We spoke to runners around the world to learn more about the running life under lockdown. In THIS STUDY, we found that 81% of runners do so to clear their mind—and we saw a 62% spike in people heading out for a weekly run. More than ever, we’re running to connect our body and mind.
Chérien Roux is an Honours Sport Science Student who got into running not too long ago. If you are just starting your running journey, her top four beginners' tips might just help you:
1. Start the first kilometre slow
I frequently witness inexperienced runners starting their runs way too fast, especially at parkruns. As a result, these runners would fatigue quickly (sometimes within the first kilometre) and even start walking. Lack of fitness is not always to blame. The scientific explanation for this rapid fatigue is called Oxygen Deficit. During the first few minutes of running, the body's cardiovascular system (anaerobic energy system) provides energy called ATP during the deficit phase until the body reaches a steady-state, which is when oxygen consumption is utilised. This is the reason why the first km of any run feels like the longest and you experience the feeling of being out of breath. My tip would be to start slower and progressively build up your pace (or just maintain the slower pace during your first few runs until you know you can push harder). Allow your body the opportunity to adapt and reach a steady-state. If you have a fitness watch, check your heart rate during the run to ensure your heart rate does not exceed your max zone, and if it does walk for a bit until you feel recovered or when your HR is stable.
Learn more about calculating your heart rate zones, here.
2. Running Frequency
During the first 4 weeks of running it is important for a new runner to run at a low intensity called the 'Easy Zone'. Try to run comfortable distances and give your body sufficient rest to recover between runs. The general guideline is to aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic training per week. I have translated this to 15 kilometres of running a week. You can decide how you want to subdivide your runs during a week to get to 15 kilometres. I recommend always start your first day of the week with a run (I aim for 4 - 5 kilometres). The 5 kilometre parkruns have become quite popular around the world and I would aim to end my running week on a Saturday morning. This would leave me with 1 run midweek to reach my goal of 3 times a week. Parkruns also provide you with the opportunity to measure your improvement.
3. Resistance Band Training
As a new runner it is very important to do resistance band exercises, as you need to develop and strengthen your muscles used for running. I prefer to do resistance band exercises that target my hips, glutes and core as these muscles play a key role in running, and by strengthening them you will improve your running economy. Aim to do resistance band training twice a week during the days in which you don't run. Remember to do a light warm-up before doing these exercises as you need to warm-up your muscles to prevent injury, especially if you ran the day before.
More strength training inspiration, here.
4. Setting Goals
Goals should be SMART (an entire article can be written on this principle). I set myself short-term goals as I know I will most likely reach these goals. When looking into the psychology behind sport and exercise people are motivated in two ways, intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when you are self-motivated by factors such as improving your fitness or improving your time on a 5km run. Extrinsic motivation is when you train to change your physical appearance or obsess about winning. I try to be intrinsically motivated by focusing on improving my fitness, my functional strength and my running times. By focusing on these aspects the body goals will come automatically with the added benefit of not stressing over 'I am not losing enough weight.' I usually set new short-term goals every four weeks.
Another tip I would give new runners is to set small goals during a run for example, tell yourself you are going to jog to a landmark next to the road and after that landmark walk for a bit until you feel fine to jog to your next landmark. These smaller goals during a run provides you with the satisfaction that will enable you to continue your run (this is also called intermediate running and is often used for beginners to start running).
More on goal-setting, here.