Get Running This Summer 😎: A Guide

If I can do it, so can you. 😎

Starting this post with a disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on this topic – very much a beginner and just-for-fun runner here 😂. But today, I wanted to share some of my tips about getting into running, the new hobby that has changed me and changed my life.

If you’ve been following my Instagram Story since around January, you’ll know that I’ve become a bit of a running geek. Again – I’m still a beginner, but it all started with a challenge I set myself in January to run 5K every day for a year.

Now, looking back, that challenge was super naive and ambitious! 😂 Injury was only a whisper away (we’ll cover that topic, don’t worry). But it certainly gave me a motivation boost that’s lasted nearly 7 months so far, and I did keep it up for about 14 days before I realised that it wasn’t sustainable as someone who hadn’t run a respectable distance since PE lessons about 8 years ago!

Running has changed my life

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to give it a go. For me, I feel ‘strong’ and pretty invincible after a run, and when it’s right it can feel like flying! After a run I feel alive and like I’m LIVING because I’m choosing to live; rather than like I’m existing just because I exist. Runner’s high – that feeling of being on top of the world after a run – is such a buzz, too.

I really hope this inspires you to give it a go. Here are my tips for getting started:

  1. Anyone can start running

The brilliant thing about running is that anyone can get started. All you need to start out are comfy trainers with good support, and some sportswear or clothes you’re comfy working out in. I’d say to start with shorter distances and, depending on your fitness, maybe start out walking, then walking briskly, then alternating walking for a minute and running for a minute, building up gradually in both distance (first) and then speed (as you progress).

Please don’t make the rookie error I did of going too fast too soon! In the first few weeks of running I pushed myself every time to a new speed and ended up with hip and knee pain that led to me starting physio to support my runs. When I started, I hadn’t done my research on the impacts of going too fast or too far too soon. It’s important with running to go at a pace you’re comfortable with and can maintain, and not to increase your distance or pace by too much each time, or at the same time. 

My approach has been to always increase distance, and then let speed naturally follow; rather than always running at a faster speed and then building volume/distance. I would recommend it as it’s worked for me.

Importantly: Take rest days between runs – running 3 or 4 times a week is often a nice sustainable number that can also have you seeing positive progress and changes in your fitness and toning in no time.

Once you’ve run a few times and are in the swing, you may feel you’re ready to start taking running more seriously. Once you’re at that point, maybe running longer distances or faster paces, it’s important to invest in some good running shoes. Everything from blisters to foot pain can be avoided with the right pair of shoes and the right gear.

2. Get your Gear

The key things I’ve invested in that have made running even more of a pleasure are:

  • a good set of wireless earphones (I recommend Jaybird Vista but there are plenty of others – here are Runnersworld’s current top picks).
  • anti-blister running socks (e.g. TwinSkin by Hilly)
  • running clothes, such as running shorts, a long sleeved running top, and a couple of sets of running leggings and short-sleeved tops.
  • most importantly: a proper set of running shoes. I have Adidas ones but Brooks, Nike and ASICS are also good brands. RunnersNeed can help you find the perfect fit for your running style – they can do a gait analysis in-store on a treadmill to help you pick the right shoes. Definitely recommend a trip there.
  • a good playlist or podcast. I love listening to Red Table Talk, TheLoveHour or 30 Minutes with the Perrys while I run. Getting lost in a great podcast as you run can make your runs even more fun and have you looking forward to the next episode and, consequently, next run.
  • a good run tracking app, such as Runkeeper which you can download free. Everything is on there – from a lady with a calming voice letting you know your speed and distance as you run, to maps to track your route, the ability set running goals and follow training plans, and keep track of all your times, distances and paces over time. You can even get the app to remind you when it’s time to swap out your running shoes for some new ones. When you start your run, you can hit ‘play’ on your podcast, then hop over to your Runkeeper app and hit ‘start activity’; she’ll just pop in as often/infrequently as you like to let you know your progress, then switch you back to your much-loved podcast.
  • foam rollers and resistance bands, which brings us onto…

3. Warm up and Cool Down around each run

To avoid injury, and actually improve your running performance, it’s crucial to warm up and cool down around each run. Dynamic stretching (where you keep moving) is better than stretches where you stay largely stationary. Runnersworld has a great list of warm-ups you could try. 

After a run, foam-rolling is an excellent way to stretch out muscles while they’re still warm, and help avoid pain, tension and injury later. It’s a bit like a deep-tissue massage – and it HURTS. But it’s worth it and can work wonders.

