Fitness plan: Reach weight loss ‘goals’ by following Olympic runner’s advice

Expert explains why enjoying exercise is important

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As a beginner runner it’s exciting to get started, reach new goals and find the joy running can bring. However, it can also sometimes be overwhelming knowing where to start, how to set realistic goals and how not to overexert yourself. So in order to get people up and at it with confidence, four-time Olympian Donna Fraser OBE, has launched a beginner running programme ‘Give Me 5’ with community fitness app Her Spirit, that offers tips on how to get started and why a holistic approach to running is the best approach.

There are many benefits to running, some of them including improved aerobic fitness, increased metabolism, stress relief, achieving peace and solitude, or increased social interaction – and it is also a great mood booster.

Donna began by recommending new runners who have been sedentary for over a year to get medical clearance from their GP before starting a new exercise routine.

She said: “There are so many reasons to build running into your wellness routine.

“It has physical, social and mental benefits, a low bar of entry, is inexpensive and you can do it almost anywhere.

“It’s also an activity that spans the ages, many people take up running in their 50s and 60s for example.”

1. Avoid injury

You should also invest in some comfortable and well-fitting running shoes to ensure you look after your feet and ankles.

“I would recommend going to a shop to talk through your options as everyone has different feet and running gait, therefore you will need the right trainers to avoid injury,” Donna advised.

2. Warm up

Always make sure that you warm up before starting a run. You can do this by fast walking for five minutes and doing some dynamic stretching.

This will help ensure that your muscles are warmed up so you don’t injure yourself.

3. Run in intervals

To start off your running journey, begin with combining intervals of walking with short bursts of jogging.

This will build endurance and is less stress on the joints. You could do two minutes of walking with a 30 second burst of jogging to start with, and then start to decrease the amount of time walking and increase the time running.

Controlling your breathing is key when starting out, practice breathing techniques even when you’re not exercising to help you get into a rhythm.

4. Set goals

Aim for consistency in your first few weeks, for example running a certain amount of times a week, rather than how fast or how far.

Put together an achievable schedule that you know you can stick to with rest days in between.

“My running programme, Give Me 5, which you can find on Her Spirit has the simple aim of getting you out three times a week and building to 5K over eight weeks,” Donna said.

Small, realistic goals like this help boost your confidence and give you a great foundation.

5. Take form into account

Everyone has a different style of running, but these tips will help you keep your form; keep your eyes looking ahead, never at the floor.

Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and try to relax your hands rather than tightening them into fists which can create tension in your shoulders and neck.

Try to relax your shoulders and not hunch them up and keep your posture straight.

Check in on yourself and your body regularly and readjust, it’s fine to stop to give yourself the space to do this. And don’t forget your breathing technique.

6. Other factors

Take a holistic approach to your running journey.

This means looking at other things you can do alongside running to complement it and that also help your recovery.

Donna said: “I would recommend adding in strength training, yoga or pilates, and even meditation to your routine. Strength training is important for runners because it strengthens muscles and joints which can improve your running and decrease injury risk.”

Yoga and pilates are amazing in strengthening your core which can be neglected when running.

Practising meditation can increase your power of concentration, strengthen your willpower, and overcome mental distractions, which are all good things when it comes to running.

“If you are feeling sore or tired why not spend less time running and more time doing mobility exercises for that session.

“Keep it fun by running with friends or joining a fitness community.”

She added: “Be kind to yourself if you miss a run, self-care is just as important and you need time to recover.”

7. Nutrition

Another big thing to keep in mind when it comes to having a holistic approach to running is nutrition.

Running creates micro-tears in our muscles which then repair, but they can only do so when they have the necessary nutrients.

Before you go for a run, eat a meal full of complex carbs and good fats such as porridge with nuts to give you enough energy.

Always make sure to eat a healthy snack that includes protein like full-fat Greek yoghurt and nuts or an apple with peanut butter straight after your run.

Drink lots of fluids and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables which contain water throughout the day.

By all means take water on your run, take little sips but often to avoid getting that dreaded stitch.

“Make sure running fits into the big picture of your life, not the other way around,” Donna said.

“If you are feeling sore or tired why not spend less time running and more time doing mobility exercises for that session.

“Keep it fun by running with friends or joining a fitness community.”

She added: “Be kind to yourself if you miss a run, self-care is just as important and you need time to recover.”

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