1. Don’t do too much, too soon
It’s great to be enthusiastic and to get fit you do need to overload. But there’s overload and there’s overload. Many new runners get the bug, go hell for leather and end up with overtraining injuries, such as shin splints. Try one of our beginner programmes to help get you started. Try the Couch to 5K Training Plan.
2. Slow down
'Run slow to run fast' is a mantra that many beginners would do well to listen to. Arthur Lydiard was famous for making this type of training popular among the elite marathon runners back in the 1960s. The marathon is an aerobic (rather than anaerobic) event, and uses the aerobic energy system; therefore in most cases it’s volume, not intensity, that should be addressed first to improve performance. Many schedules include base building, when you run at low intensity as the first block of training.
When you train at a lower intensity, you use fat as fuel, and that’s what we need to get good at when we run a marathon. Running at a low intensity is a great way to build your endurance base, and gives you a fit platform to lift off from with more intense, faster work as you progress.
3. Mix it up
Add variety to your running routine, by training at a variety of paces to train different energy systems.
'Novice runners tend to self-select a pace and stick to it in every session,' explains physiologist Alex Bliss, from the University of Brighton. 'Performing the same type of run over and over again will lead to boredom and will eventually stop providing a sufficient training stimulus to produce overload, a critical factor for successful training and athletic development.'
Speed and interval training, hill training and long slow runs are all essential ingredients in the runner’s recipe for success. Find training schedules and training tools here.
4. Wear the right shoes
Ever since Chris McDougall’s famous 2009 Born To Run book described the Tarahumara ‘barefoot’ ultra running tribe, and discussed the research by Dr Daniel Lieberman, the need for shoes has been under scrutiny. Lieberman pointed out that it was from 1972, with the invention of the modern athletic shoe, that injury rates rose to the current 65 to 80 per cent annual injury rate.
Whether we need shoes or not is a debate that lingers on, but there is a consensus that the level of cushioning we choose will make a difference. And many runners opt for extra support when they don’t need it.
A study in 1989 found that runners in the most expensive cushioned shoes were 123 per cent more likely to get injured. Most good running shops offer a gait analysis; some more sophisticated than others. Shops like Sweatshop offer specialist gait analysis services and often your local running shop will have an experienced runner and seller of shoes, who can give you the once over as you run up and down the street outside the shop.
5. Set realistic goals
Goals are important if you want to succeed, but unrealistic, hard-to-achieve goals will have the opposite effect. For example, running your first marathon is a tough thing to do, so unless you have some real benchmarks (i.e. lots of half marathons at consistently similar times leading up to the race), then setting tough time targets can be detrimental. Getting round really is a good option, so set your goals the smart way.