Rest days, as mentioned above, will help you avoid injury, as will strength training – which can be anything from squats and lunges for your glutes, to press-ups and holding the plank for your core and upper-body. It can also be something cardio-based like swimming, spinning or cycling. Resistance bands can help with strength work too. My preferred strength workouts include spinning, and I also do a plank after each run.

4. Set a goal…

Why not set yourself a goal to help keep you motivated? What if you decided to spend 4-6 months training for a half marathon? Or is there a certain amount of weight you’d like to lose? Maybe your goal is to run a certain number of times per week — or to get back to your ideal dress size. Whatever it is, a goal can keep you going when the going gets tough.

Initially I’d wanted to run a half marathon race this year, but with all things Corona I’ll do it around my local park. Race is on next year, though! 😎 That’s been a goal that’s kept me motivated when I’ve maybe not been in the mood to run (let’s face it, we all have those days — and they’re usually the best days to run!).

5. … but always listen to your body (injuries, tiredness)

Your health and wellbeing should always come before any goal or training plan. One caveat with the goals point above: addiction to running is a real issue. It’s important to only run because you want to, rather than out of a sense of guilt or anxiety. I remember sometimes when I was training hard for the half-marathon I’d feel anxious and have palpitations the night before a run. That was partly because I’d worked out a year-long training plan that I would have to stick to pretty closely if I wanted to reach 21.1K by September. Yet that training plan began to feel very burdensome and anxiety-inducing when I was far too tired to run but feeling guilty about it.

Runner’s guilt is a thing. The first time I felt it, I had no idea what it was but I felt it. For me it was a sign I needed to rethink my goals. I was no longer enjoying running because I felt chained to an unforgiving schedule based on a 40-week countdown to a race. Now that countdown’s no longer there, I run for pleasure not out of pressure – and it is heaven again!

When your body and/or your mind are finding running wearying, it’s time to take a break. Same goes with an injury or ongoing pain – do not run through pain that won’t go away. Honestly, rest is good – fitness comes in the rest periods between runs, and often you’ll run better than ever before precisely after a period of intentional rest.

6. Just give it a try

Just once. And if you don’t like it, guess what? You never have to run again. Ever. 

But on the flip side, you might be one step out of your comfort zone from a life-changing hobby. Imagine being able to eat (almost) what you want knowing that as long as you stick to the running you love, you don’t have to fret about calories? It’s win-win, I’d say! Eat what you like (again, almost!) guilt-free and look great while you’re at it. 😄

7. 3 Questions from Instagram:

On Instagram a few weeks ago, I asked for your questions around running… here are my best answers to the 3 most common ones. Let’s go!

How do I not hurt all the time?

Stretches, streteches and more… you guessed it… stretches. See my point above on Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs. Your best ways of fighting against muscle soreness are

  1. warming up properly and cooling down/stretching afterwards
  2. running at a sensible pace and a sensible distance
  3. not upping your distance or pace (a) too much week to week, or (b) at the same time. They say it’s best not to increase your distance by more than 10% each week. So if you did 5K last week, it’s 5.5K max this week.
  4. taking rest days
  5. foam-rolling (I know it hurts. But it’s so worth it!)

What’s your motivation 😭 I always seem to start and stop?

Starting out, my motivation was that I wanted to take my fitness seriously. Then, a few days in, as I realised I really enjoyed running, I was just addicted to the high running brings, and that became motivation in itself. After a few weeks, as I continued to improve my times and enjoy the high, I also saw positive changes in my body – including dropping a dress size. Now, my motivation is that I’ve seen how much good it does for my mental and emotional health, too. There’s also something amazing about feeling strong, which I always feel after a workout. So the motivations evolve, but running is a loyal companion to a healthy, fulfilled life.

I’d say setting a goal is a great starting-out motivation. And then as you fall more and more in love with running for different reasons over time, your motivation will flow out of that love for the activity and what it does for you.

How do I not overheat on hot days?

To be fair, most of my training so far has been in winter or colder, wetter weather (Jan-early March) and I’ve not run in sweltering heat yet. However now it’s getting warmer, I’m running earlier (I tend to be up at 5.00am for runs, so that helps as it’s cooler in the early morning). I’d recommend trying that.

Another good tip I’ve heard is to dress as though it’s about 5 to 10 degrees hotter than it actually is, even in winter. Because when you’re running, you’ll get hot, trust me! And feeling too hot while running is grim😂. And lastly, it goes without saying: keep hydrated and take a break if you’re feeling unwell. Again – health comes first.

I hope this encourages you try something new to keep your mind and body healthy this summer and beyond! Also, last tip: check out Runnersworld. With their expert tips, articles and advice on everything you could think of to do with running, they’ll take good care of you as you embark on this journey. Enjoy!

See you in July,

Imani x

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