You might have already hear about the excellent One You Couch to 5K app, if you haven't, check it out in the app store:
It gives you excellent guidance and more importantly, a plan to stick to when you have just started running.
The couch-to-5K phase is probably the most mentally challenging part of the whole running journey, because you have to go from doing nothing to doing something, and that can feel quite overwhelming.
We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here; some of these tips you might have heard elsewhere already. What we are trying to do, though, is to give you the absolute best, tried-and-tested advice that'll will most likely to get you out and about ASAP.
One good way to start is to get a fitness tracker or a running watch. They will help you have a better understanding on how you run and most importantly, track your exercises so you can see your progress. They are also great tools to help you pace yourself better and to keep your heart rate at bay.
IMPORTANT: If you have any medical conditions that you think might prevent you from exercising regularly, please consult your doctor before you do so.
Without further ado, here are the top 5 tips to turn you into a running machine you know you are!
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1. Have a goal in mind
Did you know that many free online courses contain almost as good learning material as their paid-for counterparts? The main reason why the completion percentage is very low on these courses is not because they are subpar quality, but because they are free and have no deadlines either.
An end point gives your efforts a purpose and keeps you on track. Want to start running? Want to be able to run 5k without panting three minutes into the run? Sign up for a 5k race in two or three months' time. Pay for the race, too.
Humans are simple creatures. We have a lot of biases, too. One of them is called loss aversion. And interestingly enough, loss aversion is a stronger bias than knowing your efforts will pay off significantly in the future.
This means that by undertaking a financial obligation, you are more likely to keep at your plan than without. Knowing that by not going to the race will lose you £50 is more of a stimuli than knowing you will be able to run 5k comfortably in 12 weeks.
- Best Fitbit: a brand you can trust for being precise
- Best running watch: choke full of Garmin and Polar watches
2. Stick to the plan
5k running plans are everywhere on the internet. Even the NHS has a 9-week running plan for beginners. And truth to be told, most of the plans online are actually fine.
What you really need to do is to stick to a plan. Don't fall into the dieting-trap, when you just buy keto and paleo bars in the shop but keep on eating everything else like you before you started your 'new diet'.
Pick a plan and stick it on the fridge door. Find a race that's close to the end date of your plan, sign up for it. Cross off each day on the plan as you go along so you can see your progress.
Even better if you can find someone to train with you. There will be days when you won't feel like going out for a run, but if you have a running partner, they can make you train.
Also, train consistently and not sporadically. If you are running three days a week, let them be Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, not Monday-Wednesday. Give your body time to adjust.
- Best running races: the definitive list of races all throughout the country
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3. Get your gear right
This probably goes without saying, but having a good pair of running shoes and compression tights can not only help you avoid injuries, it can also boost your performance.
You don't need loads of gear, though, so don't raid your nearest fitness apparel store. Although running is a full body workout, it will put work mostly your leg muscles and put the most pressure on your joints below your waistline.
Compression wear (e.g. compression shorts or compression tights) can improve muscle oxygenation and also make exercising feel like less of an effort. They can also reduce muscle fatigue by keeping your muscles nice and tight.
In general, choose running gear that is comfortable and makes you comfortable being in them.
- Best trail running shoes: take it off road with these running shoes
- Best compression tights: wrap your muscles up with these leggings
4. Don't forget to rest
Your muscles will grow, one way or another, when you start using them. Even doing only cardio exercises will make you stronger, and definitely leaner.
The muscle growing process, in a nutshell, is basically as follows: when you exercise, microscopic tears will appear on your muscles that will get repaired when you rest (especially when you sleep). Your body will use protein to repair the tissues and in the process, they will get bigger.
This means that without adequate amount of rest/sleep, your muscles can't repair and therefore instead of getting stronger, you'll just injure yourself exercising. Give yourself enough time to rest so you can maximise your efforts.
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5. You are what you eat
It is paramount to feed your body right when you exercise. Taking in the right macronutrients can mean the difference between feeling pleasantly exhausted after a run or feeling like you're about to puke as soon as you stop.
Needless to say, you will have to try and eat a bit healthier. You don't have to go crazy and change your diet from one day to another. What you'll need to do is to consume less high GI carbs (e.g. potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice) and bad fats (fried foods like potato chips, doughnuts, deep-fried fast foods and margarine).
When changing your diet, be gradual about it. First, lose the added sugar and high-sugar snacks. Try introducing more fibres and definitely more variety. Lessen the red meat consumption and drink more water. Drinking water is the easiest way to cleanse your body. Not only that, but water is also cheap.
It's peculiar how pretty much everyone knows that eating pizza regularly is bad for you, yet everyone does it nevertheless. Fast food like pizza encompasses everything you should avoid in your diet: three slices of a regular classic crust Domino's American Hot pizza contains 25.8 grams of fat (of which 11.8 saturated), 14.4 grams of sugar and over 600 calories. Not great.