By Health Shield | Posted 13th April 2017 | Blog
The London Marathon is a key date in the calendar for many athletes around the country, whether they are an avid runner, a novice that wants to take part, or just a spectator. This event is just around the corner, so here at Health Shield we thought we’d provide you with some key tips to help you improve your running, whether you want to take it up to help your fitness or just make the next step to marathon running yourself.
Of course, you are able to use your Health Shield Health Cash Plan in numerous ways to improve your fitness regime, from a contribution to your gym membership, sport massages to prevent and/or improve injury or even exercise programmes.
Running is one of the simplest and cheapest exercises you can take up as your hobby and the effects on your health and wellbeing are phenomenal. Health Shield statistics suggest that regular activity is linked to a range of health benefits regardless of whether you take it up to lose weight or not. It is good for your heart, circulation, bones and tendons, helps improve your body confidence, increases mental functions and energy levels and is a great way to de-stress and reduce any anxiety you might suffer with.
How do you start running?
Sounds like a simple question, but it’s not just about moving your legs a little faster when you’re walking to pick up speed. Before you start, it is important to ensure that you are wearing the right clothing and footwear. Your feet withstand a lot more than you might think, so you need to look after them, especially when running so investing in a good, lightweight pair of trainers is the ideal place to start. You’ll also need comfy shorts/leggings, a well fitted top and a sports bra if you are a lady. If you are planning any running in the dark then some high visibility accessories will make sure that you’re seen.
Here are our top tips for completing a good run, and maybe even getting marathon-ready:
- Begin slowly. Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end and expect your body to work miracles. You aren’t going to win the London Marathon after a week’s training.
- Sounds a stupid thing to say, but there are a lot of people who, when they exercise, forget to breathe. It is breathing that affects your running ability, and many do it incorrectly starving themselves of oxygen. Slow it down and you’ll find running much easier.
- Clear your mind. Don’t think about anything, not even running.
- Motivation is directly linked to how relaxed and rested we feel. Being well rested and up to date on your sleep directly improves performance.
- Vary your run, if you run outside, take different routes with different terrains. It’ll work different muscles and improve your overall fitness. If you run on a treadmill add some incline now and again to keep it varied.
- Don’t run in cotton, professionals advise wearing Coolmax® or nylon for comfort.
- Stay hydrated. Water is the obvious choice, but if you are planning on running for a long period, a sports drink may be a better option. It is recommended that after 60 minutes of running, you need to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes in your body to fuel your continuous exercise. If you are a nervous runner and you are taking part in a race, stick to liquids and refuel every 10–15 minutes during a run. The water stations are perfect for this, use every one.
- Keep it easy. Don’t over-face yourself with something completely unachievable. Of course, push yourself but don’t burn out and set unrealistic goals. If it helps to set mini goals, do that, perhaps reaching a certain point in a set time, or if you’re just a beginner set yourself a target like running 1 mile without stopping and steadily increase it. It might help to focus more on the time you can run without stopping rather than a distance. Do what works for you.
- Always stretch after your run. Focus on your calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back. If you must stretch before hand, it is advised to do so gently.
- Begin your run slowly. Going in at the start at full speed will not only see you burn out quickly and struggle to finish, but this is also a common cause for a side stitch. If you are taking part in a race, keep the pace steady until you reach the halfway point, then begin to step it up. You may be suffering from performance anxiety and think that it is a negative trait if you start slowly, but this is not the case at all. Being too eager to get going quickly, will be detrimental your overall run.
- Talk or sing to yourself. It’s a great distraction away from the tiredness you may be feeling and may even urge you along.
- It doesn’t matter what your running ability is, make time for a quick run and you’ll always feel better for it. If you only have 15 minutes spare a day, 15 minutes of running is better than none at all. And of course, it counts towards your recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day.
- Running consistently for a set amount of time can be a little boring, mix it up and you will improve your fitness levels too. Include some sprints, speed it up for 30 seconds at a time, before bringing it back to a comfortable level. If you are a road runner, use cars as a speed indicator for yourself. Run at a normal comfortable pace for you until a car approaches, then for the duration of it passing you increase your speed to try and keep up. Once it’s gone, slow it back down again.
- If training is becoming hard and you’re unfocused. Lose the mobile, the music, the heart/distance monitors, and just run. Take in the scenery, the views along your route, notice the smaller things instead of thinking about running and all that is associated with it.
- Ensure you take some time off to let your muscles and body relax. You’ll only benefit from it and having a small rest now and then is better than being forced to take months off through injury.
- Have a training friend. It can make a difference. It could give you the motivation to go out when you feel like you can’t be bothered. However, make the time to go once a week on your own and try and go at a pace to suit you whether that’s speeding up to try and better yourself, or taking it slower. Even if your training partner is your dog, they are of massive value to you.
- Many runners find themselves tense after a run and your technique is what is vital here. Many continue with a lot of tension in their body and it’s all down to how they hold themselves. It makes running harder than it needs to be. Loosen your hands and ultimately you’ll reduce tension in your shoulders. A good home test is to hold a rolled up piece of paper in your hands whilst you run, if you end with it crunched up you’re running with tension.
- After running look after your feet. Just 30 seconds a day, twice a day can make a big difference and all you need is a small golf sized ball to roll your foot on. Simple.
- When you are ready, test yourself with local races, they could be charity 5k’s, 10k’s or a half marathon, whatever you feel up to there are plenty of races that take place throughout the year that you can get involved with.
- Tailor when you run to match your race time. It will help your endurance on the day.
- Visualise crossing the finish line. Use mental imagery in the nights before the race, and even to get you through it, of yourself crossing that finishing line and showing off your medal. Positive mental images can have a big influence on your performance.
- In the days prior to your race, load yourself with carbohydrates. This includes pasta, potatoes, bread and fruit. This is what will fuel you on race day.
- If you are a member of a Health Shield Health Cash Plan, you can use your membership to assist you whilst you’re building on your running experience or planning on taking part in a big event. Whether you want to look after your muscles with a sports massage under the Health & Wellbeing benefit or recover from an injury with the Physio — you can get cashback on many treatments. If you are covered at Prestige level, why not enjoy £100 towards your yearly gym membership and build all areas of your body to improve your running? Did you know that having strong arms, legs and core could make you a better runner?
If you’re not a member of a Health Shield Health Cash Plan, and want to enjoy the benefits of being so, sign up today on our Connect plan – we’ve got you covered.
Health Shield Insights