Hi Im Jim from JimsHealthAndMuscle.com and in this episode I want to talk about the go to choice of exercise for the beginner to fitness, exercise and weight loss. I know from a lot of personal experience, experience in the fitness, weight loss and exercise industry and from observation that when someone decides that they need to lose weight, in a lot of cases, going out for a run is probably the first idea.
Of course, everyone knows that runners are lean and it seems to be a given that if you are a runner, you are fit and healthy.
On the face of it this is pretty much true but there is so much more to it than that! If you don’t plan it right and you don’t understand what can happen if you just dive right in to your first run, ther is a very big chance that you will never actually get any progression and even worse than that, you may even decide that running is not for you.
So whether you are thinking about running to lower your body fat percentage or you have a goal such as completing a half marathon or even full marathon, there is always a starting point.
Ok if you have heard any of my podcasts before, listened to or indeed read any of my fitness books and guides, you will know that I like to advise based on my own experience. If this is the first time we have met, I hope the approach is something that you can work with.
My full experiences in the world of running for general fitness and later long distance running that became a big part of my job was some crazy journey and it started as a youngster. When I was around fourteen years old I decided that I wanted to be fitter, stronger and more physically capable for a number of reasons but like so many other people, going out and starting running seemed to be the obvious option so off I went running, not knowing anything about fitness, muscle groups, running form, breathing techniques and it didn’t take long for me to give that up in favour of something else. That something else turned out to be weight lifting and I was in the fortunate position of having a friend of the family close by to coach me on powerlifting, but that’s another story.
I did what nearly everyone does and made some big mistakes when I first set out on my beginner running journey.
- I didn’t plan
- I didn’t research
- I didn’t ask for advice
- I did too much too soon
- I destroyed my motivation
These podcast episodes are supposed to be less than 20 minutes so I will try to quickly summarise my journey from struggling beginner runner to being capable of running long distances and earning a mile and a half in 8 minutes and 22 seconds.
At 16 years old I wanted to join the army as I was no academic and it didn’t seem that I had much going for me, it seemed that the army could offer a lot to a guy like me, so I went away to do the fitness tests to see if I was suitable. One of the tests was a mile and a half run, to pass this you had to complete it in something like 13 minutes which I spectacularly failed to do. I was sent away and had six months to train before retrying. In this time I ran 2 miles per day and managed to get a 2 mile circuit done in something like 17 minutes. This would be good enough to pass next time I tried.
On my second attempt, I passed the entrance test and joined the army. During my basic training, I struggled with my running but I wanted to try out for para selection. Now this is an insane course and you have to be very fit. I was told by my instructors that I shouldn’t even try as there was no way Id pass. Also during basic training, I would go for extra cardio sessions with a friend who also wanted to give para selection a shot. When the time came, we both started something called a “beat up course”.
This was about 5 weeks of hard training before the actual selection process started and is designed to get rid of the guys who don’t want it bad enough before the actually selection process starts. It was brutal but I learned more during this process as I had ever learned about myself and what is needed to become a real long distance runner. It was during this para selection process that I managed to get a time of 8 minutes and 22 seconds to cover a mile and a half.
So from a guy who did a good job of failing when it came to beginner running and not being able to cover 1.5 miles in 13 minutes to hitting the 8:22 mark, going for ten mile plus runs, five days per week and being more than confident in much longer distances proves that it is possible.
Now I never say all of these things to brag, I’m not that kind of guy, I’m not the bloke who is naturally good at everything either, I’m just a normal dude who gets up after getting knocked down and tries again and again and everybody has the ability to do this.
Yes the more times you have to get back up, the harder it seems so my aim with all of my fitness guides is to try and help readers or listeners steer clear of the mistakes that I’ve made to keep the amount of time you have to pick yourself up to a minimum ultimately getting you where you want to be in fitness quicker and easier.
How to beginner running
Whether you want to start running to lose weight, build cardio fitness or you want to run a 5k, 10k or full Marathon the principals are the same. This is the approach that I would have knowing what I know from my experience.
- Plan a one mile route, preferably a circuit that starts and finishes at your front door
- Plan a running schedule – What time and days you want to run
- Make sure you have some good running shoes
- Don’t run right away! Walk around your route and make a note of the half way point
- Protect your feet! Don’t ignore hot spots or blisters. You need your feet in good condition if you want to be a runner.
- Be aware of your running form. Form has priority over distance, time and everything else
Let’s break it down –
Plan a one mile route, preferably a circuit that starts and finishes at your front door
Planning is important in whatever fitness goal you set out to achieve so running and jogging goals are no exception. I always see the planning part as one of the major pillars of fitness because by spending time planning, you have a proper direction and you will also not only be building your motivation but you’ll be safeguarding it too.
