Undoubtedly one of the superstars of the London 2012 Olympics, Mo Farah is an inspiration to many runners – both beginners and more seasoned athletes. And with the news that he’s planning on competing in longer distance events, he may well encourage many people to do the same – so in a tribute to Farah’s charisma as an athlete, we’ve decided to put together a few tips for anyone thinking about taking up longer distance running as a way of keeping fit.
Nobody goes from the couch to the passing of the half marathon line in an instant. So if you’re an absolute beginner it’s probably best to put thoughts of long-distance glory out of your mind for the time being. But if you’re determined, you’ll get there. It’s just something that you have to work up to. A lot of people get a taste for running by doing a 5k race and taking it from there. But even something as humble as a 5k race needs a bit of training. Completing a race of that distance even at a reasonable pace is going to take you a fair bit of preparation.
So, even a 5k is something to work up to. Absolute beginners should actually go walking first, then intersperse the walking with a bit of running (a minute or two at a time) and take it from there.
Getting the right kit
It’s worth talking over your aims and intentions with a member of staff in a specialist running shop. They’ll be able to advise you on the best running shoes in your price range, and which will be best for the terrain you expect to be doing your training on. Luckily you don’t need to buy all that much kit to go running – everything else apart from the trainers is really just down to what you’re comfortable running in. Although from personal experience I prefer lighter cotton or cotton/ viscose tops as heavier cotton can get waterlogged in the rain and be unpleasant to wear.
You will probably find that as you start training, you’ll start to crave naturally healthier foods. Potatoes for carbohydrates, fish and lean meat for protein, skimmed milk for calcium. But if you’re not in the habit of healthy eating, then it’s a good idea to plan your meals rather than be tempted by high fat snacks or takeaway meals. Try out vegetable stir fries with whole wheat noodles, use whole wheat pasta as a basis for a delicious meal, and avoid anything that’s high in bad fats. Yes, cakes, pastries and biscuits may have carbs in them, but they can also be full of trans fats.
Find out what motivates you. It could be that you’re building muscle mass and losing the excess body fat around your waist. Or it could simply be the joy of getting fitter. Of course we all have training sessions where even those positive thoughts don’t seem to make it any easier. But we can all work out strategies for motivation, and some of them are pretty simple. Sometimes it’s just a matter of gritting the teeth and getting on with it, knowing that we’ll feel better at the end of the training session – which is very nearly always the case.
And an interesting thing about running is that there’s always more in us than we think. It teaches us how to go that extra distance. Of course when you’re just starting out it’s about building up to greater distances, so don’t challenge yourself before your fitness levels are up to the mark. But even experienced marathon runners need to pull on their internal resources to go the distance.
Get appy with it!
Over the past few years a number of apps have become available for runners – things that would have made people of just 8 or 9 years ago jaw-drop amazed. Using the GPS in your phone you can now see your exact route on your screen when you get home. And the time you took. And even your average speed. Once you start running seriously, you’ll find running apps invaluable for many reasons – not least of which that you now have a record of your training sessions with which to examine your progress.
About the Author
Jenni Jones writes for a number of websites on private health care, fitness and wellbeing topics.