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So…you’re a runner now

Author: The Simple Bit

Category: Short Cuts

Tips from running coach Lydia O’Donnell about how to start running safely and avoiding injury and burnout.

  • Running in your neighbourhood is currently allowed as long as physical distancing protocols are followed
  • Running is a great way to stay fit and focused
  • But starting with too much too soon can result in injury or burnout
  • We spoke to running coach and athlete Lydia O’Donnell about how (and why) to start

There’s a bunch of things that the pandemic lockdown has made harder ­– dating, hugging your nana, starting a meeting without being told you’re on mute. But exercise is one of the harder things to do with gyms, pools, yoga studios or squash courts suddenly out of our lives. Sure, the lockdown has seen the birth of the toilet paper workout, that’s not for everyone. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason. Which is why we’re seeing more and more people who are suddenly runners. Running does make sense, as “going out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood, on your own or with one other” is allowed. It’s worth checking the laws in your state, but broadly speaking as long as you’re keeping at least 1.5 metres away from other people, and you’re not traveling long distances (i.e. driving to another location), you are allowed to go for a run.

But that doesn’t mean you should strap on your runners and tackle a marathon straight away. If you’ve never run before, or you haven’t done it in a long time, you could end up with an injury that will keep you from exercising at all. And nobody wants that.

So we spoke to athlete and running coach Lydia O’Donnell about where to start, and also why.

Lydia in action. Photo Credit: Matt Queree @mattqueree

Firstly why running? Well, to Lydia, “running has always been a way to create inner peace.  A disconnect from the world and a form of bettering myself each day.” As well as that inner peace, running can create a sense of connection, even if it’s through a run tracker app at the moment. “Running is a tool that is accessible to almost everyone and a way to connect others, be it physically or digitally, around the world. There is a sense of freedom in running that helps to provide us with a pure perspective on the world, especially in tough ,” says Lydia.

But with that said, running can feel like something that is best left up to runners. Not so, according to Lydia. “To some, running may be daunting but I believe that we all have the ability to put one foot in front of the other. To unleash our potential through the simple sport of running can create a confidence in each of us that will allow us to be our true selves.  All you need to do is start,” she says.


What do you love about running?

I love the way running creates a sense of purpose and clarity. I understand the mental health benefits of running and the importance of moving for your mind. It gives me structure and has taught me so many life skills that have built me into who I am today.

I also love the way that running will constantly have my back. No matter if I’m having a great day, or a tough one, running will always be there to support me and be the release that I believe we all need.


What do people need to look out for if they’re starting to run for the first time, or after a long break?

People starting out running need to be patient. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just start out by moving. It’s important that we condition our bodies to the act of running before jumping in too deep. If we take the time to ease into running, gradually increasing our kilometres and our speed, we are more likely to build a sustainable relationship with the sport. By running too far, or too fast, too soon, we’re at risk of injury or burn out. So give yourself time to build up your running fitness and enjoy the process of building running as a daily habit.


How far should people aim for first up?

Aim for a time rather than a distance. It’s a good idea to set a certain time to go outside and hit the road, track or trails for. This way you’ll run to how you feel and not force yourself through a distance where you may not feel completely comfortable to do. If you give yourself a time to move for, eg 20 mins, you can work through the time to your ability. If you need to break it up into a run / walk, do this and gradually increase the amount of time you are running vs walking. Over time you’ll be consistently running. And can build up your mileage.

Editor’s Note: There are great free apps like Couch To 5K to help you build up your running.


What kind of warm up do you suggest?

A warm up is important to allow the body to get some blood flowing and get your muscles ready to move. Before a run it’s important to get into dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves moving the body continuously through stretches, such as lunges. This way we can get our heart rate a little higher and get the muscles warm. Post our run is when we concentrate more on static stretches, where we can hold deep stretches for a longer period of time.


What kind of signs does your body send you when it’s time for a rest or to slow down?

Rest and recovery as a runner is just as important as our training. If you don’t give yourself a rest or active recovery day every few days you’ll begin to tire your body out to the point you will slow down and not progress your fitness. Signs of fatigue will be feeling unusually tired throughout the day, body aches where your muscles are not recovering between runs, as well as struggling through even your easy days. If your legs feel heavy and your breathing is particularly hard when running at a slow pace, this is a huge sign that you may need to pull back on training or even have a few days off.

So listen to Lydia and take things slow, and you can run safely (and unlock those sweet endorphins) in no time.


A bit of simple can go a long way right now. Click here for details about how ahm can help you. Let’s try make these difficult times a little simpler together.