Running has a reputation for being one of our favourite sports. According to official Sport England figures, 2.49 million people take part in athletics (which includes running) each week. Yet, it is also an activity that many of us shy away from. Despite being one of the most natural forms of exercise, running is hard – and that gives many of us such a bad case of the jitters that we put off getting started. And if that doesn’t stop some, there’s always the fear of being seen jogging, which prevents a lot of people from heading out the door. We worry that we’ll look too slow, fat, old or silly to other folk. But here’s the thing – running doesn’t discriminate. Whether you run with jiggly thighs, arms flapping (à la Phoebe from friends) or head rolling, the benefits are the same for everyone – improved cardiovascular fitness, boosted bone density, weight loss and, best of all, increased happiness thanks to the release of ‘happy’ endorphin hormones. Still nervous about giving running a go? Read on and let our panel of experts quash your fears…
“I’m worried I’ll be the slowest runner on the streets”
If you think you’re too slow to join a running group, you’re not the only one – many runners (both new and returning to the sport) worry that they’ll be left behind on a run. But here’s a secret – the feeling you get after finishing a tough run is the same whether you ran it at a six-minute mile pace or an 11-minute mile speed. And in fact, research from Denmark even shows that jogging at a slow-to-moderate pace could be better for health and longevity than running at a strenuous speed. “A mile is a mile, whether you’re aiming for under four minutes or under 10 minutes,” agrees a spokesperson for The Running Bug (therunningbug.co.uk). “It’s still faster than your friends on the couch and nobody cares how fast you run.” Got it?
“I’ll never run further than a mile, so why bother?”
Need to stop and walk for a bit after running a mile? Go ahead! Running continuously doesn’t have to be your goal. In fact, it might surprise you to discover that many top runners, especially ultra-distance athletes, still walk sections of training runs and races. The run-walk-run method is a really effective training tool and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. And when it comes to weight loss, scientific data shows that there is very little difference in the number of calories used when walking a mile compared to those used when running one. The key is to gradually increase the time you spend running and reduce the time spent walking. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever ditch the run-walk-run method completely, as it’s also a technique that’s employed when doing fast interval training. There’s no shame!
“I run with a really embarrassing technique”
Do you run on your toes? Kick out a leg every third step? Flap your arms about? There’s a lot of chat about the ‘correct’ way to run but, the reality is, it takes all styles. “People with unusual techniques are often the fastest,” says a spokesperson for The Running Bug. “Take Paula Radcliffe, Britain’s greatest distance runner. She has one of the most unusual techniques. Find your own natural technique and own it – it will be far better than trying to copy anyone else’s.” It may also reassure you to know that proper run training – doing drills, speed work and run-specific strength sessions – can also help to improve your running form. So, you may find that your style improves over time. Hurrah.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m not built for running”
It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve got a curvy, Kardashianesque figure or are as short as Kylie Minogue, if you can walk, you can run. Just ask Sarah Morwood, a former size 18 nonrunner who won the Race to the Stones ultra marathon in 2015: “It’s tough when you first go out but it’s still nice because it’s such a positive thing to do. And it’s so much nicer than dieting!” That said, your body may not be built to run fast. There is data from Loughborough University showing that some people are genetically primed to run further and faster than others. But if this concerns you, refer to Fear #1. “It’s all about being in the right headspace,” adds Sarah. “I’m not fast but I’m very good at running steadily for a long time.” Turns out, there’s a race distance for everyone.
Start running today!
Put your anxieties to one side and begin a running routine today with these simple tips from Technogym master trainer, Alex Hatzidakis, guaranteed to make you fall in love with the simple sport!
Sign up for a challenge
Set yourself a goal that is achievable, whether that’s to complete a parkrun or run to the end of the road. Consider smaller challenges before signing up for a marathon!
Clock quality sessions
Quality trumps quantity when it comes to running. As a guide, aim to do one moderate-paced run a week, one hill or sprint session, and one longer run. You don’t need to run every day.
Run with others
Running with friends or a local jogging group is a great way to boost motivation. You’ll learn how to set a consistent pace and, ultimately, improve your running skills. Meeting up once or twice a week will help you to stay on track.
Strengthen your body
Don’t just log lots of miles – spend some time improving your running efficiency, too. If you can’t afford a coach, the Technogym MyRun app provides instant feedback on your step frequency, stride length and displacement.
Train your brain
Running isn’t all about leg power; you need to be mentally strong as well. A good strategy is to repeat positive words and affirmations, or listen to uplifting beats while you run. These things will help get you into the zone for running.