With a new year comes new goals. Starting running to improve your fitness, lose weight, or tick a half marathon off the bucket list might be front and centre in your New Year’s resolutions, but it can seem a really daunting task. If you’re not “run fit”, running is a particular type of unpleasant – a type of breathlessness that is scary and a muscular pain that can really torture the soul. Here are some tips and guides to help you tackle this goal head on.

1. Download a running app

A couch to 5k programme can provide you with a structured guide to running, providing you with ample warm up and interval training, often starting with one minute runs and two minute walks to ease even the most unfit into a tolerable session. Being told when to walk and run is very nice when you are just trying to breathe! Of course, these tend to be a “one size fits all” approach, so do not feel bad if you need an extra 4-6 weeks to get to that 5k goal or if you need to start with even shorter running intervals. Running to what you feel is a perfectly okay way to start.

2. Invest in appropriate gear

You don’t need to worry about expensive outfits for running in, but clothes that breathe and feel comfortable are important. Footwear can also really help minimise the risk of injury and make you feel more comfortable while you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Go to Shoe Science or a similar shop to have your shoes fitted to you, your running style, and to your particular goal.

3. Learn how to run

Running is a skill, much like anything else we learn to do with our bodies. There are more economical ways to run and there are more energy-expending ways to run. If you are not a runner yet, you have a special advantage to set your running style – something that can be hard to change once you already have a habit. Stride length, cadence, where your foot’s point of contact is, arm movements, posture – all can impact your energy expenditure and risk of injury. There is a wealth of knowledge out there including books and blogs, but touching base with a running coach could be far more advantageous.

Here at AUT Millennium, we are fortunate enough to have Kiri Price, who takes the Deep Water Running classes and coaches runners in groups and one-on-one. After over 180 marathons, she can share a few expert tips on how to run with greater ease and economy of movement. If one-on-one coaching is a bit more than you are prepared to tackle right now, Kiri takes a group session for running beginners on Monday mornings which is free to AUT Millennium Gym members and is full of helpful tips on running style and form.

4. Remember rest and recovery

Physiotherapists see so many injuries when people have decided to start running or suddenly increase their running. A key feature is volume and inadequate recovery periods. I would recommend starting running every other day or three days a week with no consecutive days of running. Running is very good for you if you don’t stress the body. Remember that rest and recovery is just as much a part of training as the actual run itself. Without it, the body will fail to adapt to the increased loads and respond with pain or injury instead.

5. Strengthen the body for load

Trying to run on weak muscles can lead to injury and increased energy expenditure, so having a musculoskeletal assessment from your physio can highlight any areas of potential risk. A management plan to work on while you implement your new running regime will be part of the greater picture. I would recommend doing these strengthening exercises post-run, and on the same day. This will still enable you to achieve that important full day of rest.

6. Cross-training

Using other forms of exercise to give the body “relative rest” from running will help minimise running-related injuries while continuing to maintain or improve your fitness and strength. Yoga, exercise bike, pilates and swimming, to mention a few, all can provide the body with the variety it needs to continue regular training while relieving it of the repetitive stress that running can sometimes ultimately cause.

Kiri recommends finding the “why?” in your run and using this to fuel your motivation. Be it fitness, weight loss, keeping up with the kids, or ticking off a marathon, using this motivation to design your programme and keep you focused will pay dividends in the long term. She also encourages you to forget about the gadgets. All you need is to know how you are feeling and how much time is passing, the rest can inundate you with useless information that challenges you to compete with unrealistic expectations. As she says, “just run”.

For a musculoskeletal assessment to ensure you are ready to start running well, and tips and guides on how to move from a novice to a runner, come in and see one of the team at Healthzone Physiotherapy. We will provide you with a programme and some simple tips and cues to help you achieve your goals safely and effectively.

Contact HealthZone Physiotherapy today on: (09) 477 2098

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Rebecca graduated from AUT in 2008 with her Bachelor of Health Science in Physiotherapy and started working in a West Auckland private practice. She quickly gained an interest in sports physiotherapy including injury prevention and management. Rebecca worked for four years with premier and reserve club rugby teams including Waitemata and Kumeu / Helensville. She was the physio for the Western Pioneers team in 2012 when they won the North Harbour competition. Rebecca also practiced as a community physiotherapist administering the Otago Exercise Programme which focused on falls prevention for the independent elderly. Through these clients, she developed a curiosity in chronic pain conditions. While she has had plenty of experience in standard post surgical rehabilitation, she took a particular interest in Functional Reactivation Programmes, which work with people suffering persistent pain and complex recoveries post surgery or injury. Rebecca takes an interest in working with clients who have exhausted their channels within the health profession for the management of their pain and enjoys the challenge of helping these patients manage their conditions and return to activities of daily living. To aid in this work, she went on to get her Postgraduate Certificate in Rehabilitation from AUT. Rebecca’s passions include travel, yoga, food, comedy and film – don’t get her started on the topic of movies if you don’t have the time and energy to discuss them with her. She lives in central Auckland and is fiercely local – preferring to commute every day across the bridge than to live any distance away from friends and family!