Running blogger and marathon lover Lorna North shows you how to take your running from 0 to 1 mile, then up to 5k, 10k, a half marathon and more. She also recommends events for you to sign up to, so you have a goal to focus on

With running season beginning and the Vitality Run Series kicking off soon, now is the time to start setting training goals – however big or small. Fitness blogger Lorna North, aka Queen of the Mile, offers her advice for setting the right running goals and staying on track this year – whatever your running level…

 

Why should we set running goals now?

“By setting myself annual goals, I’ve progressed from running round the block to running full marathons. It might be cold and dark outside, but starting your training now will see you reap the rewards when spring arrives.

“Bite the bullet and book an event – you’ll need to get organised as they can book up quickly. Plus, having a date in the diary will give you a timeline to work with and keep you focused on your training.”

 

You want to start running for fun

“If you’re completely new to running, my advice would be to grab your trainers and just get out there – whether it’s a short jog around your local park or trying a fun run.

“In terms of your training, it’s less overwhelming to see each run as a block of minutes rather than miles. This Vitality six-week beginner’s training plan helps build your fitness by gradually increasing the number of minutes you continuously run for. Your first few run sessions might be tough but persevere and you’ll soon start to feel the benefits.

“Make sure you have the right kit from the outset so you’re comfortable during your run. Having the correct trainers is key to preventing injury. Vitality’s partner, the running retailer Sweatshop, will help advise you on the right pair and even provides a free in-store running analysis to match your shoes to your gait (how you stand).

“I’d also recommend packing your trainers when you go on holiday. It helps to bring a new perspective to your running and might just turn it into a passion. Over the past few years I’ve run through the hills in Provence with the turquoise Gorges du Verdon as my backdrop and in the Scottish Highlands with my best friend. A combination of the endorphins, the fresh air and amazing scenery has made running trips some of the best memories I have.”

Try: The Vitality Westminster Mile on 28 May for a buzzing atmosphere and a course that loops around iconic London landmarks. Or head to a VitalityMove event on 9 July at Chatsworth House or 17 September in Windsor Great Park, which have mile-long courses and fun runs to motivational music.

 

You’re ready to do a 5k

“If you’re a beginner runner or you’re looking to try your next challenge, 5k is a great distance. You can get prepared by following a training plan with weekly goals to improve your fitness. If you’re starting from scratch, the NHS’s Couch To 5k podcast allows you to listen to a guided voice during each workout.

“Using a tracking device will show you how many calories you’re burning and how your speed and endurance is developing as the weeks go by. I find keeping track of these metrics keeps me motivated as it’s like I’m competing with myself. There are also plenty of free running apps for smartphones such as Runkeeper and Strava – where you can share your run on Facebook or Twitter.”

Try: A parkrun UK with Vitality. These organised, timed 5k courses in the great outdoors are held across the UK every Saturday. They’re free to join and you can check out your time at the finish line. You can find out where your nearest parkrun is here. Once you’ve conquered a few, try VitalityMove where you can do your 5k to music.

 

You want to move up to a 10k

“You’ve mastered the 5k and want to take things to the next level. With three main running sessions per week over a 10-week period, you can easily build on your endurance levels to get round a 10k course.

“A mix of longer runs and shorter speed sessions will equip you to run your best race. Try this Vitality 10k plan to help guide you. With all running sessions, it’s important to factor in time to warm up and cool down, to reduce muscle soreness and reduce the risk of injury. A warm up should include 5-10 minutes of brisk walking or very light jogging to get your heart rate up, warm your muscles and get you in the zone.

“A cool down should be 5-10 minutes of reducing the intensity of your run followed by some stretching. You might also want to try some yoga classes, which can help to loosen your hips, hamstrings and glutes. Since trying yoga I’ve found I hold myself better as I run.”

Try: The Vitality London 10,000 on 29 May for a buzzing run around the capital or a VitalityMove 10k with pumping music to get you round the course.

 

You want to do a half marathon

“Completing your first half marathon with a distance of 13.1 miles (or 21.1k) is a runner’s rite of passage and my favourite race distance. Following a half marathon training plan will structure your week with three training goals that combine building distance with shorter tempo runs.

“I find listening to music really motivational on my longer runs and use the Spotify Running feature, which matches the beat of the music to the tempo of your pace, helping you to maintain a steady rhythm. Or why not check out the VitalityMove playlist for tunes to get you motivated?

“You’ll need to think more about fuel and hydration as the distance increases. Your body can store approximately 2,000 kcals of glycogen at any one time, so sports nutritionists recommend consuming 30-60g of carbohydrate every hour during a long run. I do this by taking energy gels, bananas or dried fruit. Fuelling is very much down to the individual, so test a few options during your training. Carbs, proteins and salts are the most important food groups for fuelling your body before, during and after your run – for more info, take a look at the Vitality Run Series’ nutrition advice.”

Try: A Vitality Half Marathon for organised half marathons in London, Reading, Brighton, Bath and Liverpool, which all have amazing crew support, great atmospheres and scenic courses.

 

You want to try a marathon

“If the mighty marathon is on your bucket list, setting weekly goals will be more important than ever in order to build up your endurance. Running 26.2 miles is a huge undertaking and so the key to your success will be taking on board the right nutrition and hydration. You should also factor in rest days, which allow your body to absorb all the training you’ve been doing and lower the risk of injury and exhaustion.

“I recommend checking out the Marathon Talk podcast for advice and inspiring interviews, as there’s no better way to prepare than learning from people with experience.”

Try: A classic British marathon like London, Brighton and Edinburgh. The Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon also has a really fun atmosphere. The London Marathon’s website has information on beginner training plans and support.

 

For advice on how to improve your performance during your run and achieve your personal best, check out our running guide by coach Martin Yelling.

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