In truth, I could write this about a whole bunch of things, essentials for good coding practice, shooting a video, guitar/bass set ups…but at the moment my life is almost entirely consumed by my training for the London Triathlon. This has given me a fairly unique perspective on exercise as a whole, I’ve gone from running with no serious commitment, to swimming, riding and running taking time away from my social life.
This (comes with an apology) means that I have very little else to talk about beyond times, improvements and distance, but it does mean a fair few people I know come to me for advice on the best way to get into regular exercise.
I’m not going to pretend I can give anyone serious advice on swimming, I could bore everyone to death about bikes, running on the other hand, if you want to get into that, I can genuinely boil my advice to a beginner down to a few essentials!
So where do we start?
1. Well fitted/correct footwear.
I can’t stress this enough, if you haven’t run since school or the last time you were late for a bus, trust me you know nothing about stride form, pronation….again this is boring stuff, but there is good news! There are people in running shops who know all about this AND have the exactly the footwear YOU need.
Bad news, I’m not going to pretend a trip to a running shop to get properly fitted trainers is going to be cheap. If your budget can stretch to £100, you will be fine (unless you have something very wrong with your feet).
There is good news though!
If you get properly fitted footwear, you reduce the risk of damage to your feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips…basically your body. It might sound a little crazy to spend that much on a pair of trainers that are (lets face it) ugly, but they will do you more good in the long run and if you get the wrong structure/support you risk doing damage and getting put off running because of aches and pains.
MORE GOOD NEWS! Once you get to know your stride you don’t have to rely on premium shops that do the assessments, because you will know what you need. The first visit is very important though.
2. Decent underwear/shorts
It feels strange to be offering advice to anyone about their pants, but here goes…
Once you get past the shoes, the next danger zone is the tops of your legs. You will sweat and friction with bad underwear choice will be…unpleasant.
What I’m trying to say is keep the tops of your thighs separate. I don’t care how you do it, but make DAM SURE you do. I know people who swear by impact leggings and then a pair of light shorts over the top to protect their…dignity. There are loads of ways to work this out, most of it depends on what is in your wardrobe.
If you have something that can be passed as athletic shorts/trousers (seriously, who doesn’t have at least one pair of track suits trousers in their wardrobe?) then a pair of lycra shorts/boxers will be your new best friend.
Personally I run in a pair of Nike Combat lycra boxers and basket ball shorts (tracksuit trousers in the winter), it protects my thighs and means I’m not…on display…when I’m running.
GOOD NEWS! If you pay a visit to your local discount sports store, you can spend around £5 to get some decent leg/thigh protection. You don’t have to spend £25 on breathable lycra shorts yet.
3. A Stop Watch!
There are people in this world who swear by apps that track your distance, heart rate, steps taken, blood pressure, hydration level, distance to the nearest toilet, level of annoyance at smartphones….personally, if you are just starting out, break it right down to the simple solution for now.
If you still have a watch, cool, if you don’t every phone has a stop watch.
Here is the beauty of it…
Get warmed up, find a nice spot to run (parks are great), start the timer and don’t stop until you are out of breath, then clock stop. Take a note of that time, we’ll call this the optimum. Start the clock as you walk to get your breath back, when you feel like you can run again, clock stop. Repeat.
This is a very personal thing, as it depends entirely on your fitness level.
But here is a system that worked for me and I’ve seen work for others too.
If your optimum is around 5 minutes, lets set a total run time around the 20 minute mark or 4 times you optimum. So…
5 minutes running.
Get your breath back, but don’t stop moving and time it.
Try to run for as long as possible, but you will likely hit the 3 minute mark.
Get your breath back, again, don’t stop moving and time it.
Just keep repeating this process until you have run for 20 minutes in total, its really important that you don’t get down hearted that you don’t hit the optimum again, just keep working towards the total, it doesn’t matter if you do it in minute bursts, as long as you get there.
You don’t have to be precise, its more of a ball park, but generally round down.
So you’ve completed your first run, be prepared to ache the day after. Leave it 2 or 3 days between runs at this stage, your recovery time will improve over time, as will your fitness.
Next run, repeat the stop watch process, optimum, rest times, total etc.
Each time you go out, you will have a tangible value which you WILL see improve, providing you keep putting in the graft.
Once you can comfortably run for 10 – 15 minutes non stop, then start thinking about apps and distance, but in the early stages, just keep watching the times and embrace every improvement, even if its a slightly shorter rest, running for a minute longer or feeling good enough to push your total…embrace it, feel proud of your improvements and keep on pushing on.
A friend who is a little bit fitter than you. They can be an excellent motivator or just do the timing for you. If you are doing the timing, its a great trick to accidentally forget to check the time to push your friend on that bit more.
Podcasts/audiobooks. Not great for setting a pace to, but I’ve found they can really help offset some of the monotony that can happen.
Motivation. Yes, that sounds obvious, but I’m not talking about the generics, I need to get fitter/thinner/whatever, I’m talking a race. I always suggest 10km as a goal, find a race that 6 months away and enter. Pick a charity you really care about and raise some money for it!
I decided to enter the London Triathlon to raise money for CALM, who want to “save the male”. In simple terms, they are a suicide support group, they want to help people feeling like suicide might be an option AND the families and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide.
It’s fairly clear, I guess, that I have lost someone to suicide, and so far I have raised over £500 to help CALM, I am hoping to raise more, because I genuinely hope they can help someone at risk and they make the decision to keep fighting on and their family and friends do not have to go through what I have. I can not stress how much of a motivator that is.
If you’ve read this far and fancy supporting me goal of completing an olympic distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run) then feel free to head over to: