Running is a wonderful sport. You can do it almost anywhere and it is relatively inexpensive when compared to other sports. Even if you travel a lot or are on holiday, it’s easy to pack your running shoes and go out for a quick jog. Running burns more calories than most other sports and gives you an awesome “natural high” afterwards.
But let’s face it, it is a hard sport to get into when you’re unfit and it has a high injury rate. I’ve included a great beginner’s program to get you going and turn you into a runner safely – with minimum risk of injury.
HOW I GOT HOOKED
I started long distance running after I had my daughter. I’d done some running before but my focus was more on cycling. However, cycling is a time-consuming sport, and training rides could take up to 3 hours, which was hard with a small baby. With running, I could throw on my shoes and head out with my long-suffering training partner, Jill, and be back in time for the next feed. In no time, I was entering 10km races that I ran with “Little” in a jogging pram and nine months after I gave birth, Jill and I ran our first 42km marathon. Anything is possible ladies!
Over the last few months Jill and I have been very inconsistent with our running. And after being fit for years we feel we almost have to start all over again. We’ll be hitting the road with the programme below and will be entering a race to keep us motivated.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
Running attracts people of all shapes, ages and sizes. You don’t have to be young and trim to attempt it. What is key though, is to go about it the right way and to be patient.
Although Jill and I are now experienced runners, we ALWAYS follow a program before a race. Training according to a program has multiple benefits: Firstly, it gets you ready for a race at the right pace so that you don’t over or under train. And secondly it gives you piece of mind that you are ready for the challenge.
SET A GOAL
If you’re disciplined and are happy to train just to get fit, that’s fine. But almost every runner I know trains better when they are training for a race. It gives you a goal and motivates you to get out on the road.
Go to https://www.entrytime.com/ and find a race near you in 10 weeks’ time, enter it and train for it using the program below. It could be a road race or a trail run.
Your goal will be far more achievable if you have a partner in crime to train with you. Recruit a training buddy. You are unlikely to hit snooze if someone is waiting for you. For more motivational tips on training, read our post Winter Fitness Survival Guide.
The most important element of your running kit is obviously your shoes. Not all shoes are the same so go to a reputable specialist running store to help you get the right fit. Jill and I go to Sweat Shop. They have stores in Johannesburg and Cape Town. When I lived in Pietermaritzburg I used to go to Poobie Naidoos, a running institution in SA. Specialist stores also generally let you return the shoes within a few weeks if you are not completely happy with them.
I highly discourage buying shoes at a store which cannot give you good advice and fit your shoes correctly. It could lead to serious injuries.
The rest of the kit consists of leggings (or shorts in summer), a running top, sports bra and socks. Make sure these are running specific, made from a good technical fabric, and don’t chafe. If you are running when it is slightly dark remember to wear bright and/or reflective clothing so that motorists can see you.
I like wearing leggings that come up to my waist and have a small pocket so that I can put keys in them. For me, running in a vest sometimes leads to chafing under my arms so I prefer a T-shirt which also protects me against the sun. You can invest in an anti-chafe cream, available at your running store. And don’t forget to wear a good sweat-proof sunblock if you’re running during the day.
WARNING! A lesson that Jill learned the hard way – don’t wear Gelish nail polish on your toes when running. Gelish looks lovely, but it makes your toenails hard and the friction with your running shoes could cause black toenails!
Unfortunately, runners can also be victims of crime. Please be vigilant. It is better not to run with iPods or phones as they might attract attention. Rather run with your buddy and chat, it’s much more therapeutic and social. But even then, do not approach cars who are “asking for directions” and consider running with a small bottle of pepper spray.
Some sports clubs or schools have a track that you may be able to use if you must run when it is still dark or feel unsafe on the road. Running on a track is a bit more boring but it does the trick. If you’re really stuck you can use a treadmill but outdoors training is certainly more fun.
Once you are running for a little longer, you can join a local running club and do early morning runs in a bigger, safer group. There are also clubs like Run/Walk for Life which cater for walkers and runners.
GET UP AND GET STARTED
This 10 week program is for someone who is a beginner or for someone like us, who has not run for a long time and needs to get going again. It is a program that will enable you to complete a 10km race after 10 weeks.
On the days it says “strength train” you can cross-train by joining a Pilates, Barre or other group class, or do other non-running cardio like swimming or spinning. I enjoy going to a group class because it activates my upper body too. If you are not a member of a gym check out our upper body workout and bum workout which you can do at home. If you’re feeling very tired this can also be a rest day.
The programme suggests the intensity of the workout at about 7/10. You can self-estimate the intensity you are running at. Or, if you have a heart rate monitor, your can workout at 70-75% of maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is approximately 220 less your age. This is a general rule of thumb.
Example: If you are 40 years old
220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute is your estimated maximum heart rate
75% x 180 = 135 beats per minute is the suggested training intensity
This programme is a Beginner Run programme from Coach Jenny Hadfield. Coach Jenny also has other programmes on her site if you need something easier or more advanced. If you’re a total beginner, have a look at her Run-Walk program which gently starts you with intervals of running and walking.
Spring is the perfect month to start your training as there are many races this time of year. Get up and hit the road!
(This post was first published on 10 August 2017 and has been updated and republished on 4 September 2018.)