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Training & advice

Getting started

There is no doubt about it, we are currently experiencing a running boom. Runners are everywhere: running along the streets, through the parks, along trails and tracks. They run alone, in pairs and in groups. They have discovered the joy of running, the health benefits and the fact that it is inexpensive to take part. If you are yet to join the ranks just read on to find out why you should invest in a pair of running shoes and discover for yourself the joy of running.

First of all, let's look at  the health benefits of runnning:

  • It reduces risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, strokes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis
  • It can increase emotional well-being and confidence
  • It decreases levels of stress, depression and anxiety
  • It helps with weight loss and weight management
  • It increases muscular efficiency
  • It helps you enjoy better sleep
  • It gives you more energy
Wow! What are you waiting for? The other thing that we should also mention is that research suggests that we burn calories when we run but it doesn't stop there. When we've finished our run, our bodies expend calories to get the body back into its pre-run state. There is some debate as to how many calories we burn after exercise but in the article, Exercise After-Burn: Research Update, authors Dr. Len Kravitz and Chantal A. Vella reviewed a number of studies related to after-burn and found that a general range is about 30-120 calories for 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise, including cycling and treadmill, at 70% of VO2 max (about 80% of your maximum heart rate).

A more recent study has been carried out by Amy Knab of Appalachian State University. Knab and her colleagues recruited 10 men, aged 22 to 33, who agreed to spend two periods of 24 hours in a metabolic chamber, a small room that measures the calories people burn while they are inside. The men were not all athletes but they did have to be able to ride a bike vigorously. On the first visit to the chamber, the subjects had to stay perfectly still, sitting in a chair and moving only to eat meals. In the afternoon, they were permitted a two-minute stretch every hour. Bedtime was 10.30pm. At 6.30 the next morning, the subjects were awakened and allowed to leave. They burnt, on average, 2400 calories on this sedentary day.

The second visit to the chamber came two days later. Everything was the same, with one exception. At 11am, the subjects rode a stationary bicycle at a high intensity for 45 minutes. The exercise itself burnt about 420 calories and over the next 14 hours, the men burnt an extra 190 calories, increasing the total burnt by 37 per cent. Knab suggests that the intensity of the exercise affects the amount of calories burned. As in the previous study these subjects also had to cycle at 70 per cent of their VO2 max and they had to keep it up for 45 minutes.

This research has been done with people exercising at a fairly high intensity but it is important to start slowly if you are new to running and then gradually build the intensity. The first thing to do is to visit your GP and ask for his or her approval for you to start running. Once you have this reassurance you need to break into it gently in order to allow your body to adapt to a new exercise routine.

Run England and jogscotland have training support groups across the country with friendly trained leaders who specialise in helping people just like you. You don't have to do this alone, but you may want to, in which case you could make use of our Training Wizard.  Simply select "Start Running", select how many times a week you can run, "build aerobic base" and then choose an "easy" week. The Training Wizard will give you a programme that mixes walking and running. The walking breaks are important during your early days on a running programme. Running is an intense and repetitve activity. Your joints and muscles need time to adapt and grow strong. By bringing the intensity down to a walk for intervals during the run you allow recovery and so reduce the chance of injury. It would be a shame to be sidelined from your new exercise regimen by doing too much too soon.

We would advise that you stay on this training schedule for around six weeks before shifting your focus. Physiologically it takes around six weeks for the body to adapt to the training stimulus. You may choose to have a "medium" or "hard" week if you feel that you want more challenge but it would be wise to keep the target, number of sessions and focus the same for the first six weeks of running. It is likely that you will feel achey or sore after some of the sessions. When you train you put stress on your body and create tiny micro-tears in the muscles and so you can feel sore the next day and the day after that. This is normal so don't panic but it is also why we have a rule of thumb to take an easy day after each training day. It is also advisable to do your running on soft ground, if it is an option. The grass or trails are much more forgiving than the roads. Once you are handling the training load comfortably you could consider raising the intensity gradually so that you create the "after burn" and burn calories even when you're not running.

So, there you have the reasons to run and the schedule to follow. All you need to do now is to get those shoes on, get out of the door and find out just what it is that everyone else is enjoying and benefiting from. Good luck!