I’ve had request to write a blog post about how best to start running or to come back from injury.
Fortunately, for all you readers I have had a lot of experience on the topic on coming back from injuries and illness. I have always considered myself a runner my love started at school and has only grown stronger or maybe I’ve become more determined at each hurdle I faced. I’ve had two major illness and injures throughout my life. The first when I was 18, I developed a pain condition called CRPS and couldn’t run for 5 years. After a long period rehab, I eventually started running again but completely from scratch. At the beginning of this year I was seriously ill and in had several stays in hospital. Yet again having to put running on the back burner while I recovered. Nevertheless, my passion, stubbornness and determination to not let it stop me means I’m back and actually running PBs around 5 months later. So I must know something about getting back into running so here’s some of my best tips:
Get a good pair of shoes:
The first thing to do if you starting running is to get a good pair of running shoes. You don’t need a lot of kit to start running but a good pair of trainers IS an essential. You want to go to a running shop where they look at your gait, they’ll be able to help pick a shoe that’s best for your particular running style and feet. The reason you should go to a proper running shop is that they will have a wide selection of brands, you want to try as many of them on as possible. There is a lot to be said about picking running shoes but at the end of the day whatever is most comfortable with you is what you should buy. Also, I always find a new pair of shoes helps in getting you motivated to go out for a run. A worn out or ill-fitting running shoe can easily lead to getting an injury at the least a blister or two.
My best piece of advice for buying shoes is: DON’T get tempted by design or price!
As tempting as it is to buy shoes because they look pretty it’s not worth it! A good pair is worth its weight in gold. For the sake of spending a bit more or looking cool, it’s really not worth the uncomfortable runs and the injuries you’ll sustain by getting a pair that’s no good for you. I recently bought a new pair of racing flats, I have to say I love them they fit like a glove, super comfy and I’ve run PB’s in the them.. Only thing is their pink and I hate pink but would I give up my PB’s for a blue pair NO WAY!! Trust me when it comes to price the extra cost is worth it, and you be surprised at the difference it can make. I am frugal and love a bargain but not with shoes. Plus you want to change your shoes every 300-500 miles, if your shoes are 100 pounds and you run 500 miles in them thats 20p a mile, thats pretty good. Running is a pretty cheap sport so invest in shoes. Once you find a pair or brand you can stick to it. I buy the same brand and even the same pair (maybe the newer version) every year, I know what works for me and I get that.
Start small and build it up:
Whether you’re a complete newbie or making a comeback from injury the best thing is to start small and build up. While it is tempting to just put your shoes on and just go its best to build it up slowly in both speed and mileage. Depending on your baseline level of fitness depends on where you start.
If your completely new then start with a walk/run programme run for a minute then walk for say 3-4 minutes to catch your breath and then run for a minute. Eventually you will build it up to more time running and less walking, the aim is to total 20-30 mins of running/walking until you are running continuously.
If you’re coming back from an injury how long you’ve been out for determines how much running you should do:
- 2-3 weeks then you want to aim for 60-75% of your previous miles per week
- 3 weeks- 1 months then you want to aim for 50-60% of your previous miles per week
- 1 month plus then you want to aim for 40-50 % of your previous miles per week
This is a rough guide and obviously depending on the injury it depends on what you will be able to do but the important thing is to listen to your body and do what it tells you.
Just listen to your body and go with what it tells you. Do not worry about your time, this is just about getting a solid base in, you want it to be enjoyable. Just focus on one step at a time and listen your body and yourself. I know its ridiculously easy but don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Forget about what you used to do and listen to what you can do now. It can take about 4-6 weeks for your body to get used to running especially if you’re just starting so stick with it. The runs will start to feel easier and you’ll be surprised how quick you’ll feel and see the improvements.
Record your runs:
This is something I found incredibly helpful when I started out again after years out. In a period of time where it’s almost unusual not to record your runs whether it’s by a app or a GPS watch so theres lots of options. As a society, we have almost got into a situation where unless its recorded and shared it doesn’t count. I’m not saying my any means you should share your runs but if you record them then you can look back on them and see how far you have come.
Unfortunately, it takes patience and time and there isn’t much anyone can do to change that. It will take time for your body to adapt and become more efficient. That’s why it is good to keep a record of your runs so that when you are thinking you’re not getting anywhere you can look back and see that you are really are. It’s a great confidence booster! I promise you, you’ll look back and think how the hell did I run that slow. It’s also great when you are starting out to see what works for you. Write a training diary and make little comments about how it felt, the weather, food, stress, sleep next to your runs. Then when you have a bad run and feel terrible you can look bad and actually it might not be as bad as you think. I’ve look back at mine and thought that was terrible run but then I look back and actually it was raining, I had just rolled out of bed and my puppy had kept me up all night. When your starting to run again is all about confidence and feeling good, so this is a great way to keep yourself motivated.
