How to start running the smart way
Spring is an excellent time to start a new hobby, as longer days and hopefully warmer weather attracts you to get active outdoors.
”Running is an easy and affordable way to stay active, and the best part is that anyone can run anywhere and anytime!”
To many, even the word ‘run’ may have negative connotations. You may wonder whether you are even capable of running, as the last experience with it was your cooper test in junior high or during the army where running was forced. However, if you are normally healthy and don’t have any disabilities in your lower limbs that would prevent you from running, then I assure you: You can!
Slow and steady wins the race
You should be smart when starting your running hobby. The most common mistake - which almost everyone who has started running but only a few weeks or months later drops it - is to start too hard and too intensely. This results in your body getting tired and at latest after a couple of months, your body is fed up from your intense runs and the joy of being active is nowhere to be seen - this is if a strain injury hasn’t already cut off your promising outdoor activity season.
”Running is actually the completely incorrect term for someone who is just starting out, rather it should be referred to as jogging.”
When you start running we should really be talking about jog-walk-jog where you start with a suitably low intensity and only increasing intensity once a fitness base is established and your body becomes used to new stimuli. This is also the most likely way to avoid strain injuries (such as shin splints or runner's knee). You are also likely to finally feel joy during your workouts, as you aren’t constantly pushing yourself to your maximum. It comes as a surprise to many how slowly one really has to run so that the heart rate does not rise too much but stays within the basic endurance range. Within this range the groundwork for better fitness is laid, and the lightweight jogs should also be implemented in a more experienced runner's weekly or monthly training session as a complement to more intense training.
Someone who is starting their running hobby should definitely invest in a good pair of running shoes. The best way to find the correct kind of shoes is by trying different pairs and with the help of a knowledgeable salesperson or by consulting an expert. There are a wide variety of shoes on the market, so don’t rush your decision! A basic sneaker goes a long way, as long as the shoes don't give you blisters and stays firmly on the foot. If you have more experience in running, you should get a couple of different shoes, so that they last longer and you can switch shoes depending on the length, intensity and terrain of your run.
A heart rate monitor is a nice addition for a beginner as well as for someone with more experience, but is not a necessity. For example, when you are in the basic endurance range, your heart rate should be in the “I can definitely speak without losing my breath” range.
”Often we run a little too fast when you should run more slowly and a little too slowly if you have to run faster - a heart rate monitor is a great help to check this.”
A basic heart rate monitor can be quite affordable, but when you invest a little more you can get a training buddy who will measure your progress, your route distance, your recovery etc.
Running in itself is a versatile workout, especially when you do it at varying levels of intensity and in a variety of terrains. However, it is good for a runner to take care of their muscular endurance.
”In particular you should take care of the muscles in your core area so that you can maintain a good running position even when your body is otherwise getting tired.”
Leg muscles are also worth strengthening with a variety of squats and lunges and a good basic strength of the upper body helps maintain a good running position. It is also important to regularly practise body care, since especially the legs may get sore from running. Especially when starting running, there is a lot of pressure on the calves, depending on the running technique. In order to avoid, for example, shin splints it is worth regularly stretching the hip flexors and calves and also having regular massages.
Checklist to start running
- Don't start running with a pace that is too fast. Rather, run with the idea of “now I'm running slowly”. By staying in the basic endurance range, you create a foundation for better fitness, avoid strain injuries and are more likely to maintain your running hobby in the long run!
- Try jogging-walking-jogging at first.
- A heart rate monitor is a nice addition (but not a necessity!) — it helps you stay in the basic endurance area in your jogs and “guides” you when you start running.
- Invest in good shoes - find yourself in the running sneaker section and ask a knowledgeable salesperson to help you.
- If possible, do muscle conditioning to supplement your running; favor training your core and leg muscles.
- Also, don’t forget to stretch — especially calves and your hip flexors. In the beginning, your calves especially may be stiff.
- Regular massage will do you good!
- Enjoy the feeling of freedom and the elation of exercise!
Support for your new running hobby
If you feel that starting your running hobby by yourself isn’t allowing you to reach your peak potential, you can participate in UniSport’s running courses. We offer courses for runners of different levels, depending on the season. In these courses, you can also get tips for body care and muscle conditioning, not forgetting nutrition! You can find the running courses offered during our spring season in our booking system. Whether these courses are organised depends on the coronavirus situation and on the limitations set which affect the organization of recreational activities.
Text: Jenni Haukirauma
Jenni is a sports entrepreneur, strength and training coach and group exercise instructor. She has worked full-time in the field since 2004. Jenni works as a group exercise instructor and personal trainer at UniSport.
Translation: Jessica Jokivuori
Photo: Ömer Acar