From recent reports, it would seem that running is becoming more popular. With local parkruns being organised nationwide, people are opting for running on the weekend over team sports such as football, cricket and rugby. It has also become more popular for those wanting to lose weight, increase fitness or decrease their risk of illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or obesity.

So if you’re just getting into running, or would like to, here are some beginners tips to help:

  • Start slow – I am speaking from experience here. When I first started to run I used to get agonising shin splints. This was because my body wasn’t used to running and it had to adapt to the stresses on the bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. To combat the injury, I gradually built up my running frequency over time, starting with only 1 run per week and then moving on to more. Suffering an injury in the early stages could put many people off running so just remember, “injury prevention is always better than a cure!”
  • Wear appropriate Footwear – Running shoes need to be a perfect fit, preferably assessed by a specialist. They also need to be comfortable and suitable for the type of running you will be doing. Specialised tarmac/trail/mixed shoes are available, and should be considered before buying. Remember to replace footwear if they no longer feel as though they are cushioning your foot.
  • Set yourself a goal – It may be 400 metres or it may be 5 or 10 kilometres, either way having a goal will give you the motivation to keep training. Once you hit your goal you can work towards beating your time for that goal.
  • Track your training – There are plenty of apps available for smart phones (check out our review of Strava) which allow you to track your runs using GPS. Use these to your advantage, plan routes and follow your friends for encouragement.
  • Run with friends – Friends will help you keep motivated, and are also good for some “friendly” competition!
  • Join a club or local parkrun – You can meet like-minded people who enjoy running, helping you to keep motivated. Carlisle has a local park run event which is hosted in Chances Park, Carlisle. Have a look at their website for more information on the weekly run.

As well as these beginners tips, it is important to prevent injuries when new to running. Here are some of the most common running injuries suffered by beginners to the sport, and methods of preventing or overcoming them:

  • Hamstring muscle strain – These injuries are very common in sports that involve running. As the hamstring is located on the back of your thigh, it is one of the main muscles being used in running as well as many leg exercises. Quick contractions of the hamstring can produce great amounts of force, allowing for great performance, but also increasing the risk of injury. Typically, factors such as age and fatigue can influence hamstring strains.
    Prevention: Dynamic stretches have been shown to decrease the risk of hamstring muscle strains.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome – Another common injury in runners and affecting the area around the knee, ITB syndrome can be caused by downhill running or bowing of the legs in relation to the hip.
    Prevention: Efforts to prevent ITB syndrome include dynamic stretching and foam roller stretching, as well as hip abductor strengthening.
  • Ankle sprain – The majority of people have sprained their ankle in some way or another, whether it has been during sport or even during daily activities. Studies suggest that those who have suffered an ankle sprain are more likely to suffer subsequent ankle sprains.
    Recovery: Physical therapy after a sprain has been shown to decrease the chance of another sprain. Also, the use of ankle braces has been beneficial to those with weakened ankles. In the event of a severe sprain, rehabilitation is recommend.
  • Stress fractures – A stress fracture can be devastating to those wanting to become more active. The most common stress fracture is to the tibia bone (lower leg) and can be caused by overtraining, biomechanical imbalances or even a poor diet.
    Prevention: Get the recommended amount of Vitamin D in your diet. Also, when starting a new running programme it is important to start at a low mileage, increasing distance in sensible time.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome – Knee pain can be caused by many factors, with the most common being overuse. Also weak abductor muscles in the hip can contributed to knee pain.
    Prevention: Hip abductor strengthening has been shown to decrease the risk of knee pain when running. Also it is important to increase the volume of running in a programme slowly, as discussed before.

As mentioned above, the most important information I would give as a trainer to any new runner is simply to take it slow. A progressive plan and a solid diet will allow you to build the strength around the joints, which is needed for more frequent or longer runs. Follow these guidelines and you will be flying in no time!

Have you recently started running? Comment in the section below!