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Running is a very simple sport. Everyone can run - it's an in-built instinct designed for our protection. However, if you aren't used to running regularly, it's wise to make sure you're ready for the stresses it will put on your body.
Make a cautious start, running well within your own capabilities for at least the first month. If you're honest with yourself when assessing your initial level of fitness, you should make steady progress and maintain your motivation and enthusiasm for running. Here's how to get started.
Any beginner who has no previous exercise history, has been a smoker in the past or is using running as part of a weight control program is advised to consult a doctor before heading out into the great outdoors. A physical examination will highlight any cardiovascular or heart problems, which may go unnoticed until submitted to the unfamiliar stresses created by running.
Once given the all clear, you're almost ready to venture out. Before you do so though, it's really beneficial to carry out a personal self-assessment of your fitness to determine how far, how fast and how often you should run to start off with. This step will also help you identify short term goals to train for on the way to a bigger long term goal, which can really help you stay motivated.
Reasons to run
The goals you set yourself will depend upon your motivation for running. Are you trying to achieve:
- Improvement to general health? Running is an efficient way to get fit and healthy, offering noticeable results in a relatively short space of time.
- Weight loss? There are few better ways to burn calories quickly.
- Stress reduction? The freedom and sense of escape can eliminate a stressful day in minutes.
- Social activity? Many people enjoy running with friends or clubs.
- Your first race? Running events can increase your self-esteem, fitness and confidence. It's also a good way to raise money for charity.
If running seems beyond your current capabilities, begin by taking brisk walks of two to three miles to stimulate all the muscles and respiratory systems that are used in running. Gradually you can introduce short running phases of one to two minutes until you can eventually run the whole three miles. Don't set yourself any time limits - progress at a pace with which you feel comfortable at this stage. The more you run, the easier it will become and you can set yourself new goals including greater mileage and running faster than before. There's no limit to what you could achieve.
- Consider seeing a doctor before you start if you have not exercised much before.
- You don't have to want to be a champion to take up running!
- Realistically assess your current level of fitness.
- Don't try to do too much too soon - steady progress will bring you great personal satisfaction.
- Above all, remember - you're running to have fun!
Beginner running kit
The trainers you buy depend largely on where you do the majority of your running. For example, road running requires decent cushioning, while for muddy fells good grip is essential. You also need to take your foot and body shape into account, eg. do you overpronate or underpronate? It's worth going to a specialist running shop to get some proper advice and buying quality shoes to avoid injury.
You can wear any clothes to run in, and that's part of the beauty of the sport. However, gear designed specifically for exercising is likely to increase your comfort. Not just because the materials will have been chosen and tested to offer benefits such as optimum insulation or breathability - they will also be less likely to cause running-related problems such as chafing. The essentials are vest or t-shirt, shorts, socks, warm top and tights or track suit bottoms - a lightweight, breathable and waterproof top is also very useful.
As you progress you will probably want to buy additional equipment such as a multi-function watch, water bottle, heart rate monitor, sunglasses and running pack.
Have a look at the full kit section for details on what we recommend.