I think a lot when I’m running. There’s certainly plenty of time for it. And I got to thinking about everything I know about running. And I thought maybe it would be useful for me to share what I know. I’m not an expert. I’m not trained, I’m not a coach. But I HAVE been running for 18 years.
So if you’re thinking about taking up running when the kids go back to school or maybe you’re thinking about upping your distance, this may be useful to you. I’m calling it running tips for mums, but it should be just as useful for dads (except the bra bits) or people without kids.
There’s a lot of stuff here, just read the bits that are relevant to you!
Weight loss and calorie stuff
I don’t run to lose weight, but I know a lot of people do. Running is good exercise. Combined with a decent diet, if you run regularly you will lose weight. Running a mile burns off 100 calories, regardless of speed. After an eight mile run, my arms and legs are noticeably thinner. After a 10 mile run, my stomach is too.
The right kit
It seems obvious, but you will need to wear trainers to run, right from the very first time you go out. Not walking boots, not flip-flops, not sandals. If you’re just starting out, a reasonably cheap pair will be fine. But if you’re planning to run 10k or more or if you can afford it, getting fitted with a decent pair is sensible. Sports shops and specialist running shops, like Up and Running, can test the way you run and fit you with the best trainers for your style. This will give maximum comfort and reduce your chance of injury. A good sports shop will recommend you go half a size to a size bigger than you normally wear – this is because your toes get bashed against the front of your trainers as you run.You are likely to pay between £80 and £120 for a decent pair. Sadly, the brands that look cool, like Nike and Adidas, are not usually the best brands for running.
You can run in pretty much any shorts or jogging bottoms and Tshirt. It’s not necessary to have expensive gear. But if you’re serious and can afford it, specialist shorts, leggings, vests etc help to regulate your temperature and are more comfortable to run in.
If you’re big-breasted, you will need a sports bra (this is not an issue I have ever had to deal with myself!).
I don’t warm up. This is probably a bad idea. If you go to an aerobics class, the warm up is often a gentle jog, so I see the running as a warm up in itself. If you’re new to running, it’s probably sensible to warm up. There is plenty of advice online.
Find a route
Think about how far you want to run and work out a route. Try to avoid too many hills, unless you particularly want to run up hills. You could even measure it in the car. Vary your route if you get easily bored, but it can be harder that way to stick to a particular distance.
Set yourself targets and build up gradually. The first time you run, you will probably think, ‘I can’t run!’. You will be out of breath early on, but that’s the worst part. I am out of breath after maybe 200 metres, but I will then run another 10 or 12 miles and not get any more our of breath.
You may thinkyou can’t run on your second and third time too, but you will quickly build up strength and stamina. Plan to run a mile first time. Maybe you will walk half of it. By your fourth time you may be able to run the lot. So build it up to a mile and half. And so on.
If you are already running long distances, you will be able to build up your distance in bigger chunks – I jump from five miles to eight, then to 10 and 12. Theoretically, if you can comfortably run eight miles, you can do a half marathon. I put this theory to the test in 1995 and it worked. But now I build up properly and make sure I really can do the distance before taking part in a half marathon.
Food and drink
It is possible to run before breakfast if you intend to do no more than three miles, but generally I would recommend eating before you run. Always give yourself time afterwards for the food to go down – a minimum of an hour.
If you suffer from IBS or similar problems, or there are foods which you know lie heavily in your stomach, avoid them before running! Anything which feels uncomfortable normally will feel a lot more uncomfortable when running.
Make sure you have a drink before you run and if you are running a reasonable distance, take a drink with you. You can use a special hand-held bottle or carry it on a running belt. Everyone will feel they need a drink at a different time – in the winter I can run five miles without a drink, but I need to drink when running five miles in summer.
Again, if you suffer with your stomach, test yourself! Don’t just drink the free drink provided on a big race if you’ve never tried it before – you will be kicking yourself if it gives you stomach pain when you are running.
Always go to the toilet before you set off – both sorts.
Running can make you need a number 2 and while it is less likely to make you need a wee, running on a bladder which is already partially full can make you very uncomfortable.
If you’re going a long distance, make a mental note of the public toilets and if they’re not always well-stocked, carry some antibacterial hand gel and a few tissues in your pocket.
If you’re the sort of person who needs a challenge, why not train for a race? If you’re new to running, you could sign sign up for a 5k run or a charity run in 4-6 months’ time. If you want to step up your game, try a 10k or even a half marathon. A half marathon or marathon is a big commitment and you will need to run long distances regularly to prepare. Think about how this will fit into your life. If you can’t do it now, consider it for when the kids are all at school.
Running with friends
If you lack motivation, you can try running with a friend. This is something I’ve never done, because I like the freedom of just being able to go when it suits me and my family. A friend can help motivate you, help you stay safe and can also relieve the boredom with a chat as you run (if you’re talking 19 to the dozen and laughing hysterically, you’re probably not working hard enough). But choose the right friend – if your friend is always busy, always tired, always got a headache, it could mean you’re not going out to run because of her.
You could also try running with very small friends of the human or canine variety (I’ve never tried either of these). Running with the right sort of buggy (eg Phil & Ted’s) will provide you with a good workout, give you the flexibility to run without worrying about childcare and could even get your child to sleep (result!). This only works if you have one under-3 at home. A lot of people run with their dogs and they are great motivators. They can help you stay safe and it also means you don’t need to find more time to walk the dog later.
You may also be able to find a running club nearby. A lot of towns have clubs for beginners or women only. This is good for motivation again, but you are stuck with the timing of the club and will also need to run at other times too if you are serious about your fitness.
In all my years of running, I have never felt threatened or at risk. But you still need to think about your safety. Think about where you are running and when. The local park is great in the day time, but is it still great at 6am or 11pm? Does your run take you through any ‘bad areas’? Is it possible to avoid them?
Always run with your phone – you can get an armband or belt to carry it. This is important in case you get injured en route.
Aches and pains
You will ache after a run, probably the first few times, then your body will adjust. When you increase your distance, it will ache again, before adjusting again. If anything aches particularly badly after three or four days, rest it. If it’s still hurting, see your GP or a private physiotherapist.
Other activities can affect your running. If you’re used to cycling, swimming or aerobics, your running shouldn’t be affected by them. But if you suddenly introduce something new into your routine, that can affect your legs and therefore your running for a few days. Switching from sandals to high heels for work two weeks before the Bristol half marathon last year was a bad move – it made my legs hurt and I had to stop running for a couple of days.
Once you get used to running, you shouldn’t feel tired. In fact, you should feel the complete opposite. You will feel more motivated, more awake, more alert and happier. For this reason, my favourite distance to run is five miles. I feel my absolute best after five miles.
When you get to distances of around eight miles and over, your body will feel tired. I get back from a run and get straight on with my day and whatever chores I need to do. But there are certain things which do tire me out more than usual, like hoovering and heavy shopping. I also know that I can’t go for a long walk or a bike ride with the kids.
Stuff you won’t have thought of
Look after your toenails and keep them trimmed. Who knew toenails could ache? They can and they do.
Make sure you’re comfortable before you run – tip any bits of gravel out of your trainers and make sure your knickers aren’t going to get stuck up your bum! These things might be minor irritants for the first mile or so, but they can get really annoying after 10 miles!
Running is fun, relaxing, cheap and easy. You can do it any time, anywhere, so just get out there and enjoy it!
These tips should work for anyone of a healthy weight in reasonable fitness. If you have just had a baby, haven’t exercised for a very long time or are very overweight, it’s best to speak to a doctor before starting to run.