Getting started: how to run a mile
When you’re starting out with running, you may think that walking is ‘cheating’. But it really isn’t! Every beginner’s running programme starts with walking, and you’ll have to walk before you can run. Aim to begin by running for just 30 seconds, then walking until you have caught your breath, and then repeating it – check out our beginner’s training plan for details.
Walking to run
Even seasoned marathon runners throw a walk break now and then, and with good reason. By alternating running with walking, you’ll give your body a chance to recover from the impact of running. Use your walk breaks to take in what’s going on around you. Look at the view, enjoy the sun on your back or the rain on your face, and feel the ground beneath your feet.
Benefits of walking in training
When you start training using a run/walk schedule, not only will you help protect yourself from many common injuries, you’ll also make greater improvements because you should be able to train for longer before you tire. If you can only run 50 metres before becoming out of breath, you should walk for the next 50 to recover before starting to run again.
Most first-timers start off by running too fast and too hard. It might last only a few minutes, but it’s an experience that can put them off running forever. Walking is an easier and gentler introduction to running – it’s more sustainable and will not leave you feeling disillusioned.
Take the talk test
Throughout your running training, you can also use the talk test to gauge whether you are going too fast. When you’re starting out this is particularly useful. If you’re too out of breath to chat to a training partner, slow down a little, and walk, until you get your breath back. Then start to jog but a little more slowly. This gentle approach will allow you to improve without denting your enthusiasm.
Easing back into training
Run/walking is a strategy that works for experienced runners too. If you are coming back to running after an injury, run/walk is a great way to ease slowly back into training. Start running for one minute, then walking for one, and if everything feels fine, then increase the time you run without extending the walk break. Eventually you will be able to drop the walking entirely.
Ready to run?
Once you’ve dropped the walking and are running (pretty much!) all of the time you’re out, there’s a little extra work to do before and after training to help you stay happy and healthy…
Before you run you need to warm up the muscles you’re going to use. Even if you’re planning to walk for the whole of your session, start off with a brisk walk for five minutes before breaking into a gentle jog for another five. You should then start to feel warmer and ready to begin your training run proper.
If warming up outside in winter leaves you cold, you can cheat with a passive warm-up to increase your body temperature without physical activity. Try a warm bath or heat packs, then run a little on the spot indoors before braving the outside world.
At the end of your run, do not stop until you’ve given your body a chance to cool down. Walking for five minutes after your run is an excellent way to deliver dynamic stretches to your muscles. You will find that it will reduce post-exercise stiffness more effectively than static stretching. Walk until you feel that your breathing has returned to normal.
Should you stretch?
Many people like to stretch after running because they believe it brings greater flexibility and makes them feel good. After a run your heart will be pumping blood and oxygen to your muscles, and a raised metabolic rate will speed up your nerve impulses, allowing for easier movement – check out our stretches for runners for inspiration!