The simple, pain-free way to start running

Running and walking are two of the simplest, most efficient ways to exercise, and with spring finally here, now’s the time to start.

Yes, I know, you might be thinking ‘but I can’t run’, remembering the time in primary school when you finished poorly in a lap of the oval and decided there and then this running caper wasn’t for you.

I was that kid, too.

But you’re older now and you don’t care if you finish last. All you need to do is get your body moving.

It’s what your body was designed to do.

As author Christopher McDougall points out in his book Born to Run, there’s a reason why humans emerged as the dominant species against bigger, stronger, fiercer, faster creatures, and it’s his contention that it’s largely due to our human ability to run and sweat.

And before you start harping on about your poor old knees not being up to the task, new research from Brigham Young University in the US found running can actually reduce knee inflammation and soreness.

What’s not good for your knees is a sedentary lifestyle.

Further, age is no barrier. Sister Madonna Buder, dubbed the Iron Nun, is 86, and has completed more than 40 ironman triathlons. (She set a record for the 80-84 age group at the world titles in Hawaii in 2011).

Sister Madonna only took up running when she was 48 to help harmonise her mind, body and soul.

How to start running

If you haven’t run since that day at school, you start by walking.

Ideally, walk for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. This is important if your body is not used to the demands of exercise, as it builds the muscles and strengthens the bones needed to support running without placing too much load on them.

Too many people try to do too much too soon when they take up running, and because their bodies aren’t used to it, find themselves in a world of pain and give the game away.

Once you’re comfortably walking for 30 minutes several times a week, step it up slightly by walking for four minutes and running one minute. Repeat this cycle for 20-30 minutes three times a week.

Use this formula for increasing the program over the next few weeks:

How to start running - a beginner's program.

Once you’re comfortable, start running for 20 minutes three times a week, gradually increasing the time spent running.

Using this approach you should be able to run about 5km within about eight weeks.

Want to rediscover your fitness mojo this spring? Take a look at our fitness pages for all our expert tips to help you get up and moving in no time.

Written by Claire Burke.