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My Best Advice for New Runners

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Two years ago I wasn’t a runner and never thought I would be. Hiker and mountain biker, yes. Runner, no way. Then I decided to give the Couch to 5k app a go to see what all the fuss was about. Fast forward two years and I’ve been running fairly consistently, usually three times a week, and now consider myself a runner. Not a particularly fast one, but a runner nonetheless.

I’m certainly no expert but I’m consistent and genuinely enjoy my runs now.

At this time of year, a lot of people start thinking about taking up running as a way to lose weight after the excesses of Christmas, or as a positive new habit for the year; so here is my best advice for new runners, as someone who was a complete beginner in the not-too-distant past.

Vary Your Routes

It’s easy to fall into a routine of running the same route over and over again. When I first started running I was actively seeking a 5k route that I could start from my front door and repeat multiple times each week. I thought it would be a good way to chart my progress and see how much quicker I could complete that route as the months went on.

I soon realised that that is a very boring thing to do, and you really don’t want to be bored while running.

When you’re not engaged with your run, when your surroundings are so familiar that you go into auto-pilot, your mind has nothing better to do than constantly remind you that your legs ache and your lungs burn.

By varying your routes and constantly changing your scenery, the opposite is true. Most of my best and most enjoyable runs have been when I’ve been running somewhere new, on trails that I don’t know, when I’m so absorbed in the new surroundings that I actually forget that I’m running.

I use the OS Maps app on my phone to work out new routes. By plotting the routes in the app I can work out distances have a rough idea of how long they should take me. Plus, having all of the local trails on a map in front of me allows me to see how many options there are locally, and I can link different trails together to make longer routes if I’m feeling energetic.

Forget About Strava

Strava is brilliant for tracking your runs and giving you a whole range of stats about your pace and distance. But it can also add unnecessary pressure if you’re the type of person that gets competitive about times. Sharing every run with your followers is not a good thing.

It’s OK to have bad runs and it’s OK to have days, even weeks, when you’re off your usual pace.

Remember, there’s an option to keep your runs private should you want to, but it’s also really important to remember that people don’t pay half as much attention to your stats as you think they do.

Forget About Earphones

I see dozens of other runners when I’m out and about and almost all of them wear earphones. I don’t understand why.

Running is so much better without the added distraction of music or podcasts.

I get that listening to up-tempo music can help with motivation but I prefer to find my own rhythm and always feel as though my runs are much more rewarding when I’ve had a distraction-free half an hour to think and de-stress.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Not every run is going to feel good and there will be weeks when you feel slow and laboured. That’s perfectly natural and you’re never going to set personal bests every time you put your trainers on.

It took me a long time to accept my bad runs, but running became much more enjoyable once I did. If you start a run and can already tell after a couple of kilometres that you’re not quite feeling it – make peace with that. Forget about your pace and just do what you can. If you don’t beat yourself up about it you’ll usually find that your next run is much better.

Run Up the Hills

It’s fairly flat where I live and there are only a couple of hills that I have to deal with when out running. I’ve noticed that a lot of the other runners that I see out and about choose to walk up these hills and then resume running once they get to the top and the route levels out.

When I first started running I did exactly the same thing, but let me tell you, the best thing you can do for your fitness is to hit those hills with everything you’ve got. If you need to walk for a minute or two once you’ve got to the top that’s absolutely fine.

You’ll find that after a few weeks of doing this you’ll no longer need that breather at the top, and give it a few more weeks and you’ll be tackling hills without even noticing.

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