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Mar 26

How to start running – safely. Part I

Got the bug? Inspired by the feat (certainly not the feet!) of your mates? Just starting to run? Where should you start?

A basic internet search will yield a dizzying amount of advice for new runners. Programs are available on all sorts of apps (like nike, ASCIS, Runners World, adidas) as well as the internet and of course, your friends will tell you just what they did.

Some of it is great advice. Some of it is going to be good for a small section of the community. But not everything is right for every person all of the time.

Lets start with the basics. We’ll assume that you are no longer ‘young’, that you are juggling recreational running with work, family, other social commitments and other responsibilities. You may have been a little unfit for a number of years, especially while establishing your career, and/or your family. Does this sound like you?

Goal Setting

A great place to start! Goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Sometimes, they need to be BHAG – Big, hairy, audacious goals – as well as SMART

Tory’s story:

Tory started running in January 2011. She had a BMI of 28.5, so was clearly overweight, She had never run a couple of times in a week before, but was ready to commit to exercising regularly and feeling healthier and fitter.

She decided to set herself a big hairy audacious goal which she then had to structure to ensure it was ‘smart’. She decided she would run the 2011 New York City Marathon in November. It was specific, clearly measurable – 42.195km, achievable given the 10 month time frame she had allowed to ‘learn’ to run, and given her training history, lifestyle, commitments and environment it appeared to be quite realistic as well. So it was 6th November 2011. Be there or be square.

Physiological adaptations to training

Training is all about applying a load, and adapting to it to build strength, or endurance. It takes a gentle, manageable increase in load, with periods of less load (some level of rest) to allow for recovery and therefore the adaptation to occur.

When starting, your cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs) will get fitter much, much faster than your muscles, tendons, ligaments and techniques will. Depending on your age and how much sport you used to do, this can matter a lot.

Muscles respond pretty fast – they have a great blood supply, so can respond quickly to increases in loads, and changes in other factors like hormones that circulate in the blood (we’ll talk more about the impact that has on the female runner in another post).

Ligaments and tendons have a low blood supply (that’s why they look white). It usually takes them a while to ‘feel the strain’ of a load (except if there has been an acute ‘incident’ like a fall or ankle sprain), but then once they do, they take a while to settle down. If the strain is excessive this can take months. Again we’ll discuss that more in another post.

So when you are starting out, we strongly recommend keeping the load (this means intensity, duration and frequency) at manageable levels. You should not feel ‘sore’ all of the time. Again, the specific load will vary tremendously depending on where each individual is starting from.