By Gemma Needham
Running is an amazing way to keep fit. It can help increase happiness, and your overall health and quality of life. You can literally run away your stresses and it’s one of the best calorie blasting workouts around.
If you’re reading this and thinking “oh but I hate running” or “I’m not good at it and it’s not for me”, you’re not alone. However you’ll be surprised to learn that many women (and men) who start out with a mental dislike for running initially end up loving it so much that they can’t get enough.
As mums, our natural response is to prioritise the needs of our family before our own, but you are important too. Making time for yourself, even if it’s just five minutes a day, can really work wonders. Start by going for jogs with your dog or running around the playground with your kids. Once you are comfortable with that pace, find a group of friends and go for a fun scenic sunrise jog. Continue to gradually build up the distance your cover and intensity you run at progressively. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by 10 per cent every week, and it would be helpful if you have a goal you want to reach or a long distance race that you have signed up for.
Here are some tips to help kickstart your running journey:
- Make sure you are in good physical health. This is very important so if necessary, get checked out by a doctor before you begin. Your doctor can advise you on the intensity level that’s most suitable for you.
- Invest in a decent pair of running shoes. Running shoes can play a big part in helping you to run strong and in preventing injuries. The biggest mistake that most people make is not realising that not all training shoes are suitable for running — many don’t have the stability and durability needed for long distance running. Instead of going for the prettiest pair (though I know it’s tempting to do so), opt for comfort and performance over style. And, if you are planning to join a race or competition, never buy a pair of new shoes just a week before. Always give yourself at least three to four weeks to wear them in.
- Wear clothing that is comfortable, absorbs sweat well, and doesn’t chafe or give you blisters. You need to be comfortable to perform at your best.
- Eat whole, unprocessed, high quality foods. Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean meats, fish and dairy.
- Practice good running form and be conscious of it on every run. You should run tall, keep your head up and your eyes looking forward. Focus on your breathing, making sure you breathe from deep within your belly, and in and out through your mouth. Think about your cadence (number of steps) and the position of your foot strike (how your foot lands on the ground). You should be aiming for approximately 180 steps per minute, with your foot landing directly under your body. The more efficient your running form, the faster and stronger you will be.
- Mix it up. Don’t run the same distance at the same pace on every run. Try some longer runs, interval and speed runs, hill runs and tempo runs. Each type of run has its own benefits and combined they will make you a stronger, faster runner.
- Above all, push yourself (or have someone push for you). Every time you head out for a run, have a goal to aim for and try to reach that goal. Determination and consistency are key.
Stay mentally strong. There will always be those days when you don’t feel in the mood. Those are the days where you need to push through, and tell yourself you can do this. The best way to get better at something is to keep at it – practice makes perfect. The more you run, the better you’ll get at it. But remember to listen to your body as it gives you signals when you may be overdoing it or need to take a rest day. Be sensible in the short term, as it will be advantageous in the long term.