Why start running?
Here are a few reasons why you should pull on a pair of trainers and head for the door...
Running is a great way to get (and stay) fit and healthy: It burns loads of calories, its cheaper than the gym, and you can do it anywhere. Plus regular exercise helps you to avoid osteoperosis and slow down the loss of muscle that naturally occurs as you age.
It's good for your mood as well as your body: The endorphins released can improve your mood and help relieve stress and tension.
Increased cardiovascular strength: Your heart and lungs get stronger and more efficient and, if you're an ex-smoker, it can help your lungs to recover.
If the shoe fits...
The most important purchase for any runner is getting the right pair of shoes. Without getting too technical, everyone has their own running gait and a shoe which suits one person may not suit another. Therefore, its worth going to a specialist running shop, especially one that has a treadmill where they can analyse your style of running and recommend an appropriate shoe.Spend some time and money on getting the right pair of running shoes - your body will thank you.
Keeping your cool...
There is now a wide range of running apparel available - from light weight garments to keep you cool in the summer, to thermal body cover to keep you warm in the winter. Wicking fabric is generally better than cotton as it dries quickly. The golden rule is to be comfortable.
The best way to get started with running is by building a good base level of fitness by walking briskly to get your heart accustomed to working harder. Once you feel comfortable walking briskly for a few miles, start run-walking; run for a couple of minutes, walk for a couple. Gradually increase the amount of time you run for and reduce your recovery time (walking). Before too long, you will find you don't need to stop running to recover and you can now focus on increasing your speed or stamina - just don't try and improve both at the same time or you'll end up on the injury bench!
Common mistakes to avoid
Running too fast: most people make this mistake when they first start running. If you can't hold a conversation, slow down! On a training run, you should be able to talk in coherent sentences - not just gasp out one-word answers. You should be aiming to build a base level of fitness, not trying to beat a world-record and if you go too fast, you will most likely injure yourself by overstraining under-utilised muscles or put yourself off running as you will ache for days afterwards. Training runs should be easy and enjoyable. Slow down, admire the scenery, work on your tan or chat to a running buddy.
Running too far: try not to get carried away or dragged along by a fitter friend and do too much, too soon. Just because you ran 3 miles today, don't go trying to run a marathon tomorrow. You need to build your endurance gradually. Most running coaches advise that you should increase your mileage by no more than 10% or 1 mile per week.
Heel-striking: many people land on their heels when they run and, for many, this is fine - today's running shoes absorb most of the impact and stresses, cushioning your joints. The problem arises when heel-strikers push for more speed and open up their stride - reaching further forward with your leading foot in the style of a sprinter puts many times more impact through your joints, resulting in shin splints, runners' knee and other nasty recurring injuries. If you want to go faster, increase your cadence: move your feet faster, not further.