Running is one of the most accessible ways of exercising, you don't need complicated equipment - you just need to put one foot in front of the other. But by applying a few straight forward principles you can gain far greater benefits from this simple exercise.
Get the right kit
Having the right clothing will help you get into the right mind-set, but you don't need to spend lots of money:
- Shoes - buy good running shoes with cushioning. It's worth visiting a specialist store, as they'll advise on the right shoes for your fitness goals.
- Clothing - wear breathable clothing that absorbs sweat. It should allow freedom of movement, and keep you at a comfortable temperature.
Set the pace and gradient
Adding variety, in terms of pace and gradient, will help you stay motivated and lead to greater fitness gains. Don't be tempted to start out at your friends' pace - choose the right pace for you and build up slowly.
At an 'easy' pace, you'll be able to talk fairly comfortably. It's the pace you'll return to on shorter runs if you've been training hard and need to recover. If you use a heart rate monitor, it will be showing 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate.
At a 'steady' pace, you can speak a sentence or two at a time. Half to three quarters of your running should be at this pace. It is the key to a good base of fitness, conditioning your cardiovascular system and all the key muscle groups. It's about 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.
'Tempo' is the name we give to a brisk pace - you'll only be able to say a short sentence at a time. However, this is not flat out running. Once you feel confident, you could aim to run 'at tempo' for 10-20 minutes. Running at this pace should always be done after a warm up and followed with a warm down. It's at about 90% to 95% of your maximum heart rate.
At 'speed', you'd rather not speak at all. Only use this speed if you're very confident with 'tempo' training. Due to the intensity, running at this pace should be done in short blocks of 30 seconds to five minutes with recovery in between. A good warm up and warm down before and after this running is vital.
Running uphill is more demanding than running on the flat. Don't forget that a treadmill is easier to run on than the flat, as the belt is driven backwards. You can use a 1% incline to compensate.
A good routine will be one you can undertake regularly, and one that mixes all the above paces. Look to build up the length of your run at each session and complete a good proportion at a steady pace. As you progress, you can use a routine to vary your session - easy, steady run, tempo, steady run, easy. Finally, don't forget to warm down when you're done.
Read more about Warming up and down.