Starting out in women's running

Starting out in women's running

Christina Boxer looks at the best ways to get into running.

It is important not to try to do too much too soon. Running is much more enjoyable when you are fit. If you suddenly start to run a lot when you are unfit it will feel very uncomfortable and you could risk becoming injured or ill. Take your time to get fit and increase your training very gradually - you will benefit in the long term.

Don't expect to run desert ultra-marathons straight away!
Marathon des SablesDon't run before you can walk

If you have been inactive for quite a while, start off by doing a brisk walk three times a week in the first two weeks. Start with 20 minutes in the first week and then gradually increase it to 30 or 40 minutes. If you have any health concerns or are overweight, it is best to visit your doctor first to make sure it is OK for you to exercise.

Bit by bit

If, after a couple of weeks, you feel very comfortable walking fast for up to at least 30 minutes then you can mix walking with running. Try 20 minutes, three times a week to begin with. Start by briskly walking to warm up, then jog and walk for short stretches. Sometimes landmarks like trees or lamp posts can really help (e.g. you can walk to one lamp post and then jog to the next one and keep repeating this). If you find this very comfortable then you can increase the distance you jog and you can start to increase the overall time to up to 30 or 40 minutes again.

Just jogging
A banana sandwich is a big running snack favourite!
When you feel ready to just jog, without the need to stop and walk, go back to a shorter duration to begin with. Warm up by walking briskly and then try 10 to 15 minutes. If you manage this then try a 20 minute jog a couple of days later. If it was harder than you thought then just stick to 10 minutes until you feel confident to increase it.

Once you feel comfortable jogging for 20 minutes you are ready to start a regular programme of running 3 or 4 times a week. To begin with it is best to stick with 20 minutes and to improve from a jog to a slow running pace and then after a few weeks you can introduce one slightly longer run once a week. This can be between 30 and 40 minutes.

For detailed training plans that follow these guidelines, try the beginner's training plans in the Beginner's section.

Better safe than sorry

Exercising in the fresh air is a lovely feeling, but it is always best to walk or run with other people unless you are fully confident. Some local leisure centres or athletics clubs cater for female runners and can help you to find a group of women of a similar ability to you. Alternately you can go on a treadmill at your local leisure centre or health club.

Invest in good running shoes
Invest in good running shoes
Invest in good running shoesThe most important bit of equipment is your running shoes. If you have the choice of spending a bit more on running clothes or shoes always invest in the shoes. A good pair of shoes may cost a bit more but will last for longer and will prevent you from getting injured, especially as you increase the distances you run.

It is best to buy a pair designed specifically for women, from a specialist running or quality sports shop where someone can give you some expert advice on what shoes would be most suitable for you. People have slightly different running styles and require different types of trainer, so they may ask you to jog up and down in the shop. Take your old shoes in as these will give them another clue how you run so they can recommend the right type.

Food and drink

How much you eat and when varies for many people, but it is best not to eat a big meal less than three hours before running. Most athletes prefer to have something light and full of carbohydrate about three hours before training. A banana sandwich is a big snack favourite! It is also really important to drink plenty of water, especially if you are starting to exercise more. Drink water regularly throughout the day.

For more information see the articles on fuelling by Sarah Coope.

Get into a good routine

A little often is much better than a lot now and again

Arranging to run with other people or joining a regular running group at set times will keep you motivated. If you have made the commitment to run with someone you are more likely to make the effort, even if you have had a really tiring or hectic day. If however you are unwell then you should rest and let your body recover.

Stick at it

To really get the benefit of running you need to keep training regularly and remember 'a little often is much better than a lot now and again'.

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