After what feels like a double serving of winter, it’s finally beginning to feel like spring. The sun has made a comeback and with it the runners have reappeared.
While some hardy souls have been training for the last couple of months now is the time when the rest of us begin to think about getting out there.
Advertisements have begun to appear for various running events across the country. From 10km fun runs, to half marathons, triathlons and the ultimate full marathon, there is a running target for everyone. And even if you don’t fancy taking part in a formal running event, it is still worth setting yourself a fitness goal, even if that is a 5km gentle jog.
Running has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years in Ireland. It’s an exercise nearly everyone can do and it’s free! No expensive gym fees or being tied to set times for a particular class. It is also a great form of stress relief.
Many people now join running clubs where they can meet up with fellow enthusiasts once or twice a week. These clubs provide great support, motivation and practical advice for runners.
So dust off your running shoes, or invest in a new pair if you are a running ‘virgin’ and get out there. But before you do here is some useful advice:
Ten top tips for getting started in running
1. Buy the right shoes. Shoes are the biggest equipment expense for runners, so it’s important to get it right. Spend wisely by buying good quality shoes from a major brand. Buy a pair that fits you properly and is designed for the surface you’ll run on most often. After you buy your shoes, remember that even the best have a limited lifespan. Plan to replace them after about 350 to 500 miles of wear.
2. Make a plan.You don’t need to dedicate a huge amount of time to running but finding the right time for you is important, whether that is in the morning, after work, the weekend and so on. Vary your running times if you are a busy, and remember even a 15 minute run is better than nothing.
Also, it is important to plan where to run. Look at good, safe routes. Off-road routes like parks and walkways are obviously better than high-traffic streets.
And don’t forget to ‘plan’ your outfit. Check the weather before you step outside and make sure you are properly attired. Comfortable non-restrictive clothing is a must. Light layers are a good choice and remember a little rain never hurt anyone!
3. Remember to warm upand cool down. While stretching is important it is not a proper warm up. A proper warm up begins with walking or running very slowly to ease your body into the session. When you finish your run, don’t stop suddenly. Instead, walk another 5 minutes to cool down gradually. Then do your cool down stretches.
4. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, decreased coordination, andmuscle cramping. Runners need to pay attention to what and how much they drink before, during and after exercise ,and running clubs, doctors and running magazines provide good advice on optimum hydration levels.
5. Listen to your body and find your own pace.Most new runners don’t know what a comfortable pace feels like, so they push too hard and get overly tired, sore and discouraged, or even injured.
Listen to your breathing. If you aren’t gasping for air, and you can talk while you’re running, your pace is just right. Basically build up your running time slowly and surely.
While you are bound to get tired and maybe experience a little muscle pain afterwards, if you feel dizzy or experience pain in your chest area, immediately stop running and rest or walk for a bit until you feel better. There is a difference between pushing yourself and being foolish.
6. Prevent injuries. The most common running related injuries are lower limb injuries to the hip, knee and the ankle, according to Warwick Gordon, Deputy Medical Director, The Physio Company, the largest private Chartered Physiotherapy provider in Ireland (www.thephysiocompany.com).
He says that runners should consider having a gait scan to make sure they get the best footwear before they start training, or talk to a physiotherapist for advice and a pre-running screen.
Many lower limb injuries occur when runners are overtired or over exert themselves so it is important not to overdo things too soon, Warwick notes.
It is also important to get yourself checked out if you think you’ve hurt yourself and to let injuries heal properly and listen to your health professional’s advice if they tell you to take it easy for a while.
7. Have fun. Yes running is exercise, can be tiring and it takes a while to build up your fitness but it should be enjoyable. So do it with friends or alone with some kicking tunes on your iPod for company.
8. Useful resources for runners:
Running websites such as www.runnersworld.com, www.runireland.com andhttp://www.florawomensminimarathon.ie have great information articles, advice and events calendars for all the big and little running events around the country.
9. There is also a good variety of running magazines and books available in newsagents and bookshops.
10. Smartphones can download very useful interval training and running apps, and map apps that suggest useful running routes.