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Beginner's Running - Considering Couch to 5k?

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

How do you get started?!

It seems like running should be something that everyone can do, and actually most people can. So what advice might help you to give it a go?

The biggest 'fear' for people who want to start running tends to be that they lack in confidence.

With all my run groups or individuals, whether they are Absolute Beginner's, or are returning to running after a period of time off; I always give the same advice which is....

Take the pressure off yourself.

Don't make 'going for a run' into a big thing; it really doesn't have to be.

Feeling self-conscious can be a huge element of fear when you are starting out.

What about all those people who might see you?

What might they think of you puffing and panting your way down the street?

What if they are laugh at you when you pass them?

If this feeling sounds familiar, then choose your time to go. Early mornings tend to be quiet; you may see the occasional runner or cyclist, you will see the dog walkers but that's about it. In actual fact, passers-by don't bat an eyelid, if anything, they are probably considering whether they could run too.

Joining a local group is a great option to build confidence. Although it might seem daunting - most Running Clubs put on programmes for Beginner's and they tend to be really friendly places to get started. Alternatively, find a friend (preferably one that won't ditch you when it rains!) so you can put the world to rights as you pound the streets.

What do you actually need?

What about all the technical clothing? The gadgets? The gear?

As long as you are wearing something comfy; have trainers that are supportive for your feet and a bra that supports your boobs, then you are pretty much ready to go! In the winter, go for thin layers, a t-shirt with a jacket that you can tie round your waist if you get hot. Gloves and a hat are a good idea too.

As for the gadgets - they're really not essential. You may want to check out your new smartwatch or try out one of the free apps - but as you start out - there's no real need to track your stats.

What about the running bit?!

One of the easiest ways to start running is not to run at all! Just walk. As you walk, your body will start to warm up and the muscles will start to activate. Try not to dawdle though - walk with purpose; walk like you are about to miss the train.

The next step is to pick a marker - a lamp post, a tree, or the end of the road; and start to pick up the pace. By this, I don't mean to startle yourself into a sudden sprint, just lift your knees slightly and have a bit of a jog. Tell yourself that if it doesn't feel good, you can always go back to walking again.

Consider starting with a short 'round the block' route and preferably one that is flat. Give yourself permission to run and walk whenever you feel like it. You might just surprise yourself.

Should I use an App?

The Couch to 5k is a fantastic app that can guide you through the process. It guides you through when to walk and when to run. It builds you up slowly each week and you can always take a step back if you need to. With my small groups I tend to encourage use of the intrinsic method; for the individual to focus on how they feel. This method works in the sense that there is no pressure or timings to dictate what you should be doing and when you should be doing it.

What tips can help take away the pain?!

Start small and with something that may distract you. Music can help, or listening to a podcast. Take your children, they are great 'helper's' when it comes to running. They are the best at interval training (lamp post to tree) because if they are worn out, they just stop and walk. They can however, also be a pain in the backside as they go sprinting off into the distance and leave you chasing them up the road! So make that choice carefully.

Another distraction is to really take notice of your surroundings. Stop and admire the trees; stop and listen to the birds; stop and take photos of your route. After all, who says that when you go for a run, you have to just run?

Here's the truthful bit!

Don't expect to feel amazing! Sorry! But it might not feel very nice, especially if you haven't run for a very long time.

Your muscles will ache. Your legs may feel heavy. Your chest may feel tight. You might sweat. I know that this is stating the obvious - but the emphasis is to just let it be.

It is what it is.

Running is something that most people can do. But it isn't easy. It never gets easier! You just get better.

So don't take it too seriously. One day... maybe. But as a beginner; recognise that you need to start somewhere and now might be as good a time as any.

If you do give it a go. I'd love to hear how you get on. There are loads of different ways of getting in touch so please do.

Stay safe.

Happy running

Andrea x

* If you haven't exercised for a while, or after pregnancy, illness or injury - it is advised to seek advice from your GP or a medical professional before starting.

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