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Running for beginners

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

"I was always told I was too fat to run. I tried time and again on my own and always gave up," says Hev Dukes.

Then she joined a beginners' running club and hasn't looked back.
"Running now makes me happy not miserable. I'm still a plodder but I believe in myself and realise that's OK," adds Hev.

Running isn't all about Lycra shorts and personal bests it's a free exercise you can do anytime and anywhere at whatever speed you can manage. It burns more calories than most other forms of exercise too.

If you are thinking of giving running a go there are plenty of options. You can go by yourself, with a friend, join a beginners' running group or take part in a Parkrun.

You won't be alone. More than 7 million people in England went for a run last year, making it the second most popular sporting activity in the country.

"Since 2006, the number of people running on a weekly basis in England has grown by 72%," says Jenny O'Brien from RunTogether, which is an organisation developed by England Athletics to encourage running.

Start slowly

Don't feel you have to start off at a quick pace. Maybe begin walking rather than running. Running coach Karen Weir says: "Have patience and build up slowly. So if you can only manage 1 minute of running to start with, perfect, that's what you do and you should feel out of breath at the end of it, that's normal."

She says next time try to run a little further. "Walking isn't cheating, it's to be encouraged, especially when you are starting out," says Karen. "For most beginner runners to go out and run 20 minutes straight is just too much, the body will not be conditioned and the risk of injury is high."

Martin Lawrence is chairman of the Redway Runners in Milton Keynes. It's one of the biggest running clubs in the UK with 1200 members.
It runs a 10 week course for beginners which ends with graduation at a 5km Parkrun.

Martin also stresses the importance of a slow build-up. "The first week we may do a minute running with 60-90 seconds recovery and we do that 6 or 7 times. The next week we do 90 seconds running then recovery, the week after that we do 2 minutes running and then recovery and so on," explains Martin.

By the end of the 10 week course most people have built up to 13 or 14 minutes of running.
"A run-walk strategy is the best way to build up stamina from a heart and lung perspective and also a muscle strengthening perspective so the body can deal with the impact of running," advises Karen.

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