You see them on your way to work, at the beach, even on weekends. The ones who seem to glide across the ground in colour coordinated lycra, looking the picture of health. I’m talking about runners. And if you’re already a seasoned strider, well done! But for those who long to speed up their shuffle to a sprint (or, ahem, a light jog), we’re here to tell you: you can do it, too. And you should! According to a UK study, pounding the pavement can reduce your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke by up to 50 per cent. The best bit? It’s free, fun and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
What you need to get started
Tunes: get your playlist sorted. UK research from Brunel University revealed that the right tempo can boost motivation and increase exercise endurance by 15 per cent. Try following marie claire on Spotify for some inspiration!
Get new gear: it’ll motivate you to start moving! Invest in a good bra — a study from the Australian Sports Commission showed that B cups can bounce by up to 8cm during exercise, increasing by up to 18cm for DD cups. Breast bounce can cause ligament damage and sagging, so make sure you have adequate support.
Well-fitting shoes are also paramount for injury prevention and safety. Dominic Svarc, Exercise Programming Specialist and Owner of DS Fitness, recommends seeing a podiatrist for professional advice.
Track your progress: Download the MapMyPhone app to your smartphone to record details of your runs, such as distance, endurance, speed and kilojoules burned. Hint: upload your run reports to social media to make you more accountable.
Get back to basics: for the first week, Svarc recommends that you check your technique before you get started. Ensure that your:
• Arms swing from the shoulders and your elbows remain fixed at 90 degrees;
• Head is focused straight ahead;
• Knees bend slightly as you stride to absorb force;
• Feet strike the ground directly under your hips;
• Body propels forward from the ankles;
• Shoulders remained relaxed and you remember to breathe.
Week 1: Start running
Focus on building an aerobic base and reaching a comfortable pace, says Svarc. Fuel your body with low GI carbs such as whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit and dairy, “and concentrate intake around your runs,” says Sydney-based nutritionist Joanna McMillan. As you’re just starting out, don’t overestimate how much extra food you need. “Provided you include about a quarter of your plate as a low GI carb food, you’ll have adequate fuel for your runs,” McMillan says.
Monday: Clock it! Time how long you are able to jog, without having to stop. This will be used as a baseline measure of your fitness. Use the MapMyPhone app to measure the distance and map out your route.
Wednesday: Jog 1200m (3 x 400m laps of an sports oval). Jog as much as you can. Only walk if absolutely necessary.
Friday: Plan your route using the MapMyPhone app and jog 1600m (or 4 x 400m laps). Jog as much as you can. Only walk if absolutely necessary.
Sunday: Attend a yoga class to strengthen your core, improve your stability and prepare your body for the second week.
Week 2: Persevere!
Work on improving your aerobic fitness by increasing running speed and distance. Feeling fragile? Push through the pain! “People stop at the first sign of soreness inappropriately,” says Marcus Dripps, President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. “General muscle soreness in large muscles of your legs is to be expected. As a general rule: if the pain outweighs the enjoyment, that’s when you need to re-assess.”
Monday: Clock it! Time how long and how far you can jog without walking. Note your improvement on week 1.
Wednesday: Jog 2000m (5 x 400m laps). Jog as much as you can - only walk if absolutely necessary.
Friday: Plan your route with the MapMyPhone app and change it up with aerobic intervals over a distance of 2400m (6 x 400m laps). Briskly jog for 200m and then very lightly jog for 200m. Continue alternating for 6 laps. Do your best to avoid walking!
Saturday: Pool recovery session. Walk 8 laps of a 50m pool (walk until you reach neck height, before circling back). Do 2 sets of 10-15 lunges and squats to take tension off sore muscles and relieve joint pressure.
Week 3: Time to push
You’re nearly there! The intensity is upped this week thanks to anaerobic (sprint) intervals, which means you’ll need to up your energy levels, too. “You may need an extra serve of carbs a day, but on rest days be sure not to overeat — particularly if you're trying to lose body fat,” advises McMillan. Pair up with a friend, as “you’ll work harder and it’ll keep you accountable,” Svarc says. And incorporate body weight exercises such as calf raises, squats and lunges into your sessions. “Running requires strength and these exercises will complement your cardio programme,” says Dripps.
Monday: Clock it! Time how long and how far you can jog without walking. Use the MapMyPhone app to measure the distance and map out your route. Note your improvement on week 2.
Wednesday: Jog 2800m (7 x 400m laps). Jog as much as you can - only walk if absolutely necessary.
Friday: Plan your route with the MapMyPhone app and include aerobic/anaerobic intervals for 3600m (9 x 400m laps). Lightly jog the first 135m, moderately jog the second 135m and sprint the last 135m. Continue alternating between the 3 speeds for 9 laps. Do your best to avoid walking!
Saturday: Pool recovery session. Walk 10 laps of a 50m pool (walk until you reach neck height before circling back). Do 2 sets of 10-15 lunges and squats to take tension off sore muscles and relieve joint pressure.
Week 4: You made it...you’re a runner!
Lace up your trainers and cue your iPod — it’s time for the 5km finish! Start slow, remember to breathe and most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Monday: Clock it! Time how long and how far you can jog without walking. Use the MapMyPhone app to measure the distance and map out your route. Note your improvement on week 3.
Wednesday: Your first 5km! Plan your route using the MapMyPhone app and slowly jog 5000m (12.5 x 400m laps). It should take you about 35-45 minutes.
Friday: Stretch sore muscles such as your quads, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and calves and go for a light walk to promote blood flow.