Running is a wonderful way to get outside and to start the day (or end it).
It is a high-impact activity, which works out your heart as well as strengthening your bones and muscles.
So could taking up running benefit you? And what is the best way to get started?
Why take up running?
If you enjoy running, that is reason enough to put on some runners and get outside.
Once you have some decent shoes and some appropriate clothes to run in, running does not have to be an expensive hobby.
Running is also a high-intensity exercise, so you can get the health benefits of running in shorter amounts of time than if you just jog or walk.
Beyond your bones and muscles, running can also help to improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and help you maintain a healthy weight.1
Running can have mental health benefits as well.
It is a mood booster, and a great way to get away from the screen, the office, or to get some alone time, and you would be amazed at the ideas you get while pacing through the park.
Running also entails persistence and focus, so if you run regularly, you should see these traits strengthened as well.
Running regularly can help relieve stress and can sometimes help reduce the effects of depression.2
There are also lots of options for integrating running into your life. It can be a social strategy. You can run with friends or a club and catch up at the same time.
You can also set goals and monitor your running using apps and smart bracelets or watches, and you can participate in fun runs and marathons.
Getting started: Running tips
You know your health situation better than anyone.
If a 20-minute walk is a tough gig for you right now, start out with walking for ten minutes, then work your way up to brisk walking, then jogging and then running over the course of a few months.
Or, you might feel comfortable with a jog and gradually incorporating more and more five-minute bursts of running.
To maximise your overall fitness, be sure to warm up before hand, stretch afterwards, and include some other forms of exercise in your life, such as swimming, weights, team sports, or dance.
A warm-up should last five minutes and can include some quick walking, knee lifts, side steps, or climbing stairs.3
And then, to optimise the gains from running, cut down on any soft drinks, and add more fruits, vegetables, and proteins to your diet.
Remember to take a water bottle with you, as getting plenty of fluids is important for avoiding dehydration.
And allow at least two rest days per week to avoid over-training, which can cause injury.
Also, go for flat grassy areas over hard concrete or sand, to avoid injury, and for your own safety, try to avoid roads or jog at a time of day when there are less cars.4
To stay motivated, aim for two running sessions a week, to start off with, rather than the harder-to-achieve five sessions.
You can listen to a podcast or music as you run, and do plan out your running route and set yourself short and long-term goals.5
Couch to 5K: A beginners’ running plan
Couch to 5K is a plan for absolute beginners, which should get you running within nine weeks. 6
The plan involves running three times a week, with a day off between each run, and a new schedule for each of the nine weeks.
You start off with a mix of running and walking, and then gradually build up your fitness and stamina.
In the first week you just run for a minute at a time. This helps set realistic expectations and makes the challenge feel achievable.7
In the second week, you start off with a brisk walk, then alternate 90 second runs with two minutes of walking, for a total of twenty minutes.
In week 3, the walking times become shorter, and by week five, you are running for five to eight minute blocks.8
In week eight, you run for 28 minutes straight, and by week nine, you are running for a full half hour.9
Ultimately, you more than likely know what is best for you, so if you find one week a bit tough, you are more than welcome to repeat it until you are ready to move on to the next week.
For more motivational tips, you might like to check out our article ‘5 steps to a 5k run with Kate Percy.’
Last updated: 22 Janaury 2021