Running is such a simple
sport; you’d think that just about anyone can do it. Not quite, as research has
shown that a full 50% of adults that start a running program quit within a few
weeks of starting out. Running really is the sport of the masses, all you need
is a pair of reasonable shoes, be in fairly good health, and any one can hit
the road. But, like any activity, it makes the sport more enjoyable if you do
things right from the start. Let the experts at Run/Walk for Life share some of
their secrets with you.
Read on to find out what
makes running so special and to take those first steps in getting prepared to
run your first 10Km event,
running so special?
Forget about the
Comrades for a moment, why on earth should anyone want to run? According to the
American Council of Sports Medicine, the advantages of running just three times
a week, for up to 40 minutes, include weight loss, lowering of risk factors for
coronary heart disease including high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol
levels, improving muscle tone and reducing the dependency on medication for conditions
such as asthma and diabetes.
But one shouldn’t just
run because its good for you, but because it exhilarating and liberating.
Stick with it for a while and you too will succumb to its attractions! But
beware, like all new runners you will be faced with a bewildering array of
advice, whether from the press or the well-meaning friend, who once ran a 5km
fun run in the previous century. Don’t despair; we have put together a great
running programme for beginners that will transform you from a couch potato to
an athlete lining up at the start of a 10km road race in just 8 short weeks!
first step to lining up on the Comrades start line:
Be committed: It probably took you a few years to pile on the
extra kilos and lose your fitness, so be realistic and don’t expect to regain
all that you’ve set your mind to in days. Our 8 week programme is the ideal
first goal, and remember, if you should skip a day, be kind to yourself, get
right with the program the following day! Remember that often the most difficult
aspect of running is getting those shoes laced up. Be prepared to struggle a
bit in the beginning, but rest assured that the more you do it the easier it
Join A Running
a lifestyle change can be a daunting task, and the most common training error
that one should be careful not to fall prey to is that most peculiar of
" Terriblykeenitis ". Novice runners usually exercise too
vigorously because they are uncertain about what intensity of exercise is
required to produce benefit. Consequently they suffer feelings of severe
physical discomfort to ensure that they are benefiting – "no pain equals no
gain". The problem with the above approach is that, as they become
fitter, they have to endure ever increasing amounts of physical discomfort and
also are exposed to an increasing risk of running injuries.
Don’t rush headlong into
a poorly devised exercise regime, rather join a running program like RUN/WALK
FOR LIFE where one can turn your average jog into an aerobic workout, and
receive excellent advice and motivation while training, in safety, with
likeminded people. All you need to do is to put aside an hour a day, three
times a week, not too difficult is it? Many novices experience extreme boredom
when running. Much of this boredom results from the social conditioning
that takes place throughout life: at nursery school we are taught to play in
groups; at primary and high school we are taught to play in teams.
As adults, much of our
social recreation is carried out in groups. It is not surprising
therefore that people become bored while exercising alone. The programme
recognises this frailty by organising its activities in groups comprised of
people with similar levels of fitness. Should you be forced to miss a session
remember that running can be carried out virtually in any weather and in any
place. Running does not require special skills, expensive apparatus, a
court, a gymnasium, music or even a partner.
The programme acts as a
support system to get you started on the path to improved fitness and
eventually that first Comrades medal.
yourself some measurable, reasonable, specific and short-term and diverse
goals. Set a time period that is short enough to motivate you but long enough
to allow results. For example:
able to run 10 minutes non-stop within 3 weeks, 30 minutes within 7 weeks
a first 5km fun run in 8 weeks
a 10km road race in 16 week
Choose the right
a novice entering a running store is like stepping into a strange new world. A
bewildering array of different manufacturers, shoe types, clothing and other
hi-tech goodies like heart rate monitors confronts and confuses you, so let’s
cut through all the advertising jargon and give you the real meaningful
The most important
equipment that you’ll need is undoubtedly a pair of running shoes that should
provide flexibility, cushioning, durability and motion control according to
your own biomechanical make up. In choosing a good shoe you must consider your
weight, foot type such as pronator or supinator, running surface, previous
injury history, weekly mileage, how often you run and whether you wear
orthotics, a custom made in-sole in your shoes.
