When you first start running, it can be a challenge to feel confident, but that’s largely because you’re trying to get to grips with so many things at once. When you consider it’s an activity that we were built for, and meant to do, running can be complex sometimes. We often start out unsure of our pace or technique, wondering if we’re wearing the right shoes and kit, not sure how long to run for. It’s a bit like learning to drive, where you’ve got the handbrake, gears, brakes and accelerator to think about and learn all at once. It can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are our 11 top tips to help you run with confidence and enjoy the journey of improving your stamina.
1. Don’t overthink it
Don’t put it off or worry about how far you’ll get. Once you’ve decided to run, just get your kit on and get out there as soon as possible. Don’t hang around until you’ve changed your mind.
2. Always warm up
Start off with a warm up of at least five minutes, to get your muscles and joints warm and prepared for the activity. This can mean brisk walking and then breaking into light jogging before your run. This will make you feel more comfortable when you do run, as your body will be ready.
3. Find your own pace
Don’t compare your speed with others. We’re all different shapes and sizes and your fitness levels are different. You should run at a comfortable pace that allows you to chat fairly easily. Avoid running at flat out speed. It’s not a sprint.
4. Try to focus on your breathing
Music is a great motivator, but for those early runs try to leave the tunes at home and listen to your breathing. After 10 to 15 minutes, it should begin to find its own rhythm.
5. Seek out easy routes to begin with
Avoid hills until you’ve built fitness and confidence. Seek out flat, easy routes with comfortable surfaces like flat tarmac or flat grass. Uneven trails or large hills can come later, when you’ve built stamina and feel ready for a greater challenge.
6. Be consistent with your routine
You shouldn’t run every day, as your body needs time to recover and you may ache a bit between sessions if you’re a new runner. But aim to run two to three times per week, ideally with a day’s recovery between each session. Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be perfect. It’s better to do this than to run four or five times in week one and then not run again for another month.
7. Focus on gradually increasing the time you run for
Forget about speed or distance to start with. Just focus on increasing time and remaining comfortable while you run. Don’t jump from a ten minute run to running for 20 minutes. Build time gradually.
8. If you struggle, walk for a bit
It’s not a crime to walk. Your energy levels during a run will be affected by many factors… how much sleep you’ve had, the quality of your diet and your current stress levels at home or at work. Some days you’ll run comfortably, other days you may feel sluggish or tired. This is normal. Don’t let it put you off. Adjust your pace or time if you need to and if you have to walk for a minute then make a decision to do it and then find a marker, like a tree, where you’ll run again. It will help.
9. Sip rather than slurp water
If you choose to carry water with you, sip it at regular intervals, but take gentle sips rather than gulping down big amounts all at once, which will only result in water sloshing around in your stomach.
10. Don’t ignore pain
If you feel any pain other than a bit of light muscle soreness after a run, don’t ignore it. Seek out a physiotherapist if you find yourself getting regular pain, especially where knees or shins are concerned. Never run on a day when you’re still feeling pain or soreness.
11. Know that confidence will come
The more you run, the more your confidence will grow. You will become oblivious to what others may be thinking. It’s not about how you look, it’s about what you can do. If you can run non-stop for 20 minutes, then you have a huge advantage over the majority of the British population, as only about ten per cent of them exercise regularly. So you should be proud to be in the minority of those who take their health seriously.