You want to enjoy your runs so there is no point forcing yourself to do it a certain way because you have read its best. If that means your start on the treadmill in the gym or in the local park then do that. You want a route that is safe, comfortable and convenient for you. Give yourself a target and then break it down. If your main aim is to run 5km, break it down give yourself a reward when you do your first continuous run or you manage 2.5km you want your goals to be manageable. No one is going to run a marathon straight away.
Treadmills are good for coming back from injury as you can just stop and have a rest just like that. Your in a safe place and can get help if you need plus then you can get in the car and go home rather than being stuck far from home and struggling or worry about how to get back. Don’t worry about time or running form just enjoy getting out there and running.
It’s not going to be easy, it will feel tough and at times you’ll think why the hell am I doing this to myself, but keep going! Its normal to feel stiff or sore after a workout that is completely normal. Make sure you stretch, foam roll, warm up and warm down in order to help stay injury free.
I can’t stress this enough, the best way to improve it to be consistent. I certainly wouldn’t recommend running every day but a good place to start is three times a week. It’s just about getting out there and building a base. After a break my coach always recommend 2 weeks of just easy running nothing special just straight runs based on how you feel on that day. Running is generally simple if you put the work in you generally will get the rewards back but it does take patience and time. It is easy for life to get in the way and for you to feel like you don’t have the time to get your run in. So, schedule it in look at your diary and pick a day and time that fits best around your life and work. You’ll soon get into a routine, runners are generally creatures of habit. Long runs on a Sunday morning anyone?
If you the type of person that needs a goal to stay on track then pick a goal or a race and aim for a park run or 5km and pick a training plan. Look around at the different plans and pick something that works for you adapt them just make sure it works for you and your life that way you will stick to it.
Build it up slowly:
There is the famous 10% rule. Never increase your speed, distance, or effort by more than this at one time!! You should also try to do some easier days and then some harder or longer days rather than just doing the same thing. As a basic guide, you want to do about 3 runs a week to build a basic level of fitness 1 longer run, 2 medium runs and 1 cross training/recovery session to begin with. It’s also good to mix it up a bit try to run on grass or trails at least once a week and not consistently on hard pavement. The runs are all subjective to you, a long run when your starting out can be 10 mins of continuous running, just because it’s called a ‘long’ run certainly doesn’t mean you have to run forever. It’s more about getting out 3 times, no matter how short it is for, that doesn’t matter.
Increasing your mileage will bring on lots of benefits such as increased capillaries, heart muscles and blood vessels, increased number of mitrochonda (energy producing cells), more efficient usage of fat, increased and strengthen your muscle and tendons and better storage of glycogen (sugar). All of these changes will help your body to maintain your pace for longer and to help you run further and more effectively.
Cross training is a way of still increasing your fitness but giving your body a rest from the repetitive nature of running. You want to try and do something off weight bearing whether it be swimming, rowing, cycling, strength training or using a cross trainer. At the end of the day it’s got to be something you enjoy, there’s no point otherwise. Cross training gives your muscles a break from running but still increasing your cardiovascular fitness. When I started running again I did one spin class a week.
Rest and recovery:
There’s no point putting in all the effort of training and making sure you get your runs in if you’re not getting the return from them. You only get the fitness gains from how your recovery from the runs not during the runs themselves, you’re too busy trying to get through the run for your body to think about how it will help make you better. This means rest and recovery is vital, you can’t run hard everyday trust me I have tried….
This is particularly important when starting out as there will be more stress on your body as you start to get fitter. Listen to your body if you’re getting out of breath quickly, slow down, cut the workout short or add a walking break in.You need easier or complete rest days to then be able to run harder next time. It might seem counterproductive but it’s not worth getting injured or burning out. You end up taking more time off as a result. Sleep is just as important as the training itself if your too tired or exhausted to do the session then you won’t run your best. You really want to be aiming for at least 7-8 hours sleep.
Recovery also means food. You need to fuel your body for your runs and help it in order to recover from your workouts. You want to eat healthy and balanced. For a runner around half your calories should be from carbohydrates try to stick to wholemeal varieties. A quarter of your calories should be from fats mainly unsaturated good options are nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados and the rest should be protein like leans meats and fish. After a workout, you want to try and have a little snack within 30 mins with combination of carbs and proteins in order to recovery fully with 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. You also need to make sure you stay hydrated especially if it is hot, water is always best. You don’t necessarily need special sports drinks or anything fancy. Its best to have it little but often throughout the day but only drink when your thirsty.
So these are my top tips for starting out running. The most important thing is to