The reason for planning a route beforehand is that you will know how far you have gone and you can use this to build on, by having a short circuit and identifying the mid-point, you will also be able to monitor your progress and use checkpoints or milestones to help later on. Also by having a mid-point on your route, you will know that as soon as you pass it, you are closer to your finish line. In my experience, this is great for the mental part of running too.
Plan a running schedule – What time and days you want to run
If you want to progress with your running, you shouldn’t have the attitude of – “ I’ll just go out when I have time”.
In my experience, there is never enough time so you should plan your training sessions to fit in and allocate specific times and days for them. For example if I were to start a real running program now I would plan to run three times per week first thing in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I might have to get up a bit earlier but so be it. This works for me and Id fit it in. Everyone is different and has different lifestyles so it may be that someone else might run after work on Mondays and Tuesdays and before breakfast on Saturdays. This is something that everyone must figure out for themselves but the more convenient you can make it, the better for longevity.
Make sure you have some good running shoes
Running shoes are pretty important. If you have bad feet and don’t have the support where you need it, you can’t run and it’s the end of the story. You can get running shoes from many places but in my opinion, the best thing to do is to go to a shop that specialises in running footwear and get advice from the people that are passionate and knowledgeable about the sport. Everyone has a slightly different style of running and weaknesses in form might be helped by using the correct footwear for support in the right places. I know of shops that will have you run on a treadmill before selling you a pair of trainers so the right shoe can be advised for the style. If you can find one of these shops, get yourself over there.
I will say that if you do identify a weakness in your form, you should always be aware of it and make sure that you are always trying to correct it, bad running form can also give you aches and pains where you don’t need them and if done for long enough can cause long term problems.
The last thing I want to note about running shoes is that there is a method of barefoot running that in my opinion has merit. By all means look into this but it is a fairly big subject and maybe one for another day.
Don’t run right away! Walk around your route and make a note of the half way point
One of the biggest problems when starting running is when people do too much too soon. If you’ve not run before and you just get right out there and try to run a mile, you could kill your motivation within the first 5 minutes. For the sake of this podcast episode I will assume that anyone listening is not a born athlete and is not naturally gifted when it comes to fitness. If you do what I did when I started running, you won’t know what your starting pace is, you won’t know how long your muscles can sustain a jog for, your lungs will not be ready for this type of exercise so if you just get out there and try to run your mile, you may exhaust yourself within the first few minutes. This can be disastrous for your goals.
So The best thing that you can do is to start walking around your route at your planned time with your new running shoes, get familiar with it, play around with the walking pace and start to throw in a jogging stint at the mid-point or near the end, but you must always progress, always try to do a little more than you did the running session before. This is how you start and this is how you progress. Some may get to the point where they are jogging several miles in a few weeks where as other will take longer to get there.
Protect your feet from blisters when running
If you have new trainers you may find that there are several hotspots or even blisters that pop up. It’s important to remember that the more you run, the harder your feet will get but it is also important to know when to act on a hotspot or blister. Although some people might think blisters are a minor thing, they can be a major issue for runners so if you notice any areas of your feet that are rubbing , you should get on this right away. It may be because your shoes are not laced up properly, it may be a tag inside the shoe, you may have a fold in the socks you are wearing. The point here is that as soon as you notice something not quite right, you should do everything you can to try and fix it.
Most high end running shoes these days won’t have extra folds, stitching or tags on the inside that can cause this but as I said, everyone is different and different running styles may present different problems. The best thing that I have found for general protection from blisters when running is to wear two pairs of socks; One thing, fairly tight pair and a thicker pair over the top. This is a miracle cure!
Be aware of your running form. Form has priority over distance, time and everything else.
As mentioned before your running form is vital if you want good progression whilst minimalizing the chance of injury. Lots of things can happen to your body if you get used to running with bad form. I found this out the hard way. As I’ve said a lot of times in this post, everyone is different and almost everyone will have different weaknesses It is worth doing research into correct running posture, if you are unsure or have the chance to go and see a coach, you should definitely do this, some common things to look out for are –
- pronating of the feet
- Leaning forward (can damage your lower back)
- Heal strike too aggressive
- Head and neck tilted
- Shoulders hunched
These points are a good starting point in making sure your form is correct. This is important stuff and if you feel that your form is out, don’t skimp on spending time trying to correct it.
I do go into all of this stuff and more in my book “Marathon Training & distance running” so if this has been interesting and you want to know more, there is a bunch of information in there. There are also a bunch of personal accounts of mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned in there too.
Well I hope that this has been useful and as always I am happy to help where I can so drop me an email if you have any problems and Ill do my best.
Thanks for listening and I hope to chat to you again really soon.
Take it easy