So, you’ve decided you want to get fit, you’ve decided you’re going to run and you’ve signed up for a 5K run to give you a training goal. What next?
Neil Featherby owns Sportlink Running & Fitness Specialists in Taverham (www.sportlink.co.uk). He’s run for England and Great Britain all over the world with a best marathon time of 2:17:35! He’s also been Norfolk County and Eastern Counties marathon champion several times, won silver and bronze medals in South of England Championships Marathon and Half Marathon and won marathons in Leicester, Wolverhampton, Norfolk (four times) and Bungay to mention a few. With qualifications in Sports Psychology and Sports Nutrition, Neil was Bupa’s first ever Sports Consultant between 1989 and 1991.
He really is the man in the know about all things running so with the new spring weather encouraging you all outdoors and with running becoming an ever-popular new sport to take up, Mr. Bownes stopped by Sportlink to have a chat with Neil and ask him some quickfire questions on running for beginners.
How fast should I run?
“All newcomers to running, especially those who perhaps haven’t exercised for a few years, should follow the golden rule and jog/ run at a pace that’s possible to hold a conversation with. If you find that your breathing starts to become more laboured, then this is the time to ease off or even take a walking break which not only allows for breathing rates to get back to more comfortable levels, but it also reduces a number of other stresses which are also being applied to the body through impact on the bones, joints and muscles. I am a big believer in people mixing walking and running during the early stages of a get fit/ run programme, particularly for those who haven’t exercised for a number of years or haven’t done any weight bearing exercise.”
How will it feel?
“During the first few weeks or months, running should always feel comfortable so that you’re able to gradually increase loads. Whilst there are those who advocate more intense training to lose weight and get fit very quickly, the shock to the body can lead to a breakdown through injury, illness or overtraining and burnout. If you finish your session feeling that there is still a little more in the tank then you can be sure you will be well and truly recovered come the next session. I know lots of people like to feel the burn of a workout and buzz of pushing themselves to the limit, but for me, running needs to be far more progressive if you want to get the best effects and of course long term benefits.”
What should I eat?
“Prior to running, a light, but easily digestible meal about three hours beforehand is good. Avoid fatty and high protein foods before exercise. Carbohydrates can provide quick energy, but carbs that provide slow release energy are the best. Simple, more sugary types provide instant energy, best consumed through isotonic energy drinks during exercise so as to help boost blood sugar levels and help keep you hydrated at the same time.”
Should I run on the treadmill or outside?
“The pleasure of running outside will always beat running on a treadmill. Getting out there and just enjoying the scenery of living in the Norfolk countryside where you not only discover places which you didn’t even realise existed, but you’re also likely to bump into wildlife normally only seen on TV! However, the treadmill can help those who are perhaps overweight and want to run in a more controlled manner with less impact, or workout in an environment where there are plenty of other people around to help with motivation levels. Some people also prefer to work out and train in nice warm conditions therefore avoiding the wet, cold and wild windy weather of the winter. If this means doing something as opposed to nothing in bad weather then the treadmill and gym is the place to be, but personally I love running in some of the more wilder elements including snow, although ice can be tricky and dangerous!”
What can I do to avoid injuries?
“This is easy, it’s called listen to your body. If it hurts, then back off. More importantly, follow a structured training plan designed for your specific and individual needs. Whilst it’s always good to train with others, especially in the early days, people’s fitness levels do increase at different rates and that’s where problems arise. For example, people will all start out running together, but for one reason or another, some will adapt to the stresses far more quickly than others and this is where there will always be someone who feels they are lagging behind and push themselves just a little too much and of course end up going down with an injury.
When people start out with the idea of running to get fit or to complete a challenge, their fear is usually more down to the fact that they feel they can’t run for a bus so how can they ever train to run 5k and beyond. However the cardiovascular system will adapt quite quickly and therefore we do then tend to get a little over confident and push the mileage up before breaking down with an impact injury such as shin splints, achilles tendonitis, knee problems and even lower back pain. Running, as with other activities, will always come with one or two problems and whilst the cardio vascular system does adapt quite quickly, the rest of the body i.e. bones, joints and muscles need a little more time, particularly for those that are a little heavier than others.
Other minor issues that occur include blisters and black toe nails (which the ladies hate!), but unfortunately this comes with the territory. However, providing you do everything correctly when it comes to choosing your equipment, such as the right fitting footwear and high quality socks designed to prevent blistering, then at least you are doing everything you can to help avoid these nasty little problems!”
What equipment do I need?
