With spring on the way, the majority of us find that our thoughts turn to exercise, and now that the days are becoming longer, there are more runners out on the roads and footpaths. Running is a great way to get fit, but there's more to it than simply donning a pair of running shoes and hitting the pavements. Like all sports, you need to make sure that you have the right equipment and the right approach, so here's our tips to get you started.
Protect your feet
Running is hard on your feet, so take time choosing the correct footwear. Running shoes need to be comfortable and supportive, without being too restrictive. If this is going to be something you decide to stick with for the long term, then it's probably worthwhile getting an analysis of your gait from a sports physiotherapist, who can check for pronation and guide you as to the most appropriate footwear. For most beginners, a sensible, well-fitting pair of running shoes should fit the bill. Try on several pairs and make sure you walk around in them to check for fit and comfort before you commit to buying.
Don't be tempted to wear an old pair of trainers. They won't provide the support and stability that you need, and you could end up with painful shin splints or other injuries, which could so easily be avoided by wearing appropriate footwear.
Don't underestimate the power of a good pair of socks, to transform the comfort of your feet when you run. Most runners advise steering clear of cotton socks and instead recommend a good pair of double-layer synthetic ones. The double layer will prevent chafing and blisters, as one layer stays with your skin whilst the outer layer moves with your shoe - any rubbing is therefore contained within the sock itself, rather than rubbing against your skin. Meanwhile, the synthetic materials take sweat away, leaving your feet cool and comfortable throughout your run.
It may not be the coolest look on the planet, but hi-vis clothing is a must, particularly if you're running on country lanes. Even in daylight, it's astonishing how invisible you can become in shady areas or on cloudy days. Wearing hi-vis makes you, as the name suggests, highly visible to car drivers, so do yourself a big favour and wear something bright that allows you to be seen from a distance. It could save your life.
It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but technical clothes are worth their weight in gold. Many new runners start out in cotton tops and joggers, but quickly realise that these are far from ideal, once they start to sweat. Cotton fabrics stay damp, and that's not a good feeling when you're a couple of miles from home! Once damp clothing starts to rub and chafe, you'll quickly realise how very uncomfortable that cotton tee shirt really is.
Technical fabrics are specially designed to dry quickly and maintain your optimum body temperature. They'll keep you warm in cold weather and keep you cool when it gets hot. Lightweight and easy to wash, they will outlast all your cotton tops and keep you so much more comfortable too.
Once you start to work up a sweat, you'll very quickly become thirsty. Replacing your body's lost fluids is important to maintain good health and stop you from feeling dizzy. If you're going to keep up your fluid intake, then you need to carry water with you. Experts recommend that you should drink around six ounces of water every twenty minutes or so to maintain optimum hydration, so if your planned run is half an hour you'll definitely need to take water with you.
Most beginners find it easiest and simplest to carry a water bottle with them. If you plan on extending the length of your runs, then you might find you need to invest in some other form of providing hydration. Nowadays, you can find waist packs that hold a quantity of water without rubbing, and the beauty of these is that there's usually space for your mobile and keys too.
For ladies – a well-fitting sports bra
Running puts stress through the whole body and, as most women are aware, causes breasts to bounce. Not only is this not a good look, but it also causes damage to the delicate breast tissue. Aside from causing discomfort and even pain, over time this will cause breasts to droop and sag and is likely to cause stretch marks.
Always seek professional advice and have yourself fitted with a good-quality sports bra to protect your assets. A good bra will support your breasts without putting strain on your shoulders and will avoid chafing too.
Appropriate support for injuries
Running will soon bring to your attention any underlying problems or injuries, particularly in your feet and legs. If you find yourself experiencing pain or discomfort on your run, then seek professional advice sooner rather than later. Many runners find they suffer from foot, ankle or knee pain, so it's important to find out what is causing the problem and deal with it, before it becomes a major issue. A severe injury will curtail your running and impact upon your general fitness, which is why it's so important to nip any issues in the bud.
A physiotherapist will diagnose any problems and recommend appropriate treatment, which often includes the use of a support device or brace. You can source support for most of the body's joints, many of which will allow you to keep running, but without damaging delicate tissue. Be guided by your physiotherapist as to the type of support you should invest in.
Shin splints are a particularly unpleasant condition which cause pain down the front of the lower leg, and they are often seen in people who enjoy running. You can buy a brace which supports the calf muscles and stops the pain from occurring, so if shin splints have been troubling you, it makes sense to look into these devices.
With correct support, even long-standing injuries can be kept under control, allowing you to keep up with your running without compromising your body in the process.
A running buddy
Pounding the pavements on your own can be a lonely business, and when you feel as though you can't go on any more, it can be all too easy to throw in the towel. Many runners find that they keep their motivation by buddying up with another runner. It means that there is company, which is generally a bonus, but one of the best effects is on motivation. When you feel ready to give up and your running buddy urges you to continue, you're more likely to find inner reserves of energy that you simply wouldn't have been able to find on your own.
When we run with a partner, we don't want to let them down, so we keep on going even when we feel like quitting. Arranging to meet up with someone else for a run means you're far less likely to cancel due to bad weather or decide to spend an extra hour in bed in the morning instead.