It's flattering how people ask me for advice about running. Be they family, friends or colleagues; there seems to be an innate desire to talk about both mine and their own experiences. It has fast become one of my 'go-to' topics; along with the usual...football, football, football. I'm quite the conversationalist!
One thing that I am keen to avoid though is comparison. It has become normal for people to put their own achievements down as something almost not worth mentioning if they know or find out these distances and frequency that I run. It really isn't about that and I always try to turn it back around.
I am a keen believer that it isn't about the distance; it's the fact that you are out there, doing a bit and setting the example to your family. From Running Dads perspective, reinforcing the message of challenges and inspiration to our children. Whatever you distance, it is always worth it and as a community of Running Dads, this is a safe place to promote your achievements and gain abit of kudos. Let's face it; we all need this at times.
This led me to think when stuck in traffic on my way home from work; what would my top tips be for running dad beginners? What do I wish someone had told me? As an amateur, what keeps me focused? Well; see for yourself:
1. Time: it is important as a beginner that you do not try to run a specific pace. Your body may feel great at the start and during, but afterwards, not so much. If you are not used to exercise, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be fierce and a real put off for next time. Try first of all to set a time aside and stick to running to that. Whatever you can fit into your busy Dad schedule: 10, 15, 20 mins. It doesn't matter if you cover a mile or 3, don't push too hard too fast otherwise your recovery will be longer and more painful! And remember, plan stretch time (not that I always do!).
2. Route: Have a route in-mind and build onto it over time. When starting especially. Think about how you are able to cut short or extend depending on how you feel. Ideally, you should have afew different ways that you can do both. If you see your route in your mind, you are able to mentally focus on your pace and timing, staying motivated as you know what's coming next. And as you get fitter and more confident; add, add, add.
3. Clothing: One of the very best things about running is the cost. For the price of two months membership at a gym, you can have afew different outfits and a decent pair of trainers that you can use over and over. Running is, essentially, free. Why would you want to do anything different?! I would recommend a decent pair of trainers, ASICS are a personal favourite with insoles for added support. It would also be worthwhile going to a decent sports shop and enquire as to whether they off gait analysis which assesses the way you run and walk so that you can get the best fit for you. Decathlon is a well priced and stocked store that offer all of the above for a price which won't leave you on the breadline.
4. Re-Fuel: I must admit, this is one that I can't exactly preach about. Much like stretching, I often find myself going straight into the day after I finish exercising and lose track of time. However, the importance of re-fuelling in terms of food and drink, especially water, cannot be over-looked. There is plenty of research that shows the benefit of eating post-exercise as that's when your body's metabolism is working at it best and as humans are literally around 70% water-based, replenishing after sweating so much is key to your performance in everyday tasks.
5. Follow Through: Finally, the follow through: go again. Don't let the rhythm stop. As an amateur runner, life for us all can get in the way of our plans and we can easily find excuses for not going out. House work, jobs, weather...etc. Stay focused; maintain your rationale for starting yourself on this path and get out there. Yours in the example that your child will see so keep the importance of healthy life balance at the forefront of what you do and the chances are, they will too.
I hope that these tips are useful for all those who are thinking about starting, have tried but fallen off the wagon or those who have recently started. Remember; it isn't the distance; that can change time on time. It's the fact that you are out there. Plodding, putting one foot in front of the other, doing your bit and setting the example for your children that they can seek challenge through fitness and push themselves to achieve and be inspired to run. To be like their dad.
I look forward to sharing your journey with you.