A Beginners’ Guide to Running for Fitness

Most people start up running informally as an enjoyable way to keep fit rather than as a ‘serious’ sport. However, the allure of the sport is very strong for many, and you just might find yourself running competitively before too long!

The basics

Let’s start at the beginning, and assume that, like most of us, you’d like to start running to get fit and lose some weight. It’s a great idea! Running is not only an enjoyable outdoor activity, but it’s actually one of the most efficient ways to lose weight. It’s also one of the safest, provided that – as with any sport or exercise regime – you start slowly and ease your body into it, especially if your lifestyle has recently tended towards the sedentary.

Safety first!

Here are a few safety tips you need to know before you start running. It’s also good to keep them in mind even after you have become a seasoned runner:

  • It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any sort of exercise routine, and running is no exception. This is especially important if you’re overweight or are/have been a smoker. You could also bring along a copy of your training plan (if you have one at this stage) to discuss with your doctor.
  • Always make sure you drink plenty of water or sports drinks during and after your run.
  • Wear UV protection in sunny weather.
  • Avoid running at night if possible. If you do, wear reflective clothing and try to run in a group along well-lit streets.
  • A progressive running programme can prevent injuries: A five-minute warm-up followed by stretching exercises is the best way to start a run.
  • It’s also important to stretch after you’ve finished running, as it helps heal any microtears that might have occurred during the run.
  • A good sports bra is essential for women.
  • If running alone, make sure someone knows details of your route and the time you expect to return home.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings: Look out for traffic, people and any other hazards (see next).
  • Don’t wear headphones. This one will rub many people wrong, but it is a fact that wearing headphones does hinder your general awareness, which could potentially lead to dangerous situations.
  • Carry identification at all times.

Clothing and equipment

Running is one of the simplest sports as far as equipment is concerned. Until you reach competitive level or start running long distances, all you really need is some sensible athletic clothing and a good pair of running shoes. Shoes are the most important piece of equipment you need as a runner, so it’s useful to know what to look for.

Some tips on choosing running shoes

  • The best time of day to shop for running shoes is late afternoon, because your feet will swell slightly during the day, just like during a run.
  • Wear the type of socks that you would wear when running.
  • Feet come in three main types: Pronator (with the heel on the ground the medial arch is close to the ground); Supinator (with the heel on the ground the medial arch is lifted away from the ground); or Neutral (normal). A good specialized running shop should be able to find a running shoe designed for your type of foot.
  • There should be a full thumb width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • You should have plenty of room to wiggle your toes in your shoes.
  • There should be plenty of width, but not so much that your foot slides.
  • The heel should fit snugly and not slip or rub.
  • Make sure the shoe flexes well.
  • Get both feet measured. Most people have one foot that is slightly bigger than the other. Shoes should be fitted to the larger foot size.
  • ‘Breaking in’ is overrated. Shoes should feel reasonably good from the first day.
  • If in doubt, get the larger size.