Running For Beginners

Oct 8, 2020 | Written by Mike | 0 comments

With gym’s being closed and retail markups of your favourite dumbbells and bands, more and more people are trialing new ways to keep their bodies in shape without the expensive equipment. Some are opting for the track and field instead of a squat rack and are tightening their laces instead of their wrist straps.

If you’re trialing running for the first time then you might find it hard, very hard. It might be comforting to know that this is completely normal. When introducing a brand new stimulus, it takes time for your body to make the required adaptations to sustain this new stress imposed onto it. This is why we train. Your first run, lift or jump will feel very different to your tenth.

The more you stress the body, the more reason for it to grow.

That is why when trialing your first run, it’s best to aim for a short distance; around 2-3km. It may not be the fastest but it will give you an indication of your base fitness where you can work up from.

My first 3km run took me 30 minutes which works out to be a 10 min/km average – you’ll find some people walk faster than this. However, over time as my body adapted to this new load I was putting it under, I found I could run faster for longer without it being such a taxing effort.

Below are the stats from my most recent 3km run.

Once you’ve jumped the mental hurdle of actually going for a run, there are a few things to keep in mind to make it a more safe, effective and enjoyable experience.

Remember to Pace Yourself

If you’re anything like me, you may jump into an activity without considering how you may feel later down the track. Especially if it’s your first time running, the effort may feel borderline impossible 5 minutes in. To understand your body’s capability may take some experimentation with different distances and paces, this is something you will quickly come to learn.

To measure your effort you can use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). Below you can see the scale measures from “Rest” to a “Maximal” effort.

Beginning at a max effort out the gate usually means burnout soon after. Maintaining an RPE of 4-5 would be a good starting point in order to maintain an even pace over the duration of your run. As your body adapts, you will find that you can run faster for longer at the same rate of perceived exertion.

Different pacing strategies can be implemented depending on your goals. If you’re looking to break a new PR then you may trial running negative splits which simply means running the second half of your run faster than the first half, especially if you tend to slow down towards the end.

Alternatively, you can implement the “hard effort” approach which involves going all in from the beginning. For example, this may mean beginning a run in the hope of reaching an RPE of 6-7 within your first kilometre. Within a 5km run, this may mean running 10-15 seconds faster than your normal pace and maintaining this for the duration of the run. This approach requires a degree of mental toughness as you will most likely be suffering towards the final stretch.

Foot contact

When running, you have the option of rearfoot or forefoot striking. According to Xu et al. (2020), rearfoot striking imposed greater load on the knee and patellofemoral joints and forefoot striking imposed higher loads at the ankle joint and achilles tendon.

In terms of the right option for you, this will depend on several factors including; previous injury, the type of terrain you’re running on, distance and overall preference to name a few. In short, there is no “ideal” running style as there is foot contact variability even amongst the world’s elite runners. If you’re unsure where to begin, simply begin with the style that feels most natural to you as this is what your body is already accustomed to, minimising your chance of injury.

However, where the foot strike occurs in relation to the body position is also critical in determining the efficiency of a run. If foot contact occurs in front of the line of the body, irrespective of which part of the foot strikes the ground, the foot will act to break the motion like a deceleration. Contrarily, foot contact under the body will aid the forward momentum during running to continue uninterrupted.

In short, be more mindful of where your foot is landing as opposed to which part of your foot strikes first.

I have found great success implementing this strategy as my runs have become more efficient and less taxing on my body over time.

I hope this resource has served you well in improving your running experience and reaching your running goals!