Running: how to make a good start

It goes without saying that there has been a dramatic rise in the popularity of running. Across the globe, running enthusiasts are taking to the sidewalks, parks, roads and trails, while record numbers of runners are signing up for races, marathons and ultra-marathons.

man who is a beginner runner

Aside from walking or hiking, running is arguably one of the most accessible and popular activities on the planet.

The benefits of running

Everyone has their reasons for running: improving their physical condition, beating their best time, taking on anew challenge, reducing urban-related stress levels, putting your thoughts in order or letting go. There are no wrong answers. However, there are many unarguable benefits for your mental and physical health. Some studies also claim that running regularly prolongs life expectancy. Can you top that?

2 people walking side by side

Let's start at the beginning - it's best to walk before you start running

If you want to start running or get back into running, start by walking briskly for about 30 minutes three to four times a week — depending on your physical condition — in order to prepare physically.

How to successfully run for 30 minutes - do intervals

Try to alternate between walking and running. Start by running for 1 min, then walk for 2 or 3 min to recover. Repeat. Over the weeks, gradually increase the duration of the run, without exceeding your limits, but continue walking for 2 to 3 minutes. And no matter your level of ability, listening to what your body is telling you is the probably the best way to run without risking injury. Indeed, there is no miracle cure. Each person knows their own capacity to recover. And don't forget to warm up properly before you start running by taking 5 minutes to get the heart rate up and increase the body temperature: jump up and down, or do some butt-kicks.

To make better progress - take it one step at a time

Even if you're super motivated to start running, you'll need to be patient and avoid setting off at a high speed without preparing, because you risk ending your first run with a bruised ego... and getting injuries.

To turn your run into a game - try fartlek running

Used to describe a rather playful and unstructured workout, fartlek means "speed game" in Swedish. It's about mixing fast and slow sections, while varying the pace and distance. For example, if you're running in a park, identify a landmark like a tree or a bench, and accelerate to that goal for about 30 seconds, then recover for about 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise without exceeding your limits.

woman trying fartlek running

How to start running - the treadmill is a great way to get started

Running on a treadmill is a great way to get started with running, as the surface, which is not as hard as a sidewalk, helps to relieve the impact on your joints. Additionally, most of the models come with features that allow you to change the incline and speed so you can run at your own speed. However, this comes at additional expense.

Tips for staying motivated - how many times a week

- Demonstrate honesty: setting realistic goals by defining the number of hours you can really devote to this activity during the week
- Schedule your running outing by circling dates on a calendar or diary (when it becomes a conditioned reflex, it's easier to get out of your house)
- Prepare an inspiring playlist
- Vary the routes
- Find a partner: running with someone else can make things easier
- Join a running club
- Record your progress
- Download the Decathlon Coach app which offers free, personalized and varied training programs for running

man focused on their running

How to dress for running

It's not always easy to find the right clothes and accessories to stretch your legs. Remember to wear highly visible clothing with reflective strips if you are planning to run when the sun is setting. You also need a light source, e.g. a head torch. To give you an idea, here are some tips for running in various weather conditions.

Running in hot weather

Choose some light and stretch clothing made of a synthetic or merino wool fabric that wicks away moisture: T-shirts, singlets, tank tops, vests and shorts.

Polyester is the main synthetic fabric used in the manufacture of sports and outdoor clothing. What's more, polyester offers better sun protection than nylon, while also retaining durable water-repellent coatings better.

Slightly more expensive than polyester, nylon is the second most used synthetic fabric in the sportswear and outdoor industry. It is often mixed with other fabrics to make T-shirts, shorts, pants and coats.

If you are running at a slow pace in very hot weather, you can choose clothing made with a little cotton, as this material absorbs moisture and has a certain cooling effect. However, cotton should be avoided in cool and cold weather, as it takes time to dry. Damp clothing absorbs body heat and can cause your body temperature to drop dramatically.

The merino wool costs a little more, but it is extremely soft, and warmer than synthetic fibres (equivalent weight). It is also stretch, breathable and does not retain odours. On top, it's a traceable product.

What's more, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of buying a good sports bra, because a classic bra is not designed to reduce bounce, absorb shocks and prevent irritation during a run.

On sunny days, wear a cap and glasses with polarized lenses that reduce glare to protect your eyes. Make sure the nose pads and temple tips are designed to keep the glasses in place even when you are sweating.

Running in cool weather

When spring or fall arrives, you'll need to dress according to the multi-layer system. Start with a fitted base layer made of a synthetic fabric or merino wool. Then add a mid-layer on top of the base layer.  Clothing made of fleece is an excellent choice because it acts as an insulator by retaining the heat produced by the body in addition to continuing to wick moisture from the base layer to the outside. A mid-layer sometimes features mesh panels and a full-length zipper to aid ventilation. Depending on your tolerance to the cold, you can wear tights or leggings that provide extra warmth and comfort.

