Running on a trail

Running is one of the most common ways people choose to get fit. In the UK last year, an estimated 6.8 million of us laced up our trainers and got out for a run at least twice a month. But it can be quite physically demanding and injuries are common – so as a beginner, here’s what you need to know to get started.

The benefits of running

Mental wellness

When you run, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals interact with receptors in your brain reducing your perception of pain as well as giving you that euphoric feeling known as a “runner’s high”.

It also leaves you with a much more positive outlook, naturally reducing your stress, and boosting your self-esteem giving you total peace of mind.

Weight loss

If losing weight is your goal, then running is one of the best ways to achieve it. Not only will you burn calories as you run but you’ll give your metabolism a boost too.

Good for your health

Regular running helps lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol, strengthens and builds bones, as well as improving your cardiovascular system and immune system. It also increases your energy levels and reduces fatigue leaving you feeling healthy and strong.

Get kitted out

The right kit is key to success, especially when you start running. Proper running shoes and a correctly fitting sports bra for women are the most important things you’ll need, no matter your ability. Good, technical running gear and accessories can also make the difference between a good run and a great one. Vitality members, can take advantage of our Runner’s Need partnership, which, depending on your plan, can give you up to 50% a pair of running shoes every plan year, and up to 15% off running gear.

Trainers

Knowing how your feet work is crucial to finding the right trainers to keep you running injury free, whatever your running training distance.

Sports bra

A good fitting sports bra is just as important as what’s on your feet to keeps you running and working out in comfort and without injury.

Get help and advice on how to find the perfect sports bra in your nearest Runners Need store.

Clothing

For seasonal clothing tips check out our runner’s guide to autumn, winter, spring, and summer to keep you running comfortably, whatever the weather.

General tips for running gear and accessories:

  • When it comes to running clothing always select sweat-wicking, quick-drying, and breathable gear to help keep you cool and running comfortably.
  • Look for mesh ventilation panels for airflow, seamless construction to avoid nasty rubbing, and UV protection to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Steer clear of anything cotton; not only does it trap the heat but it soaks up sweat keeping the moisture against your skin increasing your chance of chafing.
  • Invest in a good pair of technical run socks to keep your feet cool and the moisture away from your skin. Features to look out for are technical and sweat-wicking fabrics, mesh ventilation under your arch, as well as flat seams and a snug fit.

Start running

Running for beginners – Couch to 5k

So you’re all kitted out ready to go but how long do you run for? Or hoe fast do you go? It can be really tricky to just start running; using a couch to 5k programme or app is a great way to easily work running into your busy schedule while giving you all the help and support you need.

Setting yourself a goal is the best way to stay motivated and focus your training, not to mention the sense of achievement you’ll feel as you reach your targets.

Warming up

Stretching before and after exercise is so important. It helps to prepare our bodies for strenuous movements and aids recovery afterwards. But stretching cold muscles with traditional, static stretches is more likely to increase your risk of injury. Instead, try dynamic stretches to increase blood flow to the active muscles. These involve swings, kicks, and rolls which mimic your natural motion, increasing blood flow to the active joints and muscles, warming them up.

stretching for running

Running technique

Don’t worry about your technique just yet, start by running in whatever way feels natural to you.

Just make sure you maintain a good posture that allows you to breathe easily:

  • Make sure your back is straight and relaxed
  • Keep your shoulders down and your head up

Breathing technique

It’s completely normal to feel your breathing get heavier and faster, especially if you’re not used to the exercise as your body has to work harder to keep the blood pumping to the right muscles.

As you get fitter, after even just a few runs, you’ll notice your breathing pattern improve.

How fast should I be going?

While feeling slightly out of breath is to be expected, use the tried and tested “talk test” to gauge if you’re running at the right speed. You should be able to hold a conversation while you’re running; when you can do that and maintain a comfortable distance you’ve found your ideal pace.

As you get fitter, your pace will also speed up so regularly take the talk test to make sure you’re running at your optimum level.

Should I run inside or outside?

There are benefits to both running outside or inside on treadmill but usually it’s down to personal preference. Running inside on a treadmill offers a more cushioned ride and allows you to easily track your speed and distance, a more popular option if the weather is unappealing. Running outside allows you to enjoy the fresh air and the benefit of covering actual distance giving you a great feeling of achievement.

I’m finding it difficult, what should I do?

Don’t worry if you can’t run the whole time, striking a walk/run balance is a great way to build up your stamina and fitness.

Post-run

The cooldown

Sore legs in the hours and days after a run are completely normal but this will subside relatively quickly. Incorporating a stretching cool-down routine after a run is the best way to reduce stiffness and help prevent injury. Tight muscles are one of the biggest contributing factors to common running injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and ITB Syndrome. Stretching these muscles post-run improves elasticity and the natural range of motion.

Foam rolling is a great way to stretch out your tired muscles after a run, as well as help, prevent running injuries. Get help on how to choose the best foam roller for you.

If you do start to feel pain, rather than soreness, you could be suffering from an acute injury. Don’t run until you’ve had it checked by your local GP or sports physio.

Refuel and hydrate

After a run, you should aim to re-hydrate within the first 10-15 minutes. Even if you don’t feel particularly hot and sweaty you still need to replace lost fluids.

Find more on how to stay hydrated before, during, and after your run.

Once you’ve started hydrating you can begin to think about your post-run stretching routine and eating a snack. You want to aim for a small snack with a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein; a good example would be a slice of toast with peanut butter or a protein shake. Eating the right combination of carbohydrates and protein immediately after a run gives your body the fuel it needs to start the repair process to ensure a speedy recovery.

As a Vitality member, you could get up to 50% off a pair of sports shoes with Runners Need. Available with eligible health insurance, life insurance and investments plans. Log in to Member Zone for the details.