Running for your life
Whether you’re born to run or being forced to by more enthusiastic friends, we all begin at the starting line. Before crossing that line, there are a few questions to consider:
- Who do I need to consult before running?
- What equipment do I need?
- How do I improve my technique?
- When should I define my running goals?
That’s a lot of questions, but we ask them for a good reason. The worst thing that can happen to a runner isn’t sore muscles, cramps, or burning lungs – it’s getting injured and not being able to run at all.
By addressing these questions, we’ll ensure we can run safely and smoothly for days, weeks, months and years to come.
First step: Seeking professional help
We’d recommend seeing at least one of the following before you start tying your laces:
Local, trustworthy, and the best port of call for a general health check-up. Your GP will be able to measure your BMI, blood pressure, and ask the right questions to understand where your health is. Use this a benchmark for your goals, which we’ll get to later.
You don’t know your body as well as you think. A physiotherapist will be able to take you through your posture, the muscles that need development, what stretches and exercises will aid your running, and what pain points to watch out for.
Don’t forget your feet! A podiatrist can guide you through what kind of support your feet can benefit from, show you how to correct your stride, and give you walking and running advice.
Second step: Getting shoes
Active wear, headbands and fancy smartwatches are all great pieces of equipment – but they’re not going to protect your feet from impact.
How to choose running shoes
Consider what your health professionals told you – your doctor, physio, and/or podiatrist would all have an opinion on what kind of shoe you might look for. Keep that in mind when making your purchase.
All running shoes aren’t created equal – there’s a lot of specialisation in running shoes. Some are better for pavement, long distance, sprinting, cross-country, and so on. Check out the features and descriptions of the shoes before deciding.
Buy from a sports shoe store – sports shoe retailers are staffed by people who know their products. Being able to get instant advice and reasoning on what shoes will suit you and why is the best way to purchase with confidence.
See if they’re comfortable – running for any length of time in uncomfortable shoes is going to feel like torture, so be sure to try out any pair you’re considering. Ideally, they should be ‘snug’ – not loose or so tight they’re pinching.
Step 3: Getting your technique right
It’s just one foot in front of the other right? Well, yes and no. Your feet and legs must coordinate with your whole body to ensure that you’re:
- lessening your chances of injury
- not wasting energy
- improving on your time and stride
For beginner runners, there are a few basic principles to remember.
Good posture makes good runners – stand up straight, chest out, shoulders back, head level.
Land your foot under your body – instead of reaching out to gain ground, striking with your heel, aim to strike the ground mid-foot and under your body. This will lessen the direct impact to your heel, maintain your balance, and give your stride longevity.
Steps per minute – also known as ‘cadence’. To figure out your cadence, see how many times your foot lands in a minute, and then double it. An easy run is around 170-180 steps per minute. Knowing your cadence can help you figure out a breathing pattern and get you into running rhythm faster.
Relax your wrists and hands – there’s no point karate chopping the air as you run. Keep your wrists and hands relaxed and in line with your waist as you run.
Move from the shoulders – keep your elbows in and relaxed, moving your arms with your shoulders. Your arms should feel like pendulums as you run.
Step 4: Setting goals
Big goals, little steps!
Your new adventure into the world of running should have a big, exciting goal. Running a half or full marathon, beating your sprinting time by seconds, or getting the most out of a hiking holiday overseas.
Accomplishing these feats can be achieved by incrementally increasing your training. The best way to do this is with the 10 Percent Rule.
In your first week, you might find you can only run for a minute (60 seconds) straight before getting puffed. Next week, you can try for 66 seconds. The week after, you aim for 72 seconds.
In a single month, you’ll be aiming for around 86/87 seconds of straight running!
The same goes for distance, increasing 1km to 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and so on.
Increasing your training in these small, achievable increments helps by:
- Giving you an achievable, demonstrable goal every week
- Shows clear progress being made
- Lets your body adjust to new demands
- Can reduce the chance of injury
- Provides time to discover the strengths and weaknesses in your stride
If you’re already looking for the next steps in your running training, check out
5 strength exercises every runner should know
The Science of Running
Greatist All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.