When I was in secondary school (that’s high school to most of the English speaking world), my physical education teacher used to be well-known for being a complete cop-out when it came to giving end of term grades. Basically, everyone, unless they were really exceptional, got a B+. I suppose he figured that if he gave everyone an A he would start to be scrutinised to see how much thought he was actually putting into his grading system. On the other hand, a B+ was not the kind of grade anyone could complain about.
Fortunately, I was really exceptional and managed to escape his extraordinary capacity for sitting on the fence. That’s why he gave me a C.
Fast forward fifteen years or so and I am well on my way to becoming a halfway decent, middle of the pack runner.
But my experience in school has made me well aware that starting to exercise can be very daunting when it is not something you feel confident about doing, or when you don’t have any experience (or worse still, when you had a bad experience with sports at school).
I have seen a lot of articles online about how to start running, but too many of them seem to involve some kind of commodification of what is essentially a free activity…
So let me state this clearly: running does not need to be an expensive hobby. Although it might help, it is not necessary to have a fitness tracking watch, and running gels and electrolyte drinks only become more important once you get up to longer distances.
Even getting a good pair of trainers can wait until later. The most important thing when starting out is simply to leave your house and get out into the world.
So here is my special secret formula for how to start running.
Are you ready?
Here it comes…
Just. Start. Running…
…rummage through your drawers, find any old T-shirt you have that you feel you can wear in public, get your most comfortable pair of trainers, pull on a neglected pair of shorts or trackie bottoms, and leave your house (remembering to take your door key with you of course). Walk to the end of the road, and then start power walking. Up the pace until you naturally can’t walk any faster without breaking into a gentle jog. Ignore your paranoid inner-voice…
…those people are looking at me, they’re judging me because I’m running and they can see that I have a gut!
Actually, they probably don’t care about you. At all.
Either that, or they’re jealous that you’re getting out there and doing it.
Maintain the gentle jog for as long as you feel you are able to without having a heart attack. Listen to your body.
Then walk again until you get your breath back. (This is called active recovery.)
Then repeat as many times as you feel able to do so.
It really doesn’t matter if your first attempt is less than a kilometre. You may not even enjoy the feeling that it gives you straightaway. You might, in fact, hate being out of breath, lightheaded and sweating. But I guarantee that once you have come home, showered and rewarded yourself with a drink and a cheeky little snack, you will be positively glowing.
A word about the photo: I took this on holiday in Cornwall. I went for an early morning run along the coastal path to seek out the lighthouse. (You can just about see it in the distance.) All of the scenery photos on this blog were taking using a simple point-and-shoot smart phone camera during runs. This is one of the many joys of getting out there.