We strongly advise that
you seek professional help from a reputable specialist running store. Chain
stores may save you a few rand on price, but sound advice from an expert will
enhance your running experience and prevent future costly medical bills!
Finding the best pair of shoes for your feet and sizing them properly is the
specialist stores’ areas of expertise, and unlike the chain stores will have a
returns policy in the unlikely event of your shoes not quite living up to
Breaking in modern
running shoes are quite simple: walk around in the shoes for a few hours and
pay attention to any manufacturing defects such as lumps, loose stitching,
rubbing etc. Next off go for a short run and if all is still well then use
them, although you may choose to alternate you old and new shoes for a few days
to make the transition phase more gradual.
The days of running in
your old army issue T-shirt and takkies are long gone. Modern apparel now
include moisture management fabrics, breathable water-proofs and caps, socks
made for either the left or right foot!, reflective gear, energy belts and a
host of sport specific accoutrements, go and check it out!
Train safe: Be sure that you are reasonably healthy, and should
you have been inactive for a while, and you’ve been hitting the beer and burger
trail, we suggest a visit to your GP for a quick check up. While you’re there
set your mind at ease and have your Blood pressure and cholesterol levels
checked, and discuss any other problems like pains in the chest, shortness of
breath, dizziness and joint pains. RUN/WALK FOR LIFE screens all new members
for the risk of coronary heart disease and will refer for the relevant medical
tests if required.
On the subject of
safety, always run on well-lit roads where possible, always face oncoming
traffic, and wear bright reflective gear in the dark. Avoid deserted stretches
of road and always tell a friend which way you’re going, and when to expect you
back from your run.
Loosen up: Those muscles haven’t worked or a
while, be gentle with them and start with a gentle stretching session before
every run. Ten minutes worth of stretching will prepare your body for what’s to
follow. We strongly recommend that you start each exercise session with
flexibility exercises such as static stretching.
Not only will these stretching
exercises improve your range of motion and help you cope better with daily
tasks, but also it will help prevent running related injuries. Ideally, one
should stretch all the major muscle groups associated with running, such as the
hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and the upper body.
Each stretch should be
held for 20 – 30 seconds, without any bouncing or jerking, and only to the
point of mild discomfort. We suggest that if you have a temperamental back you
avoid any twisting or bending movements. Stretch gently to the point of mild
discomfort and don’t jerk or bounce while stretching, it only looks impressive
in the movies!
It is also advisable to cool down with some gentle stretching exercises after
your exercise session.
How much do I
The most frequently asked question by all novice runners! Our. RUN/WALK FOR
LIFE program will start you off with walking first, just to ease those sleeping
muscles back to reality, and then slowly we’ll start introducing running into
your training plan. In the beginning time spent on your feet is more important
than distance, but we will guide you on this. Rest days are just that: rest
days. Treat yourself, go to a movie, and impress all your friends by telling
them that you are on a rest day in your running program. See the respect in
How fast should I run? There are
numerous formulae that will urge you to stick to a certain pulse range, but
heck, you have difficulty in just placing one foot in front of the other at
times! The secret is in the breathing, always run while maintaining a negative
talk test, that is ensure that you do not have any long spaces between your
words when talking on your run. Think of word spacing as orange on a traffic
light, if you don’t slow down the next stage will be a red light and a complete
stop! Now we don’t want that do we? After all, we’re athletes in training!
Once you laid a solid
foundation of regular running you can start toying with pulse ranges, but for
now, no more heavy breathing from you, please gentlemen!
after my run?
Prevent any dizziness or feelings of faintness by walking around briskly for
about 5 minutes and allowing those muscles the luxury of a gentle cool down and
enjoy the feeling of post exercise euphoria! Finish the session off with an
easy stretching session and enjoy that hot shower, you’ve earned it! You have
become a runner after all!
What to do if
you experience muscle pain after running?
It is sometimes
unavoidable that exercise will cause some discomfort or pain, but fortunately
there are tried and trusted methods to diminish and stop the pain. Bear in mind
that most people will go through an adaptive phase in which some novice runners
commonly experience discomfort as muscles and connective tissue adapt to
regular exercise, but help is at hand and the following are the most common
A commercial ice pack or frozen vegetables wrapped in a damp cloth, and
applied to the site of pain for 10 minutes, will help stop pain and reduce
heat: This can take the form of a hot bath, a shower, hot packs and warm
towels. Used for 10 minutes these methods will also alleviate the
symptoms. Your physiotherapist may use ultrasound to deliver deep heat in
therapies: Physiotherapists can instruct you on relaxation techniques that
will enable you to release muscle tension.
Other pain relief
methods that may be used include Hydrotherapy, as exercising in water reduces
the impact on certain joints and Mobilization therapies such as traction and
How to maintain
We all go through phases
where motivational levels are low and the lure of staying in bed or in front of
the TV seem so much more fun than to lace up those running shoes. Here are some
foolproof ideas that really work:
Keep your Logbook detailed and up-to-date: RUN/WALK FOR LIFE places huge
importance on the keeping of Logbook records as they provide invaluable
training data and serve as a great source of inspiration.
- Make running fun. Don’t let running become
another stress in your life, but let it be a de-stressor by allowing you
to tune out and be in touch with your inner self and nature again.
- Add variety. Change your routes regularly;
include some cross country or trail running routes in your weekly runs,
cross train by cycling, swimming or whatever else takes your fancy.
- Find new challenges. Enter a road race, or enter
an out of town race and make a family weekend of it. Set new goals
for Personal Best times, offer your services as a helper or marshall at a
local race and see how it gets the competitive juices flowing again. Run
with a Heart rate monitor, and you’ll be amazed at how this silent partner
can inspire you.
- Feel good about yourself. Positively reinforce
the many triumphs you have experienced: the weight lost, the smaller
clothes size to show off the newer sleeker you, the health benefits like
lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol levels, the road race triumphs, the
increased self-esteem! You’ll be amazed at the many positive changes that running
ahs brought to your life.
- Read more. Nothing is as
motivating as reading running articles, learning about some new
innovation, running shoe or road race, sharing in the countdown to major
events as Comrades, reading how the champions prepare for Comrades and a
host of other running related information.
- Make a new running friend. And if its one of the
opposite sex even better! Make a definite arrangement to meet your new
friend and knowing that you have a commitment to meet someone means that
there is less likelihood of you finding an excuse for not going on that
run. . RUN/WALK FOR LIFE sessions provide the ideal environment for not
only formalizing exact training days and times but also the opportunity to
make new, like-minded friends.
Ray Bienedell’s 16 week 10 km programme for novice runners
(You must be in
Mo 20 minutes of walking
Mo 20 minutes walking/jogging
Mo 25 minutes walking/jogging
Mo 3 km of easy running
Mo 3 km of easy running
Th 4 km of easy running
Mo 3 km of easy running
Mo 3 km of easy running
Mo 4 km of easy running
Mo 20 minutes of walking
Mo 50 minutes walking/jogging
Mo 65 minutes walking/jogging
Mo 3 km of easy running
Mo 4-5 km of easy running
Mo 5 km of easy running
Mo 5-6 km of easy running
Mo 4 km of easy running
Operations Director: Run/Walk for Life
(Ray Bienedell is the
Director of Operations with Run/Walk For Life and has managed the Randburg
branch of RWFL for 17 years, during which time membership peaked at an
incredible 700 members. A seasoned marathoner with over 140 marathons, 5
Comrades, 2 100-milers Ray has blended his running experience with an unique
ability to motivate and educate everyone that he comes into contact with.)