"Running! What could be more straightforward?" I hear you cry. Well, I’ve made a number of school-girl errors over the years, ranging from painful chafing to embarrassing and unintentional flashing, all of which have made me the runner I am today... basically, much the same as I was 10 years ago, but slightly more wizened. I have, however, learned some valuable lessons and want to share my 10 top tips for a great run (they may well help you, too).
That’s limber, not limbo … though this would make a for a pretty fun warm up. Pre-run, it’s all about dynamic stretching which does a better job of warming your whole body up leaving you less prone to injury. Think hip flexors, leg extensions, jumping jacks, planks with knees to elbows, all of which will have you as ready as a gazelle in the savannah.
Always, ALWAYS, go to the toilet before you leave.
Even if you think you don’t need to, go. Paula Radcliffe proved that even the best runners in the world are sometimes caught short. All that jogging up and down makes it hard to think about anything else and frankly ruins a good run. There’s nothing wrong with ‘au naturale’ toilet stops, but it’s hard to camouflage yourself behind a tree in your high-vis.
Take your phone.
This one has multiple benefits. You have your running apps, routes, heart rate monitor, fartlek instructions and music playlists all in one place, making it one of the handiest bits of kit around. However, most importantly, it is your phone and you never know when you might need to make an emergency call. It can play a vital role in keeping you safe. It’s also handy for calling ahead to say you’ll be home in 10 minutes and can someone put the kettle on.
Wear a sports bra.
This one is really for the ladies, though I’m not one to judge. Not only is it important to protect your assets and prevent unnecessary sagging, if you’ve ever run without one you’ll know that it is frankly uncomfortable! Bouncing is never good, can cause long term damage and is rather distracting.
Plan a route.
There have been many times when I’ve decided to just go out for a run to “see where it takes me”, firmly believing it would be a freeing experience and a great adventure. Generally it’s a terrible idea! Often times I’ve ended up lost or too far from home having accidentally added an extra 5 miles onto my longest ever run. Running whilst being heckled by cows is a whole other kind of adventure racing and should not be undertaken lightly. Take 5 minutes before you head out to plan and measure out a run. It also helps you to pace yourself if you know exactly how long and hilly your route is.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choice in running shoes out there, but the answer to that is not to stick with your Converse All Stars. Comfy sneaks are the make or break of a good run and are the one piece of kit worth investing in. Get yourself fitted in a proper sports store and make sure that you’ve got a little wiggle room for your toes. Blackened toe-nails are so last year...
High vis kit is not just for Lollipop men/women. Although they have their downsides when you’re caught short, they will keep you easy to spot in poor weather and dark nights, which is of vital importance when you’re running on roads.
Stretching is your friend.
Unless you are heading off to a Wild West fancy dress party the next day, stretching is of vital importance. Static stretching is not just for Yoga lovers. When you get home from your run, don’t just collapse on the sofa admiring how sweaty your legs are. Get up and stretch out those hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads and even your chest.
Have a glass of the cold stuff.
Milk - it’s not just for your cereal. Studies have shown that milk is better than both water and sports drinks at restoring fluid levels and if drunk regularly can increase the time it takes to reach exhaustion during subsequent exercise sessions. So if you want to keep on having good runs, treat yourself to a glass. The best news is that this also includes chocolate milk!
Do it with mates, alone, listening to tunes, following podcasts, in a running club, adventure racing, coached through your phone, being pelted with colours, over fells, cross country, track running, hill running, through cities or even being chased by zombies. It’s your time and your run, so whatever you like, do it as much as you can, enjoy it and you’re sure to have a great run!
Bonus tip! If you’re feeling ready to bring the fun into your run, you could even sign up for the Run Reigate 10K! It's a huge event with medals, t-shirts, food stalls, bands and hundreds of people cheering you home in your first race.