If you’re thinking about improving your fitness and getting into shape, running is a brilliant cardiovascular exercise that will help to boost your energy levels, release endorphins and promote overall wellbeing.
Running is so popular in the UK that hundreds of races, challenges and fun runs take place throughout the country annually, welcoming runners of all ages and abilities to join in the fun. At Alder Hey Children’s Charity, we are so proud to have a number of supporters who help to raise money for our cause by taking part in charity runs and competitions. With this in mind, we’ve created the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Running so that you have everything you need to take the first steps to becoming a runner.
If you're new to running, check out our New to Running page where you can find our Alder Hey Spotify playlist.
How to Improve Your Fitness
Whether you’re quite active throughout the week, you go to the gym or you’re completely new to working out, starting to up your fitness game begins with small changes to your weekly routine, including introducing exercise at least three times per week, changing your diet to include low-fat and high-carb ingredients and increasing your water intake. When it comes to those new to running, it’s best to take things slowly rather than push yourself too much, too quickly; as this can lead to injury. If you have any concerns or existing health conditions, speak to a medical professional before taking up running.
Here are a couple of ways to slowly improve your fitness and start to run on a weekly basis:
- Stretch before you work out
- Always carry water with you during a run and keep hydrated with small sips, often
- Always wait two hours after a meal before running
- Warm up for 10 minutes before you begin to run
- Mix up your workout routine with a range of different exercises or locations
It’s important to warm up for at least 10 minutes before you start to run to help prevent injury. A warm up can be as simple as a 10 minute walk or a few jumping jacks and jogging on the spot for a couple of minutes before you begin to increase your speed and intensify your workout. Some runners make the mistake of fixating on running and forget to take part in other exercises. This can also lead to injury as you are putting strain on the same set of muscles every time you exercise. If you feel in pain at any point during a run, you should listen to your body and slow down and, if necessary, take a water break and only continue if you feel you can.
What to Eat Before and After Running?
Diet is important when it comes to getting the most out of running and without the right nutrition and meals, you can quickly run out of energy or suffer a dip in blood sugar levels. Food is fuel and you’ll need to eat the right fuel to become a stronger runner. If you are hoping to get fit by running, don’t under-eat to lose weight. Increasing your weekly activity and eating a healthy and balanced diet is enough to become healthier. Under-eating can lead to fainting, irritability, sleep issues and a general feeling of exhaustion. Your body needs high-octane fuel to run at its best, which means high-carb, low-fat and low-fibre meals.
Some ideal meals to eat at least two hours before a run are:
- Red lentil soup
- Baked sweet potato and tuna
- Bagel with peanut butter
- Banana sandwich
- Low fat yoghurt, honey and strawberries
Experiment with different combinations of high carb, low-fat and low-fibre ingredients until you find the best meal for your body.
It is important to avoid fatty food and caffeine before a run as this can cause stomach upsets and disrupt your workout. After a run or workout you might want to eat a meal combining carbs, such as rice or pasta, with high-protein foods, such as salmon, turkey breast or lean chicken with a small side salad. High-glycaemic food will help to refuel your body after a long run or intense workout. If, however, you can’t stomach solid food, why not make yourself a glass of chocolate milk? This drink will provide your body with protein and carbohydrates, helping to repair tired muscles.
How to Choose a Race to Run
If you’re fairly new to running, you might want to pick a 5k run as a goal to work towards as you should be able to manage this distance within a few weeks of training. For those who are more advanced; if you can run 5k without issue, you might want to sign up to a 10k race or even a half marathon, which will push you to train a little harder to improve your stamina.
For more information on choosing a race to run, please follow the links below to our running pages:
Setting yourself a goal to work towards can help you to focus your training and encourage you to stick with your workout routine even when the weather is bad and you’re feeling tired. For extra motivation, why not buddy up with a running partner and encourage each other to run a little further every time you train together?
If you’re interested in running for Alder Hey’s Children Charity please feel free to download our fundraising pack.