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How to start running

Thinking of taking up running? Running is a fantastic exercise if you want to get fit or burn calories. But if you’ve never run before, it can be daunting knowing where to start. Do you need special trainers? How much should you eat or drink beforehand? And how far should you push yourself?

Whether you’re a running novice or already run and are looking to up your training programme, Stef Reid – a track and field athlete who medalled in the London Paralympics – gives her top tips on how to run safely.

Details

  • Do I need to buy new trainers? Do I need to buy new trainers?

    I would definitely recommend going to a speciality running store and being fitted by a shoe expert. When you are running, your body experiences an impact of up to three times your body weight. Your feet are the body’s first opportunity to absorb and distribute the force evenly throughout your body. Your enjoyment of running and commitment to your training plan will be greatly improved if you are comfortable and pain-free.

  • How important is stretching? How important is stretching?

    The most important thing before the run is to spend up to 10 minutes slowly increasing your heart rate and body temperature. This prepares your muscles and metabolism for a hard workout. The most important thing after the run is to spend up to 10 minutes cooling down. This helps flush your system of lactic acid and other toxins that can impede the recovery process. I would also recommend full body stretching at this stage to keep your body supple.

  • What do I eat and drink before running? What do I eat and drink before running?

    Be sure to hydrate properly throughout the day. On days you run, have an additional cup (250-350ml) of water 15-20 minutes before your workout. I also have a small, carbohydrate-rich snack, like a piece of fruit, before I work out, but some people prefer to run on an empty stomach.

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  • How do I know how far to run? How do I know how far to run?

    Your body should not hurt when you run. It should be tiring; it should be difficult; it should challenge you physically and emotionally — but it should not hurt. The key is to start slowly and gradually build into it. Pain is a sign that you may need to allow your body some rest, or seek professional help from a physiotherapist.

  • How about afterwards? How about afterwards?

    Again, hydration is key to replace any water and electrolytes lost in sweat during the run. It is also important to refuel so your body can recharge. Key refuelling items are high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates. A great post-run meal might be a chicken breast, a small sweet potato and broccoli.

    So – you’ve got your trainers, you’ve warmed up and you’ve made sure you’re well hydrated. Now there’s nothing to stop you! Whether your goal is to lose a few pounds, get fitter or to make it to the next Olympics, get out there and start running – you’ll soon wonder what took you so long.

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    Stef's fitness assessment
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    Produced by Bupa Health Information Team, September 2012.

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