With the number of marathon participants around the world growing every year, running is clearly an increasingly popular physical fitness activity. But if you’ve never run before, you need to ease yourself into it. Dr Philippe Sosner, a cardiologist, sports doctor, and scientific and medical director, has given us his running tips for beginners.
Can you start at any age?
Yes, it’s an endurance sport in which you will make progress, whatever your starting point.
Are there any medical reasons not to run?
Even if you have health problems, running is often possible, but you may need to adapt it to your condition.
If you plan to be a regular runner, and to take it beyond a leisurely jog, it’s better to consult your doctor, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while.
It’s also a good idea to assess your ability and work out a running plan with a trainer, who will, for example, give you advice on running speed (some will be at ease at 6 km/h whereas others will start with a brisk walking pace).
How often is best and how can I avoid injury or giving up?
First of all, you need to set yourself a reasonable target. Your running plan must also take account of what you can do and what you would like to do.
You can start by walking, then picking up the pace and gradually introducing short bursts of running of low-to-moderate intensity. The ideal rate is three times a week, although this can be difficult to maintain because of other commitments. The benefits will increase gradually, especially if you become a regular runner. It’s important to have one rest day after each run.
As a beginner, you could start with a 30-minute session once a week, then increase the number of sessions to twice then three times a week. If you cannot increase the number of runs per week, then you could increase the length of each session, gradually getting up to one hour, and make the run more difficult by introducing interval training or running uphill.
You should always listen to your body. If you experience unusual discomfort, chest pain, palpitations, or breathlessness which does not calm down at rest, then stop and see a doctor.
Do I need to have practised another sport and should running be supplemented with another sport?
No, if you’re already used to walking, you should be fine. But don’t set overly high goals at the start, especially if you run with someone who is fitter than you. You can also practice another complementary sport if you wish. The ideal would be to combine running with muscle-strengthening exercises for the legs and core. If you strengthen your muscles, you protect your joints.
Any advice about good running shoes?
Good running shoes should not be too heavy, and the sole should not be too thick, so that the foot can move naturally and feel the ground underneath. Opt for a classic-shaped non-fashion pair that is slightly bigger than your usual size, but not so much that your feet are slipping inside the shoes. So-called technical footwear is not always the most suitable for running. If you become an accustomed runner, but your feet feel uncomfortable or their shape changes, talk to a chiropodist.