Preparation – from walking to running
One of the beauties of running is how easy it is to get started. With a good pair of running shoes, you can just walk out the door and start running – and you can run no matter what your age! Running is a great way to boost cardiovascular health, burn calories and improve your mood.
Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise. Running is a fairly intense physical activity that can put a strain on your body, especially if you are significantly overweight and have a sedentary job. Check with your doctor whether your joints and body can handle the strain and whether it is appropriate for your current state of health to train in this way (or whether it might be better to start by walking or swimming, for example).
When you are sure that everything is OK, I recommend starting with these three steps gradually:
- Start by walking: if you are just starting out with exercise or have been sitting in an office for the last few years, start slowly and carefully. First, try 30 minutes of brisk walking, about three to five times a week.
- After two weeks of walking, add running to those 30 minutes. Warm up with 5 minutes of brisk walking and then gradually alternate walking and lunges. Try 1 minute of slow jogging, 2 minutes of walking, and keep going like this for the remaining 30 minutes. Gradually the running will become easier and you will be able to extend the running time.
- Focus on extending the duration of the run: initially focus on extending the time rather than the speed. The main idea is to get out and move, no matter how fast you run or how many miles you can cover. By training your body consistently over a period of time, you can increase your pace or increase your mileage to improve your endurance.
Proper running technique and progression
- Warm-up: Spend 5-10 minutes warming up to get your blood flowing, warm up your muscles and wake up your body. For example, try dynamic stretching, where you move your limbs while increasing your heart rate. Examples include shotgun shooting, high knees, leg kicks, and lunges or lunges.
- Speed: Try talking to your running partner, and if you can’t talk, slow down. If you’re running alone, try talking out loud occasionally and make sure you’re doing relatively well.
The idea of this test is to make sure you are not in the anaerobic zone. Although this is not a big mistake, you won’t last long running this intensely and running should be an aerobic exercise (cardio). For a more detailed analysis of cardio/aerobic exercise, see this article.
- Breathing: Breathing is a key part of running as it supplies oxygen to the muscles. Some people breathe through their nose, others through their mouth, and still others combine both. Try different breathing techniques to see which one suits you best.
- Personally, I recommend rhythmic breathing in a 3-3 (3 steps forward, 3 steps out) or 2-2 formula, for example, but 4-2 (longer inhale for 4 steps, faster exhale for 2 steps) is also recommended.
- Shoulders : Let the arms swing naturally at a relaxed 90-degree angle. The shoulders should also be relaxed. Avoid a skating motion – don’t allow your arms to cross the midline of your body or you will lose energy.
- Feet: Land over the toe on the middle of the foot, with the foot directly under the body on impact. Too long a stride means wasted energy.
- Body: Keep your upper body upright but relaxed. Lean forward slightly as you run to make it appear that you are falling forward. Avoid hunching or bending at the hips.
Running shoes and equipment
You don’t need any fancy fitness trackers or other electronics to start running. You will, however, need a pair of running shoes that fit you well.
Running shoes can also be used for walking, but regular walking shoes are not ideal for running because they don’t provide the necessary cushioning and support. Choosing the right running shoes is a complex subject that would make for an article on its own, but a good first step is to get advice from a specialist shop or ideally directly from an orthotist.
As well as good quality shoes, you also need comfortable clothing, which certainly doesn’t need to be expensive and designer, but should allow freedom of movement and be breathable. Fortunately, you can nowadays also buy very high-quality functional thermal underwear cheaply, which wicks away sweat, lets the skin breathe, but also keeps the muscles warm.
For shorter distances there is no need to carry a drink, but for endurance running it is recommended to carry either a small water bottle or get a ‘camelbak’ – a water bag in the form of a backpack that leaves your hands free for ideal performance.
How often and how fast to run?
Running is a very individual sport that looks different for everyone. How often, how far or how fast you run depends on your motivation and goals. Whether you’re hoping to improve your fitness and stay healthy, mainly have fun, or complete your first half marathon, knowing your own motivation will help you tailor your running plan.
The only general advice I can give you is to listen to your body and don’t chase your desired performance through pain. An important part of any training session is recovery time, when the body is recovering from muscle exhaustion and adapting to a higher training load.
For a beginner, 30 minutes of easy running three times a week may be enough, while someone training for a marathon may need to run five times a week for an hour or more. Although muscle fatigue is desirable, constant pain, especially in the joints, is a clear sign that you should slow down a bit and perhaps incorporate more supplemental mobilization and stretching exercises.