Beginner’s guide to running

Anna Magee

You – yes you – can run.  If I can do it, anyone can.  I was the girl even the parents laughed at on sports days for her flailing arms and legs and the 100 metre gap between myself and other competitors (in the 100 metres).

20 years later, I ain’t no Bolt, but I can run, I can even do the odd interval.  It keeps me trim as ever (even in my middle-bloody-age of 43) mood-wise it’s like an emotional shower or taking a low-dose of ecstasy in the mornings. I kid you not.  But there is nothing worse than a running bore, so let’s get down to the business of how with the Healthista zero-to-hero running guide.

Step 1: Music  For beginners who may experience motivation blips and sore muscles, Professor Andy Lane, a leading sports psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton  suggests not exhausting yourself at the beginning and making the experience an enjoyable one you will look forward to by finding a scenic route and harnessing the power of music.  ‘Music increases the time it takes to enjoy running, specifically the tunes people like or associate with positive emotions and happy times,’he says .

Music is a secondary stimulus which takes the mind off initial discomforts in the early stages of an exercise program, he explains.   Buy music you enjoy and create a playlist that features upbeat songs for the running segments and slightly slower songs for the walking part, Professor Lane suggests.  ‘Running or walking to the specific beat of music also reminds beginners not to go too fast too quickly which can lead to injury,’ he says.  Everyone’s taste is different but here are a few tunes that do it for me:

For slow running: Libertines Can’t Stand Me Now, Pink’s Blow Me One Last Kiss, Tom Waits Jockey Full of Bourbon and (those of a certain age only) Cher’s Gypsies Tramps and Thieves.  For Faster running: The Fratellis Chelsea Dagger and Henrietta, Green day, Burnout, 86, Westbound Sign.  For intervals: Gogol Bordello I never ever want to be young again For warm down and stretching: Jerusalem sung by Alfie Boe, Emeli Sande Read All About it

Step 2: Mind your muscles and joints Among the most common injuries that beginners experience are to knees and ankles, especially damage to the delicate Achilles tendon, says Alex Floyd, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist specializing in sports injuries at The BUPA Centre, Barbican.  ‘Running injuries are often down to doing too much too soon so starting slowly is important,’ he explains.  ‘But they may also come from having flat feet, poor stability around the hips and pelvis or tight muscles in the thighs.’

Never ignore pain that isn’t a general ache, Floyd advises.  ‘Seeing your doctor sooner rather than letting pain niggles become chronic can mean less time to recover.’  Investing in a pair of trainers from a specialist running shop can help prevent injury, says Floyd.  ‘At shops such as Runner’s Need footwear is prescribed based on a treadmill assessment and video analysis of your needs,’ he says.  Trainers have use-by dates too and over time lose the cushioning and support that helps them prevent injury, he explains.  ‘Replace trainers  every 12 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first’ says Floyd.

Step 3: Just do it.  Right. Correct technique can make running easier too.   ‘Most people think running is only about the leg muscles but using the correct arm movement can make running easier,’ says leading running coach Gordon Crawford.  ‘Relax the shoulders, hands and upper body, bend the arms at 90 degree angles and move them back and forth, not side to side’ he says.  ‘By also landing on your forefoot rather than your heel and lifting your feet up towards your bottom at every stride you can make running less effortful.’

Begin by scheduling two or three days in a week for walk/runs, advises Crawford.  ‘Try not to make these two days in a row to give muscles a chance to repair,’ he advises.  Begin by walking for four minutes, jogging for one, walking for another four and jogging for one for around 20-30 minutes.  ‘To build up to jogging, gradually lessen the time spent walking by one minute and increase the time spent running by one minute each week,’ says Crawford.  A goal may help increase motivation but don’t be over-ambitious as this may lead to injury and fatigue.  ‘Aim to complete a five kilometre run after the first three months,’ he suggests.  ‘After that, train for another three months toward a 10 kilometre event and build up slowly like that.  Be gentle with your pace and speed at the outset – you will still get all the same benefits without the exhaustion.’


App  Smart Runner is a new app from BUPA that adds variety to workouts and contains a ‘niggle tracker’ to help runners log their aches, pains and strains. Free from iTunes.

Shoes  K-Swiss produce affordable and specialist running shoes with high-tech cushioning in water resistant fabrics such as the Blade-Light Run £69.99 for beginners from

Gear Asics Ayami range of running clothing is designed to be stylish and functional.  The Ayami Jacket, £65 controls temperature while increasing road visibility.

Music  Audiofuel creates training programmes by combining custom composed music and voice coaching.  The Fitness Pack £22.50 contains 30-40 minute walking, walk/jog and running programmes for beginners.   From and iTunes

Armband  At you can find a range of arm and wrist band covers for IPods, Shuffles, Nanos and many other types of Mp3 players starting from £9.95.






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