1. Set Goals
Simply saying you want to ‘get fitter’ is really good. But what is way more powerful is saying ‘I’d like to get fitter so I can go out sledging for the afternoon with my kids, or, I’d like to be able to run my local parkrun or a fell race. Then add an end date (enter the race you’d like to do) and you are working your way towards a SMART goal (I’ll explain about those in another post). Think of a goal that’s in the near future (3-4 weeks away) so you’ll get that sense of accomplishment soon. It might be to just run to the end of the street without stopping, or swim 10 lengths in 10 minutes by the end of the month. Then, to keep the motivation going, have a longer term goal to work towards.
I have said many many times – the hardest part of getting better at running is not going often enough. Sounds odd, but little and often really is the best way to progress. The mistake I see most people making is what I call the yo-yo effect. They go for a run, absolutely beast themselves way too hard/too far and then the next few days ache so bad they don’t go out for another 3 weeks. The cycle repeats and their body always experiences pain and suffering. However, if you go out and do an easy 10-15min run/walk a few times a week, and gradually over time build up to 3 times a week, then slowly increase the time/distance – soon enough things will get easier. Consistently getting out and staying within an acceptable level of good discomfort will force your body to adapt without it screaming STOP every time. This approach requires discipline and, yes, consistency. But, it does work.
3. Find a buddy
This is especially important in the early days of your running career. Having a partner or a regular slot when you meet up with your local club provides you with motivation, some accountability and injects you with confidence that you aren’t the only one at the ‘whatever-level’ you are at. Honestly, there will be someone local to you who can only manage 1min run/1min walk and would love to share the challenge and reward of stepping up to 2mins running. Equally, if you’re in training for a marathon or ultra distance event, spending time chatting as you run the long distances in training will soon have the time flying by. If you really can’t find someone/a club you would feel comfortable joining then sign up with a personal trainer – we’re a friendly bunch and will bring the best out of you.
4. Strength & Conditioning
If you’ve ever spent time with either of us you’ll have heard us say “Running isn’t just about Running”. To get better, faster, improve in some way, have quicker recovery times and reach your goals faster you must incorporate strength training and body weight conditioning as part of your overall plan. Muscles get stronger by putting them under controlled stress, followed by recovery. You should consider lifting weights as part of your injury prevention strategy. A trainer or coach can show you the safe way to lift, even a few sessions will benefit your health and help to prevent injury through incorrect lifting.
5. Intelligent Recovery
There is no point in running yourself into injury – or thinking you can overcome an injury just by ‘running through it’. The body needs time to recover following any form of exercise and recovery must be done from an intelligent stand point. We recently wrote a full article on the Top 5 Recovery Methods which covers Sleep, Real Food, Hydration, Massage and Appropriate Recovery Exercise. Read the full article here.