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Running and Jogging 101 - A quick start guide

Hopefully a helpful guide for those of you looking to start jogging or running for weight loss or fitness.

Running lowers your resting heart rate, increases your aerobic capacity, reduces body fat and increases muscle tone, all of which improve your base level of fitness and amongst other things, make you feel damn good about yourself!

If fat loss is your ultimate aim then running is a good starting point. By improving your base level of fitness you are not only burning calories while running but are increasing your metabolism, which results in greater fat mobilisation even after exercise.

If you are looking to increase your fitness or undertake High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) than running is also a good starting point as by improving your base level of fitness you are preparing your body to be able to cope with higher intensity training and instead of wheezing to a stop after a few minutes of such sessions you will be able to sustain your efforts for longer, burning more calories and building more fitness.

You don't need any fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships to start running, but there are a few tips that you can follow to ensure you are both getting the most out of your running and also minimising your risk of injury.

I have written this guide from my experiences as a serious club runner of five years and have drawn on knowledge taken from my athletics and running coaching qualification, which i am currently undertaking. I hope it helps.


What do you need to consider before you start running?

As with starting any sport you should always consult a doctor if you have any underlying health problems that you think could either be made worse by running or could adversely affect your running performance. If you are overweight then you should consult your doctor as a matter of course as running places a large amount of stress on venerable ankle, knee and hip joints which may already be delicate on an overweight person.

Adequate footwear is a very important part of running. Although most people shouldn't need to spend a fortune on top of the line running trainers, it is important that you consider the following points:

  • Make sure that your running shoe offers both padding and ankle support otherwise you run the risk of impact injuries such as stress fractures and joint damage, and also may be prone to twisted ankles, especially in the first few weeks of running until you build up the strength in your tendons.
  • If you know you are flat footed or have collapsed arches then you may be what is known as a ‘pronator' this is where the foot rolls excessively outwards whilst you are running and is very common in runners of all levels. If you think you may be a pronator then you can get checked in any good running shoe store and such stores will test for this when they advise you on what shoe to buy anyway. If you are a pronator then it is nothing to worry about but you will need to buy a pair of what are known as ‘stability trainers' which control the excess roll of your foot and reduce the stress to your joints that running will cause.

Your First Run

When you are just starting out as a new runner it is important that you take it slowly to begin with until your body gets used to your new sport. Failure to do so might result in injury and put your weight loss and fitness plan on hold; which is not what anyone wants!

Your first run should be more of a walk/shuffle/jog as you see how your body adapts. Begin with a warm up of ten minutes of walking and then try and jog at an even pace for say five minutes. After this five minutes, if you are feeling out of breath, slow down and walk for two minutes to get your breath back before picking up the pace again and jogging for another five minutes. Maintain this pattern a few more times, before walking for another ten minutes as a cool down. The aim of this session is for you to see you fitness level so you can gauge how to approach your next run.

If you found this first session easy and weren't out of breath at all then in future sessions you will want to increase the time of the jogging periods and/or reduce the amount of rest time in-between each jogging interval. If you found this first session hard or did two jogging intervals instead of four then you might want to repeat this session before beginning to build up the time you spend running and decreasing the amount of time you spend walking in-between each jogging interval.


Technique

Technique is very important when you are new to running as if you learn correct body posture and form at this early stage then it will be a lot easier than re learning it at a later stage.

Good running technique is important as it enables you to run efficiently, which means you can run or longer with less effort. Also, from a health point of view, if you maintain good running form then you will minimise your risk of running related injuries.

When you are running, you should have a relatively straight back and be bending ever so slightly forward from the waist. Usually, people have problems with this because they are looking down at their feet and so if you look forward instead of down your body should naturally align itself. Running bend over is not good running posture as you will be putting a large amount of strain on your lower back.

You arms should be bent at the elbows and loosely tucked into the site of your body. They should also naturally swing perpendicular and you should try not to be stiff or tense up whilst running by relaxing your shoulders. As you speed up you will find that you swing your arms more to compensate for your increased stride, but try not to let your arms swing horizontally across the front of your body as you will be putting alot of lateral force on your pelvis.

When it comes to your running stride, you should aim to move your legs in an almost cycling manner, bending them at the knees and making sure you keep your feet relatively in line with the direction you are running for the most efficient stride. You should also try not to place each leading footfall too far away from your body, as it it better to take lots of smaller steps than longer ones to begin with as this will minimise the impact of each stride and will help your joints stay injury free.

This may be a lot to think about at first but over time you will find that you develop an efficient running style that you will automatically revert to when you go out on your runs.


How to progress after the first few weeks.

Before long you will find that you are able to jog for a sustained period of time without walking and you will be surprised at how far you have come since your first session. The aim now is to build up the distance and speed of your runs so that your body is continually being challenged and as a result your fitness will continue to improve.

You should try to aim for at least three 20-30minute runs a week to have the maximum impact on fitness and weight loss without increasing your risk of injury. As the months progress and you feel yourself becoming fitter then you should definitely increase your distance, speed and number of runs to whatever you feel comfortable with.

As a general rule, you shouldn't increase your weekly mileage or speed by any more than 10% as this gives your body change to a repair and adapt to running at long distances. Obviously this is not an exact science as if this were the case, within six months you would be running over 50miles, so only bear this rule in mind as a general guide.

You will find that after a period of time where it was easy to add time and distance to your running your training will stagnate and it will become more difficult to add either speed or distance to your runs. This is natural and as with any sport, perseverance, some good guidance and a lot of hard work will see you make continual improvements in your running performance.


So how does all this help me loose weight?

If you have done a few months of running then, with all other things held constant, you will already have noticed the difference. You will feel great, have lost weight and will have toned up and it will all be thanks to your hard work. The simple rule of weight loss is that i you use more energy than you consume then you will loose weight as your body used stored fat reserves to run your body. A thirty minute run can burn upward of 500calories depending on your weight and exertion and increases your metabolism so your body convert more fat stores to energy even after you stop exercising.


How to take running further.

This guide was written as an introduction to running for weight loss but there are many more articles and resources available on the internet that can help you gain the most out of running, whether you are looking for more running tips, enter your first race, improve your running times, try a different kind of running such as hill running or trail running, or just improve your technique and stay injury free.