It’s the 34th London Marathon this weekend and, if the sight of all those dedicated people achieving their dream inspires you to give running a go yourself, make sure you get off to a good start with fitness expert Sam Murphy’s golden rules of happy, healthy training
* Book it in! Get out your diary and plan when you are going to do your sessions each week – that way, they are less likely to fall off the agenda.
* Be positive. Don’t leave the house saying to yourself, “Oh-oh, this is going to hurt,” or “I bet everyone’s laughing at me.” Focus on how you’re taking steps to improve your health and fitness, think of the money you are raising for charity, and congratulate yourself on making time for yourself and your needs.
* Phone a friend. Having a friend or partner to work out with helps get you out the door on those days when you aren’t feeling the love! It’s more fun and sociable, and there’s safety in numbers.
* Listen to your body. It is perfectly normal to feel a little achy and sore after running in the first few weeks, but if you have a specific area of pain in a muscle or joint, be cautious and take a couple of extra rest days. If the problem doesn’t resolve, seek advice from a doctor or physiotherapist.
* Drink little and often. There’s no need carry a drink on runs or walks under an hour unless you want to, but do make sure you start your training sessions well hydrated by drinking enough fluids during the day.
* Listen up. Studies have shown that listening to music while you exercise can distract you from fatigue, prolong endurance and even improve your movement efficiency. The best choice is music that enables you to synchronise your breathing or foot strike to the rhythm and beat. But you have to like what you’re hearing for it to work, so create a playlist of songs that inspire and motivate you. And don’t get too lost in music – always ensure you are aware of your surroundings.
* Don’t run on empty. Leave an hour or two after eating before you hit the streets to allow meals to digest. But if logistics mean it’ll have been more than five hours between your last meal and your workout, a small snack such as a banana, a couple of oatcakes or a pot of yoghurt will top up your fuel stores.
* Join the club. You may think a running club isn’t for you, but the growing network of Run England, runengland.org and Jog Scotland, jogscotland.org.uk groups are specifically designed for newcomers of all ages and levels of fitness to find their running feet. You’ll get plenty of encouragement and motivation as well as useful hints and tips to help you progress.
* Get your kit right. There is very little in the way of essential kit when it comes to running. Any lightweight, comfortable clothing that offers freedom of movement will work just fine. But you will need to invest in a decent pair of running shoes and a sports bra. When choosing shoes, visit a specialist running store and try lots of makes and models. There should be no need to ‘break in’ new trainers – so look for a pair that feel comfortable as soon as you put them on. Ensure that you have an index finger’s width beyond the end of your longest toe in the shoes and that the toe box is wide enough to allow your toes to spread. Sports bras come in two styles – encapsulated bras, in which each breast is supported within its own cup, sometimes with underwiring, and compression bras, which control movement by pressing the breasts against the rib cage. The latter tends to work best for smaller-breasted women. Again, try on a selection to find the one that is right for you – it should feel snug without chafing or restricting your breathing – models with adjustable straps help you get the perfect fit. Sports bra specialist lessbounce.com is a good place to start.