How to get started running and become better at running by Steve Bonthrone.
When we take up running, all we usually get told is to wear some comfortable clothes, a pair of trainers and go for it. We may sign up for Couch to 5k, which is a great program, and eventually we will be able to run 5km without stopping or we go about it ourselves and hope it gets easier over time.
What if there was an easier way to get started and begin to feel the joy of running that everyone talks about? What if there was an easier way to make progress without feeling like we would struggle to run even faster? The good news is, there is! This will sound so simple and almost ridiculous to those who are regular runners but once you start to think about it, it makes perfect sense.
The holy grail of running is……slow down!
Let’s start with those who would like to get into running and those who have taken it up recently. The most common question I get asked is “How should I breathe when I run?” If you’ve ever asked that question or thinking that you would like to know the answer then it’s likely that the intensity you’re running at is too high. I used to answer that question by suggesting that the person was running too fast but they would usually reply that they weren’t fast at all. Intensity is a better way of describing it and resolving it is easy.
We often learn about running for a certain period of time or distance but seldom do we learn about how we should feel when we run. In order to make it feel comfortable or easier when we run, we need to find a pace that feels comfortable for us. The easiest way I have found is to focus on a visible landmark like a tree or lamppost (or similar) around 50 metres away and run to it feeling like its easy and that you can keep on going. You should feel like you can hold down a conversation. Once you’ve done that, try to increase the distance and apply the same principles.
You may not get it right the first time, and that’s ok as nobody gets anything right the first time. It’s not about being perfect, its about trying it, learning from each run and then trying to make each one better. Simply focus on finding a pace that feels easy for you, do it consistently and then increase the time spent running each week.
For the more experienced runners, the same rules apply. We can often get bogged down by mile splits, pace, distance and a desire to try and get a PB every time we run. This is ok but progress is often slow and improvements marginal. This can also lead to either injury or losing our mojo for running. When we try to run faster and/or longer we can often get caught in the trap of constantly running at the same pace.
How do we get faster? Try a run where the pace is no faster than an easy jog. Try running without your GPS watch or at least cover it up so you can’t see what pace you’re running at. Try going for a run where you simply want to remind yourself why you love running, a display of how you would describe running to someone who’s never done it before. Even better, try a run where you switch off and think about something else. Save the PBs for races!
If you can master the art of slowing down and controlling your pace, you’ll find that you can make progress much quicker and when you next race, you might even find yourself going off at a better pace and passing people later on when you feel fresh and they start to tire.