It’s one of the most popular exercises in the world but what do you need to know before you start putting one foot in front of the other?
Words by Colin Armstrong
The sports companies make it look easy: Just get your gear on and head out to the open road. It’s running, it’s easy and anyone can do it – but it’s not as simple as that, is it?
You’ve probably seen runners out and about and pictured yourself in their shoes, braving the sun and working up a sweat, jealous of how easy they make it look. So, how do you actually start running, safely, and turn it into a regular exercise that you’ll enjoy?
Making a start
If you’ve ever tried to start running, having never run before, you probably had the same experience as many people in this position. The first few minutes you feel full of beans before your energy drains entirely, your legs become heavy, your mouth dries up – so what went wrong?
Like with any other hobby or sport, you won’t turn into an expert runner overnight – It takes time, practice and dedication.
“Starting a new running habit can be hard, but it will help if you set your initial goals realistically,” says Kevin Rosbotham, organiser of community running group, Abu Dhabi Striders. “Don’t try to run six days a week if you have hardly run before. Create yourself a simple schedule and stick to it. “In the beginning, all you need is to get yourself some good well-fitted training shoes and some comfortable running clothes, and you’re off to a good start.”
Once you have the gear and are ready to start running, how far should you go? Do you sprint at top speed and aim for a personal best or take it easy and build up over time?
“Start with walking, brisk walking, then a light jog, working your way up,” advises Kevin. “If you’ve gone stiff or sore at the end of the run, then you’ve done something wrong – maybe your route is too far, or you’ve pushed yourself too hard and burnt out. This is not a good way to go about exercise, and won’t work in the long run; you’ll get injured.
“If you are not regularly exercising and want to start running, you should start by brisk-paced walking three or four days a week, for two or three weeks, to get your muscles and bones used to moving with the same general range of motion as running.
“When you are comfortable with walking, start introducing the running slowly. Run one minute, walk one minute – this is a good start. Gradually increase the run time over two to three weeks until you feel comfortable running continuously for a longer period.”
Creating a habit
Becoming a runner might be your long-term goal but that doesn’t mean that all your training needs to be focused on running. Varying your workout and living a more active life overall will help you develop your body to become a better runner, increase endurance and improve your general fitness.
“Runners who are serious about making it a long-term interest should diversify their workout. There are many benefits of doing this, including injury prevention,” Kevin continues. “To maintain a good level of fitness and strength, a runners’ workout should include core and strength training on a regular basis, once or twice per week. This strengthens the muscles that you don’t even know that you are using while running and will make your running much stronger.
“You should also include other forms of aerobic training in your ‘down’ days. Swimming and cycling are perfect as they are aerobically challenging, but have low impact on bone joints and muscles.”
Safety in numbers
Often with exercise, it’s better to have a group or partner to keep you going so you’ll make fewer excuses to dodge workouts. When taking on something alone, it’s easy to miss a day here and there or even give up altogether when the going gets tough.
If you can’t convince any friends to take up running with you then a number of running groups in the city that will happily welcome you to their community to get active together. Search for Dubai Creek Striders, Mirdif Milers and the Desert Road Runners on social media and you’ve got yourself a running crew.