Over many years of coaching beginner runners, we’ve noticed a few questions come up time and again. We’ve put together the top 5 most frequently asked questions by women at the start of their running journey.
What’s the difference between jogging & running?
Well, there’s no difference really! Both require you to place one foot on the ground, become airborne, then place the other foot on the ground, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat….
The term ‘jogging’ was coined in the 1970’s during the first running boom to refer to slow running, I guess to help people describe the pace they were running at. Much easier to say “I jog” rather than “I run, but pretty slowly”. Other than that, I can’t really tell you how the term jogging came about, but I can promise you, jogging, running, there’s no difference. If you jog, you run.
How much do I have to train?
It really depends on what you’re training for and your goals, and also what level of fitness you are at when you start training.
We advise people on our Learn to Run course to get out for a walk and run session, three times a week for six weeks. Any more when you’re first starting out, and you increase your risk of injury, any less, and you are not placing enough stress on your body to see any improvement. The important thing to remember is to be consistent. Running three times one week, then only once the next, won’t see you getting the results you want.
As we progress our runners through the Learn to Run course, we increase the amount they run for, and decrease the amount they walk for in each session. How much running and walking is very much an individual thing, so we design training programs specifically for each person on the course.
Once you’ve established a good training pattern, and are able to run for about 30 minutes without stopping, you can think about changing up your training and perhaps running more frequently, extending the length of time you run for one of your runs, or taking on some more intense interval training. Again, it’s an individual thing.
How do I stop myself getting out of breath?
The secret is…………….sorry, there is no real secret breathing method. There are a few methods people talk about to help your breathing, such as ‘in through your nose and out through your mouth” or “breathe in accordance with your strides” but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that a specific method is the correct or best one.
You might feel like you can’t get enough air into your lungs, but unless you have a lung disease, you’re going to be getting more oxygen into your lungs than you can actually use. It’s your body’s ability to transport oxygen into the working muscles that counts, and that will improve with training – for example, you’ll develop a better network of blood capillaries to deliver oxygen from your blood to your muscles.
So don’t worry too much about how you breathe. The way to stop yourself getting so out of breath is to run at a pace that feels comfortable for you,but fast enough to get you just a little bit puffed. (You should still be able to talk in sentences though). Once you become fitter, your body will be better able to utilise the oxygen you take into your body by breathing, and you’ll be able to run without feeling so out of breath.
There is something you can do, though, which helps keep your upper body relaxed and ‘massages’ some of your internal organs, and that’s making sure you breathe with your diaphragm rather than your chest and ribcage. To do this requires you to breathe low by allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale and return as you exhale, rather than lift your chest and ribcage, which can cause tension in the upper body and upset your natural running style. This is something you can practice whilst you’re at rest, or doing some very low level activity. By all means, practice it whilst you’re running, but it can be pretty hard to change your breathing technique whilst you’re exerting yourself, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not “getting it”
What should I eat before I run?
Great question, and there are many answers, partly because there are so many types of food you can eat and partly because everyone reacts differently to food intake prior to exercise. The key is to work out what’s best for YOU via trial and error. Some people don’t tolerate any food, whilst others like to have something in their tummy and can handle it. If you get a stitch, or feel a bit crook in the tummy in a training session, make sure you make a note of that, and also what you ate and how long before the session you ate it. That way you’ll be able to track down the offending food, and establish a good pre-training eating pattern that works for you.
One of the key points to know is that you don’t actually need to take in any food up to several hours prior to running, as your body has plenty of energy in the form of stored fat, stored glucose (known as glycogen), and glucose circulating in the blood.
Whatever your time period is without food, the types to have are those that are easily digestible such as a banana, or a piece of toast.
How do I avoid injury?
Running places fairly heavy loads onto our bodies, so it’s important to implement a sensible training plan which progresses you fast enough to get fitter, but slowly enough to allow you to build strength where it’s needed. Some people seem to be more injury prone than others, but often I find those people who are “injury prone” are the same people who go at running like a bull at a gate, running too hard and too much. Whilst there definitely is a risk of running related injury, you can do much to reduce that risk considerably. And the upside to all this, is that we gain huge benefits in the form of mental well-being and cardiovascular fitness from running.
Running can simply make you feel good!!
So, how do you prevent injury to allow good, consistent training?
Most running related injuries result from overloading some part of your body, so we need to make sure there is a gradual build up in your running. How often per week, how intense it is, plus factors such as terrain, surface, body mechanics, and footwear, all come into play. Strength, stability, and flexibility also play a role, so it’s important to incorporate a short but regular programme into your routine that covers these aspects.
Being under the care and guidance of a professional coach, particularly when you first start running, can go a long way to helping to avoid injury. Sometimes, beginners can feel pressured by well-meaning friends and family to go a bit too hard too soon.
We’ve found over the eight years we’ve been coaching true running novices, that it’s always better to be a little bit conservative. You need to develop strength in muscles, tendons and ligaments before you can push yourself a bit more in the huffing and puffing department!! If you want to make running a part of a long term fitness strategy, make sure you don’t overdo it.
We love supporting and motivating beginner runners at the start of their running journey. Being a part of the final session of our Learn to Run courses, and seeing the excitement and satisfaction gained by our runners when they complete their 30 minute run, is one of the most rewarding parts of being a running coach!