New to Running in a Unusual Time

 This is a strange time for all runners and I think I for one will come out of it either fatter or fitter (hopefully the latter)!

Current guidelines allow one form of outdoor exercise per day, so for me that is usually a run. Since the lockdown, I have noticed more runners than usual getting out there, and who can blame them? After all we know that Running makes you feel better; it increases metabolism, burns calories, releases endorphins and boosts the production of serotonin – the happy hormone. Just being outdoors improves your mood and gives a boost of Vitamin D to aid the immune system. People run for lots of reasons; fitness, weight control, mental health, competition and for the social aspect. I run for all these reasons and every one of them is as valid as each other.  Many people at the moment are running because they can’t take part in their usual team sports or go to the gym, so as Running Bear Ambassador I thought it would be a good idea to pass on some tips.

One of my top tips for new runners used to be to find a run buddy for mutual encouragement and to make runs more enjoyable. But unless you have another runner in the household, that, unfortunately is not an option at the moment. However, thanks to modern technology you can get together virtually with friends, family or work colleagues to start your own virtual running groups. Couch 2 5K has to be one of the best introductions to running with its easy to follow plan. It’s genuinely amazing how much people can improve their running ability in such a short space of time (we’re currently Running own Virtual C25k groups – click the link for more information) . They are doing all their own walk/runs and then reporting back to discuss how it went and to give each other the virtual pat on the back they deserve. It also gives them a chance to discuss with myself and Nick any issues that they may have with regards to kit, nutrition, stretches and niggles. They’re all fabulous people and the thought of meeting up for a run together once this is all over gives us something to look forward to.

For some people starting out running, even a C25k can seem daunting. So my advice would be to break it down into smaller chunks such as walk for 5 minutes, run for one minute. Then walk for 10 minutes, run for 2 minutes, repeat. Another technique if you live in an urban area is to walk 2 lampposts, run a lamppost and build up. Well done, you’re a runner.  Keep it up regularly and It will eventually get easier and you’ll soon be ready to tackle the C25k.

Kit

Trainers

To begin with, you can probably get away with what you have already. But if you decide you’re going to stick to the plan, my advice would be to buy a pair of trainers that suit your foot, your gait and your aims. That is not necessarily what a friend recommends, as a shoe that suits them might not necessarily work for you. Everyone’s feet are shaped differently and in addition a large percentage of people over pronate which in simple terms means that as they land their ankle  rolls which can put stress on other areas of the body such as ankles, knees and ultimately hips causing injury. This can be improved with exercises and shoes with some stability and support. We usually suggest in store Gait Analysis.  Though not possible at the present time, the Bear Team can help you virtually either through social media, email or phone.

Socks        

Choose a good fitting pair that don’t bunch up or cause blisters. In winter I wear a longer sock for warmth and in summer a lighter shorter one to keep my feet cool. I like the one’s that have a lip at the back – again with blister prevention in mind. My personal favorites are stance. I love the way they hug my foot. I also wear their long compression socks for races though for distance in summer, I like Hilly’s Twin skins as they’re anti blister.  In winter I love Running Bear’s own brand socks.

As for the rest of your kit, with our unpredictable weather unless it’s really hot I would suggest layers. A light jacket can always be taken off and wrapped around your waist. And if it’s a hot day don’t forget sunscreen or a cap as it’s surprising how quickly you can get burned!

My favourite other essential for running in spring & Autumn are arm sleeves. Although I get hot when running and prefer to wear a vest, my arms will feel the cold therefore arm sleeves are the perfect solution.

Where to Run

A lot of runners have been getting out early during the current situation to avoid meeting other people. If you are going out before sunrise or after sunset, don’t forget Hi-Vis gear or lights so that you’re visible. You might also consider a head torch. Country paths and canal towpaths are lovely places to run but at the moment it’s best to avoid these during peak periods such as weekend afternoons as the narrow paths make it difficult to maintain social distance.  With the additional risk of having to touch gates and styles – roads though not as picturesque might be the better option especially as there is less traffic and pollution at the moment.  I’ve heard some reports on social media recently of people being anti-running which is intimidating even to experienced runners. I am however happy to report that when I’ve been out on my solo runs, people have been more friendly and courteous than ever. I make a point of smiling and saying hello to every walker, dog walker and fellow runner that I see – and more often than not, I get a friendly response.

 Before Running

Before going out on a run, it is good to get into the habit of warming up in the form of dynamic stretches, ie bum kicks, knee highs, side to side & skipping with high knees. Cooling down afterwards with static stretches is just as important.

Next Steps

So once you’ve done your C25k – well done! But what’s next? You may just want to continue running for fun but it can be addictive, and most people find themselves wanting to improve by increasing time and or distance.  if you want to do this that’s great but to avoid injury,  build up gradually. We generally say 10% per week – don’t push yourself to the point of injury. Consistency is key – don’t overload. Routine also helps. I began with Tuesdays and Thursdays (traditional club nights) and Sundays. But over the years I’ve filled in the other days with trail runs, easier runs, slower longer runs, hill reps and speed work. This was done over a period of time with specific goals in mind but it’s important if you do want to improve, to mix up your training.  Also build into your programme strength and conditioning, stretching and complimentary activities such as Yoga or Pilates. And just as important – don’t forget rest & recovery days!

Give yourself a Goal

Set yourself a goal as it gives you something to aim for. That could be a personal achievement or something more structured like a race. Races are obviously suspended at the moment but you can still take part in virtual races. There are several of these about at the moment (Many raising money for good causes) When everything does return to normal, you can enter one for real.  I love the buzz of races but get very nervous beforehand. I always swear that I’m never doing another but once the gun goes, I’m fine. Then when I cross the finish line, I’m looking for the next one to sign up to. I’ve met some amazing people of all ages and abilities. Don’t be intimidated as even the more serious runners are usually lovely people. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll come first but you probably wont come last either. Even if you do, you’ll get as big a clap as the winner.

Returning to normality

When things do get back to normal, I recommend Parkrun as a fantastic way to get involved with the running community. These runs take place all over the country (and the world) every Saturday at 9am. They’re a friendly bunch always happy to see new runners and give support and advice. You can race, run or walk it and even take the family including the dog. It’s also a great way to monitor and improve your times. I use Parkrun for speedwork.

Finally, Running clubs – do consider joining one. Don’t feel intimidated as, like Parkrun, they’re comprised of runners of all abilities and welcome new runners with open arms. You’ll meet a lot of like minded people who will want to discuss your latest run, your splits and the finer points of your new running watch which for some reason made your family glaze over. It will also get you out on those cold winter nights when you might otherwise not bother. It can be difficult if you have irregular work patterns but there are even virtual running clubs now to cater for that. It feels great to wear your club vest on race day, represent your club and be part of a team.

Well I hope this has been of some help but feel free to email myself or any of the Bear team at info@runningbear.co.uk

If you have any questions or need any help or advice.

Stay safe & happy running!

Carol