Running in cold weather

During an aerobic activity like running, the body generates a considerable amount of heat. If you're overdressed when the temperature dips below zero, your clothes will quickly get soaked after a few minutes of effort. Conversely, if your clothing isn't warm enough, you may start shivering and stop running.

Obviously, some people tolerate the cold better than others, but the important thing is to properly layer the technical clothing (like an onion). First, put on a fitted base layer, whose fibres draw moisture away from the skin to the outer surface of the fabric, where it can quickly evaporate. Then it's up to you whether you need an extra layer or two (fleece, wind jacket, waterproof-breathable jacket, etc.) depending on the whims of the weather. The secret to running comfortably in cold weather is to keep moving at all times. The secret to running comfortably in cold weather is to keep moving at all times.

If you feel a slight chill when you step outside, that's a good sign. This feeling should go away within a few minutes. In sub-zero temperatures, dress a little warmer.

In winter, pay close attention to the terrain and keep an eye out for icy surfaces hidden under the snow which could make you fall and increase the risk of injury, as well as the mechanical stresses on the joints.

List of accessories for running in cool and cold weather

- Gloves
- Mittens (in extreme cold, mittens provide better protection than gloves)
- Toque
- Neck warmer
- Headband
- Merino wool socks

Take a tour of your sports clothing

If you're into cross-country skiing, hiking, and cycling, you probably already have a few items of clothing in your closet that you can use depending on the season.

woman in a field taking a break from sports

Road or trail running shoes?

The choice of footwear will depend on the terrain on which you are planning to run. This aspect is probably the easiest to evaluate. Most shoe manufacturers offer models for running on roads and others for running on trails.

Choose a model that suits your stride, the weather, the surface on which you plan to run and your needs, which will include lightness, flexibility, shock absorption, support and width. Do not hesitate to try several models before making your choice, because what matters most is the level of comfort. Winter runners should wear waterproof shoes with a grippy sole that provides excellent traction. The important thing is to keep your feet dry, and prevent rain and snow from getting inside.

Road running shoes are lighter than trail running shoes and feature a foam midsole for absorbing the repeated impacts experienced on tarmac.

Find your foot type

The stride refers to the repetition of a person's running motion, i.e. the space covered as part of this movement. Each person has their own way of running. The best way to find out your stride type is to observe the wear and tear on the outsole of your running shoes. There are three stride types: neutral, under-pronator, pronator.

Neutral

The outside of the foot is the first section to come in contact with the ground. The foot rolls through naturally, while the weight is evenly distributed.

Under-pronator

The outside of the heel is the first area that comes in contact with the ground, as the foot then rolls outward. The weight of the body presses on the outside of the foot.

Pronator

Almost the entire surface of the foot comes into contact with the ground. The weight of the body presses on the inside of the foot. Over-pronation sometimes causes bunions.
To optimize your runs and minimize the risk of injury, run with a shorter stride.

The stride in three steps:

1. Absorption: first point of contact of the foot with the ground.
2. Stance: transition of the gravity zone (foot rests on the ground to support the body).
3. Push-off: propulsion of the body weight forward.

Drop

The drop refers to the difference in height of the midsole between the heel and the toes. "Minimalist" shoes are often either flat or have a very low drop of 1-5mm, while regular running shoes have a 6-12mm difference in height from the heel to the toe. Models with a more pronounced drop favour a heel strike.

Durability of running shoes

Most running shoes need to be replaced after running about 800 km. If you decide to continue running in shoes that are completely worn-out, you run the risk of an injury.

Nutrition - what and when to eat?

One of the biggest mistakes rookies make is to run on an empty stomach. Plan to eat (fruit/high carb snacks) about an hour before your run in order to replenish your energy reserves. However, each person has different needs. For example, some people need to eat protein because simply eating fruit does not provide enough fuel for a longer run.

If you are planning to go on a long run or potentially train for a half or full marathon, you should pack some easily digestible carbs or energy gels that contain sodium. Electrolyte tablets are easy to carry with you and provide some added motivation to help you keep up your pace. These energy snacks are often high in sugar and/or salt to help replenish the body's reserves that will have dropped during a long run.

In addition, it is also very important to stay hydrated before, during and after a run. Don't forget to bring a bottle of water or plan your route according to the availability of water (e.g. a water fountain in a park). After a run, you'll probably be very thirsty, but on days when you're feeling particularly dehydrated , it might be a good idea to add an electrolyte tablet to your water for extra hydration.

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