Although running is, theoretically, one of the least complicated or involved of all fitness activities, if you want to get the most out of it without doing yourself damage, there is actually a fair amount you need to know. As such, taking on board all the well-meaning advice you’ll receive (astonishingly, as much from non-runners as runners) and working out what aspects of running will be best for you so often puts people off before they start. And then you’ve still got to get past the embarrassment factor and the self-motivational bit.
Should I really start running?
Of course you should. As regards to you being sufficiently healthy to start running as an exercise to improve your health and fitness, the short answer is yes. Quite Likely. Although, these days, the general way of thinking is to presume you may not be. Before people commence any vigorous exercise routine or takes up strenuous sports or activities, it’s good advice to get a cursory once-over from their doctor.
The pragmatic truth is that, unless you are worried about a pre-existing condition or something in your medical history, you shouldn’t need your doctor’s permission to take up running. Indeed, if you visit your doctor simply to ask whether you should hit the pavements or not and manage to get to the surgery under your own steam, they are going to wonder why you are wasting their time. The chances are they couldn’t give you much guidance anyway.
The average family doctor isn’t going to know enough about running and how beginners actually get started in it to make an informed judgment based on anything other than obvious conditions. Such are the pressures on the modern health service, preventative measures or health ‘n’ fitness consultation no longer seem part of what they do, as they have become geared up to treat illness and ailments after the event.
This isn’t an attack on family doctors – they mostly do a sterling job given the circumstances. Its merely a reflection on their workload and the average six-minutes-per-patient visit. Thus they are highly unlikely to appreciate an apparently healthy person taking up their time to ask “Should I take up a cardio-vascular exercise and get out in the fresh air more?”
Think of the time spent hanging round the doctor’s surgery as time when you could be out running, and only book that appointment if you have specific grounds for hesitancy. And as regards being fit, people take up running in order to get fit, so if you had to be a perfect physical specimen in order to partake, most of us would have been excluded. The trick is to start slowly – and we mean slowly. For the reasonably healthy, if you follow a beginners’ program and listen to your body as soon as it starts complaining, you will be fine.
See your doctor before taking up running if:
- You are over 60
- You are already under a doctor’s care for an existing condition
- You or your family has a history of heart problems
- You are asthmatic
- You are on medication
- You have had an adverse reaction to exercise in the past
- You have arthritis
- You have uncontrollable high blood pressure
Will I look stupid?
No. Of course you won’t. Not unless you’re running a marathon dressed as a carrot, and then it’ll probably be deliberate. But that doesn’t mean you won’t feel like you look stupid during your first few times on the street, and that’s what counts.
In spite of what you might imagine, as you pound the pavements wearing not much more than your underwear, the reality is that most people won’t even have noticed you. Just put your head down – not literally, in case you run into a tree, then people really will notice you – and power on through. After a few times out you will feel much more in command of your actual running, thus you’ll be more confident, and will realize you have much more important things to think about than pedestrians you might pass. Just keep telling yourself how much longer you are going to live than them.