“Footwear and socks for me are the two most important pieces of equipment, especially for beginners. Far too many get hurt through buying low budget, unsupportive running shoes which aren’t protective enough for their needs. For the ladies, a good sports bra is also right up there as one of the most important pieces of equipment. After this you can run in anything, but tights, shorts, t-shirts, vest, running jackets all made from the very best materials and high wicking fibres make for the most comfortable of runs.”
How do I choose the right running shoes?
“The only way to ensure that you get the right footwear is to go to a specialist running shop where you can be sure that the staff are all runners and qualified to offer gait analysis and bio mechanical services. This way you can be sure that you will be offered shoes that are designed for your individual needs.
The more you get into running the more likely it is that you will hear runners talking about such things as over pronation, supernate, heel striking, mid to forefoot, bare feet and minimal running, amongst many other things. Magazines also help to create an even bigger minefield of lingo and sometimes blurred information which leaves you wondering what the heck you’re getting yourself into!
Whilst it is nice to have a good looking pair of shoes, looks can be deceiving! Price can be deceiving too as whilst an £80 pair of shoes may be of high quality and look good, you might not necessarily have the right shoe for you and your running style. Providing you go to the right stores, you can be confident that the staff will only want what is best for you and are not just trying to get you into the most expensive shoes. High quality shoes do come at a price, but I can assure you it is well under £100 and if this means the difference between staying on the road or sitting at home with one of your legs raised in the air with an ice pack, then it’s money well spent.”
Should I avoid hills?
“Of course not, in fact, at times they can’t be avoided even here in Norfolk! However, this doesn’t mean go straight out and start doing a session of hill reps just because you’ve read an article about the benefits of hill running. Like the rest of your training, hills gradually have to be phased into a programme as you progressively get fitter and stronger.”
What are stitches and how do I get rid of them?
“Stitches can be caused by eating too close to running, drinking too much water, not warming up properly, starting out too fast, bad posture and so on. Like blisters and black toe nails, the likelihood is that you will at some stage experience a stitch. When you do, think back to what you have done just prior to running or even during the run before it came on.”
How often should I run?
“For the beginner who perhaps haven’t done any weight bearing exercise for a number of years, I would suggest no more than three times a week following a progressive and structured training plan. As the weeks go by and the body adapts to all the running related stresses then further sessions can be added along with an increase in distance/ time and then eventually intensity too. Incidentally, I have ran at least once every day since May 1981, but that goes with years of running as a youngster and through following very structured training programmes through my 20’s and 30’s when I was competing at a level which enabled me to race in marathons all around the world as well as running for England and Great Britain on a number of occasions.”
What are your top tips for training for a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and a Marathon?
“Decide what your event is and then look into what type of training needs to be applied to complete the distance. Initially, people just want to complete the distance and then go on and beat their finishing time next time.
Most people are capable of training for 5k and 10k distances and even up to a half marathon within just 6 months providing everything including luck goes their way, but marathons are so very different. In truth it is best to have completed all these other distances first and even have two years of consistent training under your belt before contemplating the 26.2 miles distance.
However it isn’t just being able to train the body to run for much longer periods of time when it comes to marathons as time factors also have to be taken into consideration here, as it really does take up so much time to get the much needed training miles completed before race day. Therefore this time element has to be written into ones daily life plan, i.e. work, family and social commitments too. If this isn’t done and you are constantly being met with the cold shoulder from loved ones after spending most of the weekend trying to get those extra miles in, or finding that outside of running you are just too tired, then other issues relating to work or falling asleep when out socialising with friends can lead to one or two arguments and embarrassing situations. I have been through them all including falling asleep at the theatre many years ago with my two youngest sons with hundreds of other children all screaming around me watching Scooby Doo!”
Thanks, Neil, great advice! If anyone is interested in having a gait analysis, please call Sportlink on 01603 868606 to arrange an appointment. Sportlink also host regular running workshops, so click here to check out their Facebook page and keep in touch.
Learn to love running!
Many of you may have spotted the article about Nell McAndrew in the Daily Mail about her running journey: Learn to love running! Model and sub three hour marathon runner Nell McAndrew tells you how to get started. Starting at the age of 30, Nell’s been running for 11 years… “I remember struggling to manage 15 minutes continuously without gasping for breath and having to stop. Running made me feel like no other form of exercise ever had: it gave me a sense of freedom and a sense of purpose. I found myself hooked.” It’s a great article and worth a read.
Find a Park Run near you.
Why not check out your local Park Run? It’s free and you get to meet a whole community of like minded runners! Find out more and register at: www.parkrun.org.uk
If this article has inspired you, let us know your running stories by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org