We love running as a sport, it’s easy to pick up and requires no experience or specialist sports kit. All you need to get started are some suitable running trainers and your favourite Boudavida activewear, and you’re ready to go!
Running is great as it helps boost your heart rate, your metabolism and also releases mood-boosting endorphins, which we all know help to combat mental health problems. Running is one of the most versatile and easy sports to take up; you can start practicing at home, around your local area or just your back garden, with no time restraints.
It's also great to start running right now, while gyms are closed and we're making use of our time at home.
Perhaps you’re starting from scratch, or maybe you’re returning to running after a break - either way, these 7 easy steps describe how to build up running and gradually improve your running capacity and distance.
1. Start Slow
The critical rule when building up your running is to start slow and steady and gradually build up from there. The most important thing is not to jump into a long or fast-paced run straight away, as this will likely over-exert your muscles and lungs, and can potentially cause injury. The goal should be to gradually build up running so that you can maintain your exercise regularly, possibly 3-4 times per week, without causing yourself any pain.
Start by setting yourself short periods such as a 5 or 10-minute run, before you take on longer distances.
2. Walk Before You Run
One of the best ways to introduce running into your fitness routine is to start by walking and running in intervals. This steady progression allows your body to get used to the rhythm and tempo of running without damaging your muscles.
You can try this by setting yourself a time of 30 minutes (or less) and breaking this time down into sections with a 1-minute run, then a 4-minute walk, repeating with 1 minute running and then 4 minutes walking until you reach the 30-minute mark.
As you build up your stamina over a few sessions of walking and running in intervals, you can begin decreasing the amount of time walking, and increase the amount you spend running, for example, 2 minutes running, with 3 minutes of walking. Once you’ve built up your endurance over several weeks of training, you can then try eliminating walking altogether and just run!
3. Increase Little by Little
Most trainers will recommend that you start with between 2-4 runs per week (perhaps one every other day) and for around 20 minutes or approximately 2 miles. This amount will vary from person to person depending on your current health, fitness and gait, so be realistic and always judge the distance to what you can do comfortably. The goal here is to build up running incrementally, so you improve your endurance little by little over weeks and months, not days!
You may already have heard about the “10 per cent rule” in running - the theory that runners shouldn’t increase their mileage by more than 10 per cent week on week. As a beginner, a better way to look at this is to increase your distance by 10% every other week. For example, for week 1-2 run two times per week for 20 minutes, and then multiply that by an extra 10% to 22 minutes in weeks 3-4, and so on.
It’s important to remember that this is about building on your endurance and stamina bit by bit, avoiding injury and improving your running performance steadily and sustainably.
Running a little further each time you set out can be daunting, but if you break it down bit by bit, it can help you to achieve those goals. Instead of picturing your run as 22 minutes as a whole, break it down into 20 minutes at a regular pace, and then the final 2 minutes at a slower pace.
4. Stretch After Your Run
Don’t forget to take a break in between runs. It’s vital to let your muscles relax, rest and recover and for your body to take the time to heal. A great exercise that you can do in between running days is yoga - this will help your muscles stretch out and relax after cardio, while also working on your core strength. If you’re building up your exercise, you can read more on practicing yoga in our other blogs.
5. Eat the Right Food for Energy
Running is a higher intensity sport which requires us to fuel our body with energy-producing foods - carbohydrates. But not just any old carbohydrates! It’s essential to eat slow-releasing energy carbs such as brown rice, quinoa or wholegrain bread and cereals, which will release fuel gradually and make it easier for you to sustain energy.
Avoid too many sugary foods such as energy drinks and high sugar snacks before a run. Although these will give you that initial energy spike, what follows is inevitably a slump in energy as your blood sugar level crashes, ultimately making you feel more tired.
6. Running Technique
Working on your running technique will help you to conserve energy, run faster and with less effort. Your running form should be with a straight torso (imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head), arms hip height and swinging to help propel you forwards, landing lightly and pushing off with your feet underneath your body (not stretching out too far in front).
You can also measure your cadence or ‘revolutions per minute’ (RPM) - the number of times your feet strike the ground every minute. You can use this to measure your progress, but also whether you are hitting the ground and pushing off correctly; a higher cadence often indicates that a runner is using proper form and striking the ground mid-foot. As a beginner, you should aim for around 150-160 RPM.
7. Invest In Your Running Kit
Make sure you look and feel the part with breathable activewear and suitable running footwear that will both make you feel great and help you avoid injury. Why not try our performance gym leggings, sweat-wicking workout tops and sports bras to complete your running kit.
If you want to read more on how to build up running, check out the NHS Couch To 5k Plan, which also includes helpful downloads and podcasts. The Running Tips for Beginners guide is also full of useful guidance for those just starting out.