This is the second article in a series of blog posts on the subject of running. In Part I of this series, I covered the benefits of running and the kinds of people that running might appeal to. In this post, I will cover what you need to know in order to get started.
When to run
You can run year round. You might find that you need to make adjustments according to the climate of your country. In Auckland, I find I have to start my run no later than 6am during summer, otherwise it becomes unbearably hot. In winter, I can still run outdoors but wear long tights and a light running jacket. When I lived overseas, I couldn’t run outside for part of the European winter due to the snow, so I trained on the treadmill instead.
Where to run
You have several options:
o Using a treadmill at the gym or at home
o Running in a park
o Running on the pavement or along a promenade
o Running off-road ie trail running
Each has corresponding advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I find running on a treadmill artificial and rather boring. Your strides are different to running on the ground. Time passes very slowly, even if you listen to music while you’re running. In saying that, it can be useful if conditions make it unsafe to run outdoors, such as darkness and snow.
Training in a park or along a promenade is incredibly pleasant. While I was a university student, I spent a lot of time in the city. As discussed in Part I of this series of posts on running, I used to run in the Auckland Domain. I also used to train along the Auckland Waterfront, a lovely promenade linking the Eastern seaside suburbs of Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers with Auckland City. Nowadays, training at the Auckland Domain and along the Waterfront isn’t the most convenient option for me. At the moment, my training consists of 10k runs which take place on the pavement from home to Botany Junction (a suburb in East Auckland) and back simply due to time constraints. I don’t need to factor travel time into my run and allow for getting to and from the starting point. While it isn’t the most scenic route (the other downside is that the course is completely flat so it doesn’t allow for hill work), it’s easy to fit an hour long training session into a fairly hectic day. Over the years, I’ve learnt that you have to make exercise convenient otherwise you’ll never be able to fit it into your schedule.
If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to run overseas, there are some wonderful parks to explore while out running. While I lived in London, I used to run in Greenwich Park and Hyde Park. While working in Paris, I ran regularly in the Bois de Boulogne. When I visited New York, I simply had to go for a run in Central Park because that is simply the place to run.
If scenery is really important and you don’t mind the travel time getting to and from your running destination, then off-road or trail running might be for you. Bear in mind that off-road is be more challenging technically than road running, so don’t be surprised if your times are slower than road events. In order to become a good trail runner, you really need to train off-road. You can get shoes designed for trail running, which I highly recommend as the impact on your feet is different to road running.
I did the Carter Holt Harvey Half Marathon at Woodhill Forest with a team from the law firm I summer clerked at while I was at university. The terrain was very challenging – 21k of running through a forest over branches and logs, not to mention up and down an enormous sand dune. While it was an enjoyable experience, it wasn’t really for me and I haven’t done any trail running since then. I’ve noticed that most runners tend to fall into one category. You’re either a road runner like me, or an off-road or trail runner. There’s nothing wrong with trying both to see which one you prefer, as I have done.
What you’ll need
The most important thing you’ll need is a decent pair of running shoes. It’s worth investing in shoes which offer good support. As discussed in Part I of this series of posts on running, for every stride you take while running, you’re carrying two or three times your body weight.
There are so many different brands and models on the market that finding the right pair of shoes can be a rather daunting and confusing experience. Something that I did when I first started running at the age of 20 was to go to a sports shoe shop in Auckland called Shoe Science, where they measure your feet, get you to try on different shoes and videotape your feet as you run. They analysed the footage and identified some potential issues. Based on this, they made some suggestions as to suitable shoes. I ended up with Aasics Gel Cumulus. It’s a perfect fit for me and I’ve stuck with the same model over the 15 year period that I’ve been running. The fact that this line is still in existence really says something. It’s obviously still a very popular model and for good reason. The only change that I have made was to switch to the men’s version of this model. Why did I do this? About three months ago, I noticed that I started developing callouses on my toes, which were becoming rather painful. As a diabetic, I have to take good care of my feet. I became concerned about this, so I went and saw my doctor. He commented that I have quite broad feet and would be better off using the men’s version as they’re broader than the women’s model. Since switching to the men’s model, I feel so much more comfortable when running. There is so much more space in the front part of the shoe so my toes aren’t cramped. If you suffer from the same problem, this might be worth considering. Sure men’s shoes don’t come in the pretty feminine colours like pale pink and blue but at the end of the day, comfort comes first. That’s always been my motto when it comes to footwear, but it’s especially the case for running shoes due to the impact on your feet.
In my opinion, the quality of the clothing you wear for running is less important than shoes. When I was a student, I didn’t wear fancy gear when exercising as I simply couldn’t afford it. These days, I do wear some nice gear, which I can justify. Exercise is something I do regularly. It forms a very important part of my life. I also have a habit of wearing active wear casually, especially now that I am self-employed and can wear whatever I want. I don’t spend a lot on work clothes like I used to in the past when I was a lawyer. My ensemble for my gardening business consists of a business t-shirt and old running shorts which I’ve turned into gardening gear. For running, dri-fit clothing is definitely more comfortable because you should get hot and sweaty if you push yourself hard enough. I’d only ever wear Aasics running shoes, but when it comes to clothing, I’ve found that Nike is the best brand for me as the clothing fits me perfectly. The quality is also good. While it’s not exactly cheap, it will last a long time. If you get dri-fit, you’ll find it dries quickly after you wash your clothing so you won’t need lots of sets of exercise gear.
You may wish to listen to music on your phone or Ipod while you run. I tend not to, as I find I’m more alert to hazards such as cars reversing in driveways and oncoming traffic.
You might also find a device such as a Fitbit useful to monitor the distance you cover. While I don’t use one of these myself, members from previous gyms I belonged to have reported that they found them helpful for motivation and to track their movement during the day.
In my next blog post in this series on the subject of running, I’ll help you discover which distance is right for you and offer a few training tips.