RUNNING: MUCH MORE THAN A FAST-GROWING SPORT ACTIVITY
You cross the finish line with your arms held high, surrounded by thousands of people running just like you and amidst indescribable happiness: it's your victory, your goal met, your challenge overcome. The benefits of running go much further than being in good physical shape. As it is an individual sport, it makes you a stronger person and improves your self-confidence.
If you would like to make this dream come true and be a real runner, jot down these three simple principles:
- Constancy: follow a suitable training programme.
- Motivation: have fun and set attainable goals.
- Awareness: pay attention to your feelings and listen to your body.
SEE INFOGRAPHIC: tips for new runners [PDF] External link, opens in new window.
Running does not take up much time: just running at a comfortable pace ("conversation pace" in runner-speak) for 45 minutes between two and four days a week is enough. But if you really want to improve, think about something a bit more full-on.
There are training plans on the internet but be very careful about them because they are not customised to your physical condition or level of fitness. The most recommended option is to sign up (for about EUR 25 or 35 a month) to a running club with supervised training.
The Spanish 3000 m Champion and Olympic athlete, Víctor García, trains more than 200 fun runners at his club VG Running in Madrid. "Fun and varied training programmes for working on strength, resistance and speed," he explains. I include series, stairs, hills, leg, arm and abdominal exercises, race technique, etc."
One of the most frequent mistakes amongst new runners is that they are in a hurry â they are dying to progress quickly. "They force themselves too much and they hurt themselves. That is why it is important to have a professional supervise the load, the volume and the intensity."
His diagnosis is confirmed by Raquel Landín, Spanish 3000 m Hurdles Silver Medallist and author of the novel Cariño, tenemos que hablar... de correr (darling, we have to talk... about running). As the official trainer for the Valencia 10 km Ibercaja Fun Run, she sees "lots of wanting to run a marathon as soon as possible but rushing into it like that may put an end to it all."
Work, family, travel, cold, rain... It is not always easy to train. That's why it is important to be motivated. Make the most of training as an escape route for stress or sign up for a run to get back into it. According to Víctor García, if we share our hobby with more people, it will be much easier to get out training because we are going to have help and company.
Raquel Landín, likewise, recommends setting attainable goals and making an effort to achieve them. In fact, "I look at each training session as a little challenge on the way to achieving the bigger goal. We often end up clapping and hugging because we know we've improved even more."
If you notice any bother, slow down your training pace a little â for a few days if necessary and see a doctor if it continues. Remember that rest is part of your training and is essential for your body to be able to take on the work without overloading or injuring it.
Running is a chance to find yourself. Leave your headphones at home once in a while and concentrate on your breathing, on what you are feeling: it is almost a moment of meditation. You will gradually come to know yourself better, you will measure your strength and you will reach the finishing line with reserve energy for the final sprint. You will be a more all-round runner.
Anima sana in corpore sano. Listen to your body and challenge it to improve a little more day by day.
From the couch to the tarmac
If you are not a very active person and you have decided to make the leap from the sofa to running, start by getting your body used to walking. Do it several times a week. How about changing part of your journey to work by car or bus to a good walk? Gradually increase the distance and the pace.
When you feel comfortable with long walks at a good pace, put on some sports shoes and try to alternate eight minutes walking and two running slowly for half an hour, three or four times a week. Week by week, increase the running by two minutes and reduce the walking by two minutes. Your goals? 15, 20, 30 minutes running, your first 5 km fun run... Go!