Here’s a crazy idea: even if you haven’t put on a pair of joggers since you were 10 years old, you can learn to love running. No really, you can. The same way you learnt to love coffee and wine and everything that tasted super gross when you were a kid, you just have to actually try it. Kind of like Stockholm’s Syndrome, after a while you start to warm up to the idea of hitting the pavements for your 5K.
Anyone can become a runner with a little repetition and some wise advice, so if you want to do it right (and look after your bod) here is what you need to know.
Get good shoes. Having decent footwear is essential if you want to stay injury-free (which you do). Find a store dedicated to sports shoes where they can analyse your gait and find the right treads for your needs. How much you run will change what shoe works for you, so make sure you give them all the deets.
Have a coaching session. Yep, they make these people called running coachs these days and they can help you learn the correct form ASAP. It’s a smart idea if you’re serious about hitting the pavement regularly. You can also get a personal trainer for a one-off sesh to give you some pointers. If you’re not sure where to look, contact a local run club and they’ll put you in the right direction.
Stay hydrated. Unless you’re training for a marathon, stick to water and skip the power drinks. Dehydration seriously affects your body’s ability to recover and you don’t want a pounding headache do you? If you are training for a marathon, stick to water for short runs and opt for power drinks when going for longer distances (i.e. over an hour). Constantly switching between the two can affect your body’s ability to deal with physical stress (will it get a sugar-electrolyte hit or not?), according to Dr Lewis Marharam, the medical director of the ING New York Marathon and author of Running Doc's Guide to Healthy Running.
Stick with it. Remember it takes three weeks for your body to learning something new, so the first month won’t be fun. But you’ll reap the rewards if you keep going.
How to get good technique
Now there’s no point learning to love running, if it’s going to be taken away from you via an injury, or if people are going to stare gob-smacked as you run, limbs failing wildly down the street. So once you’re kitted out, you need to get your technique down. Like a boss.
The first thing you need to know is how your foot hits the ground matters. It’s the difference between knee problems and being awesome. If you want to avoid wear and tear, the general view is you need to master the mid-heel strike. You know when you walk and your heel hits the ground first? That’s great for strolling, not for winning marathons. That said, you don’t want to be prancing on your toes either. Instead, aim to land so that your heel is off the ground but the weight is in the mid-section of your foot. Got it?
If you’re not sure what you normally do when you run, try going fast. Most of us have better technique when we’re picking up steam and there IS such a thing as running too slowly – it’s that lazy but lovely walk/jog thing where you bounce around but still hit the ground, heel first. Either way, you’ll notice if you’re still doing it at a full speed.
If you’ve been up-and-running for a while and you’ve only just noticed your feet are all wrong, you’ll need to change your style slowly. If you normally do a 3K run then start with only running correctly (as opposed to the way you normally do) for 300 metres, then slowly build your way up. Your Achilles Tendon and other foot bits can become inflamed, if you over do it too soon.
When it comes to pace, imagine you have three gears: the first is a walk/jog, the third is a sprint. You want to hang out between the two.
As for the rest of your bod:
You want to run like a soldier, think: super-straight back, hips straight (not angled forward, arched back or tilted to one side) and shoulders down and relaxed. Keep your arms softly bent in right angles and focus on pumping them backwards and forwards. When you’re tired it’s tempting to start flailing them around but it not only looks really silly but is actually more tiring. Don’t forget to hold in your abs to support your core.
Cool running apps:
Welcome to the digital age. No self-respecting runner is app-free! Here are a few favourites:
Nike + Running. The most popular running app is a great way to track your run including your route, calories burnt and pace. You can also compare yourself to your BFFs and lord over them with your physical prowess or use them as motivation to run harder, better, fast. The app is free too. #winning!
Runkeeper Pro. Track your runs via GPS, monitor your speed and calories burnt. You can also sync it so it uploads to Runkeeper’s website where you can track your progress and share it with people who want to hear about it (i.e. not your Facebook friends), $1.99.
Zombie, Run 2. Get bored easily? Bit of a daydreamer? This app is totally up your alley. It’s an immersive running game, which gives you the best motivation you need to get sprinting – you want to survive the zombie apocalypse. Designed by running experts, it offers “zombie chase” interval training and has over 60 different “missions” you can undertake. Yep, it won’t get boring, $3.99
Get Running. This app is perfect for beginner running, with the aim of getting you from the sofa to running 5K in nine weeks. The audio prompts take you through each workout and keep you motivated too, $2.99.
Train for an event:
If you want something to run towards – see what we did there – then why don’t you start training for an event:
The Swisse Colour Run is supposed to be the happiest five kilometre run ever. The only rules are you have to wear white at the starting line and end up plastered in colour as different volunteers douse you in different bright powders. The global event supports a different local charity in each city. It’s going on around the country for a second round this year so if you want in, sign up soon.
Nike She Runs The Night Sydney is on this weekend. It’s a 10K women-only après-dark run that is all about taking charge. If you miss this year, it’s never too early to start training for next year.
Blackmore’s Sydney Running Festival has three events on the same day – a family fun run, a marathon and the more doable 9K bridge run across the Harbour Bridge and through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Guess which one we’re aiming for?
2013 Great Amazing Race. You’ll need a partner for this race in October. Teams of two run around some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks trying to decipher clues and puzzles along the way to raise money for the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The Sun-Herald City 2 Surf in August is one of the best events for newbies in Sydney to go out and run, walk and crawl for 14K. It’s not about being the fastest, but giving it a go and seeing people in silly costumes.