you can nearly always find somewhere to run, no matter where you live or where your workplace is.
  • Flexible - you can do it at your own pace, any time of the day that you are free.

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