Boston, Paris, London – it looks like marathon season has arrived. It’s inspiring to see not only the lithe professional runners, but also so many everyday people lace up their shoes and cross those finish lines.
This weekend I’m about to attempt my first ultramarathon. While I’m no professional athlete, I’ve worked hard to get to this point. If you’d told me 18 months ago that I’d be lining up to run 50 kilometres through the bush, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d just had my second baby and couldn’t run to the end of my street without needing to rest. But with some great training tips and advice I’m nearly at the starting line. A marathon might not be your cup of tea but if you’d like to try running here’s what’s helped me get to this point.
Make sure you visit your doctor to get clearance to start a new exercise or running program.
Get the right shoes
A benefit of running is that you can do it just about anywhere and with minimal equipment, but a pair of properly fitted running shoes is a great start and will help you avoid injury.
Walking briskly is important if you haven’t run before or you’ve been inactive for a long period of time. Once your fitness improves look at speeding it up and add some intervals. This means including a few short bursts of running of one or two minutes into your walks. When you feel strong and fit enough you can increase the length and speed of these intervals, until you’re running continuously. And always remember to warm up and stretch beforehand.
Join a running group
Meeting like-minded people who also enjoy running has helped me on those days when my motivation is low. My running group is organised by a personal trainer with lots of running experience – this allows me to ask questions and focus on ways to improve technique.
Resting and stretching
At times I haven’t taken enough time to listen to my body and rest, resulting in some overuse injuries. So take my advice and don’t go too hard too fast! I’ve recently started foam rolling and incorporating far more stretching into my routine and it’s made a huge difference to my recovery.
Mix it up
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, you could start with 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity (or an equivalent combination of both), each week and build it up over time. Starting out with a goal of one to two runs per week is a great place to start. I like to mix up my training by changing the distance and routes I run every week. It’s also important to incorporate other forms of exercise into your routine too.
Sign up for an event
Sometimes having an event to train for can help you stay focused on your running goals. The New Zealand Running Calendar lists the road runs taking place across the country or you could sign up for your local Park Run to see if you like running with other people and in an organised event.
Use your phone to record your runs
There are many fitness-tracking apps available that enable you to record your distance, time and speed. It can help to keep track of your runs so you can monitor your improvement over time. It’s also a great motivator when you see that you’ve got a new PB!
Most of all make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing. If running isn’t your thing, that’s OK, find something else. The most important thing is that you’re moving your body and staying healthy.