With sweeping views of the sea at the Lizard in Cornwall, the crunch of leaves at Bath Parkrun and panoramic views at Castle Drogo, becoming a runner with the National Trust as your running partner makes the experience more than just a method to keep fit, but an enjoyable experience too.
For many of us, the concept of being a runner is akin to winning the lottery. It might sound good, but it’s unlikely to happen. Active runners are often gluttons for punishment who focus on putting their bodies through extreme conditions each and every day.
But, that shouldn’t scare you away from jumping on the running bandwagon.
Although the most familiar runners fit into the competitive model, there are many, many more who never see a starting or finishing line. They enjoy the feeling of going a few steps or feet further than last time. They enjoy the solitude of nature and untouched serenity. They all enjoy the obvious and important health benefits of running.
All types of endurance training have a physiological goal: increased cardiovascular strength and increased blood flow. The average human has about 10 pints of blood flowing through their body at any given time. After training, blood volume can increase as much as 30% in certain individuals. The primary reason for this increase is due to creation and extension of the tiniest blood vessels, or capillaries, that grow through endurance training.
Sedentary individuals suffer from a higher resting heartbeat (bad), poor circulation (worse) and higher blood pressure (worst). A poor diet and a lack of exercise all contribute to higher levels of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The only true way to combat these health evils is by embracing a fitness routine dedicated to improving and enhancing endurance abilities.
Tips for taking that first running stride
Step one: Release the fear
The simple act of rising from the couch and walking out the door is the first step - literally. From that point, it becomes a bit more difficult. Committing yourself to a running lifestyle is not an easy task. There is time factor. Of course, there is the pain factor. But, the biggest obstacle to embracing to an endurance sport is fear. Time and time again, the response is 'I’m not a runner. I can’t race. I would come in last if I ever tried.'
Step two: Set goals for yourself
To be successful, you need to set goals for yourself. Without goals and focus, running becomes a sometimes-thankless struggle. In starting out, time and distance goals are great places to begin. Challenge yourself to run for a bit longer or run a bit farther each week. After that, for beginner and experienced runners, race goals are perfect. For beginners, completing a 5K race is a proud moment. Measuring only 3.1 miles, the 5K allows all runners – from novices to experienced – to enjoy the thrill of competition. There are longer races, of course, ranging up to 26-mile marathons and even ‘ultra marathons’.
There are a great number of annual races on National Trust properties to help get you started down the road to competition.
Step three: Build a physical base
To build stamina and increase your speed, training as a runner should be a gradual, but organised process. Some suggestions include a schedule of walking, slow jogging and running mixed amongst 30-minute training sessions for five days per week. As your fitness increases, you can increase the running intervals against the walking or jogging. When you can handle the entire 30 minutes with ease, return to the interval but for an increased time period.
Using this simple system, you may very well find yourself a runner at the end of eight weeks.
But, remember, before starting any training programme, speak with your GP or health care provider. Any physical activity should begin with a stretching routine to decrease the chance of injury. Remember to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Step four: Embrace the lifestyle off the road
There are several basic rules for eating and hydration when preparing for your next run or competitive race:
Eat breakfast - after a full night’s rest, your levels of glycogen – the body’s primary fuel source that is stored in your liver – can be substantially lower. Your first priority should be refueling your body. It is ideal to choose food items which contain all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat). For instance, fresh fruit with a yoghurt or peanut butter, toast with eggs and low fat cheese, or whole grain cereals with milk.
3 - 4 hours before workout - eat foods high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, breads, fruits and smoothies. Also remember to drink plenty of water or sport drinks.
1 hour before workout - have a snack of an energy bar, a granola bar, 1/2 bagel, large banana, or 4 to 5 digestive biscuits. Continue to drink at least 300ml of water or sport drinks.
During breaks or time-outs - drink water or sport drinks during time-outs. A sports drink will also give you fuel and replace sodium that is lost through sweat.
After workout - drink at least 600ml of water or sports drink for every pound of body weight that you have lost while exercising. Therefore it is good to weigh yourself before and after workout. Also check the color of your urine for hydration status (the more yellow in color the urine, the more likely that you are dehydrated). Make sure to eat something within 30 minutes of ending your workout.
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