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Running back to fitness

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Running is a simple and effective physical activity that almost all of us can get started on straightaway, says personal fitness trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read.

The health benefits of running include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, a decrease in body fat, improvement in lung capacity and increased flexibility. And, of course, it's free!

Undertaking physical activities such as running has been shown to bring immediate rewards in terms of weight loss and a more youthful heart.

A study of middle-aged, overweight men and women revealed that, regardless of whether they lost weight by exercising more or eating less, all of the participants' hearts responded to the weight loss by gaining the ability to relax more quickly, recovering some of the elasticity characteristic of younger heart tissue.

So whether your goal is to lose weight or simply improve your all-round fitness, give our running programme a try: you can fit it into even the busiest of lifestyles and, if you stick at it, you may see the results sooner than you think!

Running programme for beginners

Preparation

  • Always check with your doctor before commencing any new fitness programme.
  • If you're running when it's dark, wear light-reflective clothes.
  • Invest in a good pair of trainers with a well-cushioned heel to reduce the impact of running on your joints.
  • Women are strongly recommended to buy a good sports bra.

The run

Plan your route from your front door. Your first route should be about one mile.

Be sure to warm up before you run, as this prevents injuries: simply march on the spot or go up and down stairs for two minutes.

0 – 6 minutes = brisk walk
6 – 9 minutes = light jog
9 – 11 minutes = power walk
11 – 14 minutes = medium jog
14 – 16 minutes = light walk
16 – 17 minutes = fast jog
17 – 20 minutes = brisk walk and slowly start to reduce the speed as you cool down.
Stretch

Aim to do this run three times a week for two weeks. In week three, reduce your walking by one minute and increase your jogging by one minute. In week four, aim to complete your route by running the whole distance. Thereafter, simply increase your distance.

Nutrition for running

Dietitian Azmina Govindji offers the following tips to help ensure your run is enjoyable, healthy and safe:

  • Drink – your performance will be significantly hampered if you are dehydrated. Make sure you drink small amounts of water often, both before and during your run.
  • Don't have a meal just before you run. Eat four hours beforehand, otherwise your body won't have had the time to fully digest the meal. This meal needs to contain slow-burn or low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates like pasta or granary bread.
  • Around 20 minutes before your run, have a high GI snack. This will give you a quick burst of energy as your blood sugar rises rapidly. High GI foods include sugar-rich drinks, sports drinks, energy bars, watermelon and dates.
  • After your run, re-hydrating is the number one priority, so make sure you have 500ml of water within half an hour of completing the run.
  • Then you need to get your blood sugar up again, as it will have fallen during the exercise. An energy bar or recovery drink will give you an instant boost.
  • Within an hour of your run, have something more substantial that contains carbs, like peanut butter on toast, a sandwich or a fruit smoothie.

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