Research has revealed just how good running can be for you – and thankfully, it doesn’t suggest running for beginners do an hour-long sprinting session five times a week.
Instead, the research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that running – no matter how fast, far or often – is related to a lower risk of early death.
Researchers from Australia, Thailand and Finland have linked running to a 30% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower risk of death from cancer, noting: “Any amount of running, even just once a week, is better than no running, but higher doses of running may not necessarily be associated with greater mortality benefits.”
If you’re a complete novice, now could be the time to get into running. Here’s how…
Take your time
For Melissa Weldon, head of training at treadmill-based fitness boutique Sweat It, the most important piece of advice for new runners is to “take your time and listen to your body”.
Immediately trying to do a marathon will likely lead to injury, and put you off running for life. “There’s nothing wrong with starting with a walk/run programme to get your body used to it,” encourages Weldon.
“Break it down into intervals, gradually increasing as you increase your stamina. Once you become more confident with running, start to increase your running sections and reduce your walking intervals.”
Andy Baddeley, two-time Olympian and co-founder of The Running Channel, agrees: “New runners will naturally fatigue earlier than they might expect, and there’s no shame in walking. The key to enjoying running is finding a sustainable pace, but that comes with practice.”
The same principle goes for speed. “Do not start out running too fast, your body needs time to adapt to the strains of running, your joints and ligaments especially,” says Weldon. “Starting out too fast can lead to injury and/or you may feel overexertion within just a few minutes.
“Instead, aim to run at a pace which feels comfortable and try to maintain this pace for the entire distance, so you give your body the time to gradually ease into it.”
Relax your breathing
Short, sharp, frantic breaths will tire you out quickly and make your run hugely unenjoyable. Baddeley says: “Try to keep your breathing relaxed.
Yes, you’ll be out of breath, but keeping your shoulders back and your head tall, and focusing on breathing low down, using your diaphragm, can really help. Try to avoid panicked, shallow breaths high up in your chest.”
Work out what’s natural for you
You might be inundated with lots of complicated advice about the best running techniques, but Baddeley says beginners should just go for a jog and then “try to work out what’s natural for them”.
If you do want to visualise it a bit better, Baddeley adds: “Ideally you would try to midfoot strike (ie. neither on the ball of the foot, nor landing heel first), but perhaps the easiest way to work towards this is to think about pulling your leg underneath the body to make contact with the floor directly under your hips (rather than reaching out in front of you, which leads to overstriding, heel striking and more force going through your body).”
Join a group
Sometimes the hardest thing about going for a jog is finding the motivation, which is where joining a local running club could make a difference. A quick internet search will likely reveal plenty of clubs for casual joggers near you.
Baddeley is a big fan of Parkrun, which operates all over the world and he says is “very welcoming. It’s free and takes place at 9 am every Saturday in a park near you. Don’t be intimidated, you can run, walk or even volunteer to get a feel for it.”
If you have any concerns about starting running, speak to your GP.