How to become a runner: top tips from a gold medallist

Could you make your New Year’s resolution to become a runner? Since you are reading this post on Top Running Tips let’s assume you are either a keen runner already or thinking about taking up running for the first time. Surely there’s no better time than the New Year to begin or revive your athletics career. Unfortunately, most of us know that New Year’s resolutions seldom last beyond the end of January (at best). This is a problem for anyone wanting to take up running for the first time or re-kindle an earlier running flame. Making progress at running is not something that can be achieved in a few afternoons because the physical and/or mental changes that will be needed when becoming a runner cannot be rushed. So, if you want to become a runner, or become better at running, you will have commit to a steady plan to last at least two months; i.e. to the end of February if you were to start on New Year’s Day. That is not such a long time to achieve what might be a transformation of your health.

This isn’t just my idea, but is one promoted by Frank Shorter, Olympic Marathon Gold Medallist in 1972, the man widely credited with the explosive rise in the popularity of distance running across the U.S.A. If you are a complete novice, how does Frank Shorter think you should cope with the two month period before you can expect to see real benefits start to appear? The good news for the nervous novice is that he reckons a beginner who wants to become a runner will not need to run every day for two months. In Frank’s opinion the ideal way to start is fix on 30 minutes sessions, three times a week. Get hold of a heart rate monitor and aim to run with a pulse rate of about 120 heart beats per minute. The idea is that if you are willing to commit to just 3 runs a week you are almost bound to feel better after two months of running at that sort of pace, when you will begin to see all the other physical and mental benefits that flow from running regularly.

For experienced runners the idea of increasing the speed or distance of their runs for a couple of months might not sound too challenging, but setting aside three runs per week to run a little further or faster on a regular basis should also pay dividends.

To stay focussed and make running a lifelong pursuit, join one of the many local training clubs you can probably find locally, or discover if there is a local parkrun in your area. If you are not willing to commit to membership of a running club, you could well find that the free support you can find at a parkrun event is just what you are looking for.

Starting to run doesn’t have to mean beginning on January 1st in any year. But it does need resolution to build up the running habit. It normally takes about two months for the habit to become established and for the benefits to be noticeable. During this two month period the beginner should aim to run at least three times a week for thirty minutes and more experienced runners should use the thirty minute slot to up the pace or intensity of their training. The results will not lead to Olympic glory, but if you do follow the advice of Olympic champion Frank Shorter you will be on the right track to becoming a runner.

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