Dig out your trainers, your Lycra and a little motivation–this beginners running guide will get even the hardiest of couch potatoes moving!
Exercise is good for you, we all know that. It’s good for the body, mind and spirit. Running is one of the best overall workouts for your physique, and what’s more it’s simple, costs very little, can be done almost anywhere, and is suitable for almost everyone, no matter how sedentary you may think you are.
Getting started on the running scene can be a physically and mentally daunting prospect, especially if you are out of shape. There’s also the common problem of fitting training into a busy lifestyle, around the kids or planning to run in”this heat!” However, becoming a runner doesn’t have to be hard or intensive, nor do you need to run a marathon to be a runner. This running guide will show you how to get off of the sofa, into those trainers and on to the journey to a fitter, happier, healthier you.
Before you launch into your new running regime, consider the following:
- Check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine, especially if you haven’t exercised for some time
- Invest in some running trainers—you will easily lose motivation if your feet are sore or you sustain an injury by wearing unsuitable footwear
- Plan ahead to fit a running routine into your weekly schedule, maybe before breakfast to beat the heat, on a treadmill during your lunch break (yes, treadmills count), or when the kids have gone to bed—unless of course, you get them involved too
- Set realistic goals or sign up for a sports event like a fun run. If you have a target to meet by a specific date, you are more likely to stay motivated and committed to your exercise routine
- Keep track of your progress as you work up towards your goals
Ready, set, go!
One of the best ways to ease into a running routine is via a run to walk or “Couch to 5K” programme. This simple programme allows you to start slowly and build up to running. You begin by adding small segments of running to your walking regimen. Increase the running segments incrementally over the days and weeks that you train, until you are running for the duration of your training period.
For example, programmes often start with one minute of running and two minutes of walking repeated for at least three sets. By the second week, you increase running to two minutes and reduce your walking to one minute. Most programmes run for around eight weeks, requiring two to three days of running/walking exercises per week. This gradually builds you up from walking to running for 30 minutes continuously.
The majority of training programmes suggest warm up and cool down activities. It’s tempting to skip, but warming up helps get your body and mind ready for training, and cooling down helps bring your heart rate down and clear waste products, like lactic acid, from your muscles. Both help prevent injury. Typically, running coaches suggest a five- to 10-minute warm up and a five-minute cool down. A warm up can include walking and simple exercises, such as lunges, skipping and high-knee raises; a cool down usually consists of slow walking and some light stretching.
Use a training log. Maintaining a log adds structure to your training, and seeing how much progress you are making towards your goals will spur you on, especially at the end of the week when the TV, a takeaway and the sofa are calling your name.
Include rest days. Running is a high-impact sport and your body will need time to recover. It is better to run two to three times per week, rather than run for six days in a row—which is a recipe for injury if you are a beginning runner.
Alternate routes and the surfaces you run on. There is nothing more monotonous than seeing the same view over and over again. Opt for different routes, especially with more challenging surfaces, to keep things fresh.
Listen to music. The ‘Rocky’ theme may not give your running a boost, but listening to upbeat songs will definitely distract you from the pounding of feet.
Avoid running during the hottest part of the day. Running in the heat and humidity, with the right precautions, does improve fitness levels but when you are just starting out don’t make things more difficult for yourself. Try running first thing in the morning, when the sun goes down or use a treadmill indoors. Fitness Magazine suggests, “Run wherever you can, inside or out. Getting into a regular routine is more important than the perfect solution”.
Go with a friend or a group. Hitting the pavement with others at conversational speed is great for keeping you company and providing you with a little competitive motivation. Also, it’s a great way to meet new people. Try the Doha Bay Running Club for early morning and evening runs and training, or the Run Doha Run club for evening runs and ladies-only running on Saturday morning.
Run with your family. Getting your kids or partner involved in your training will not only give you time together and a sense of achieving your goals as a family team, but it also may be the perfect solution to any time constraints or childcare worries you have. It’s good for them too!
Getting kids involved
Essentially, kids are very similar to adults when it comes to sports. They too need realistic, achievable goals to work towards. Running needs to be made fun and it helps if there is a reward upon reaching their goals. Here are a couple of tips to motivate your offspring.
- Start slowly. Don’t expect your kids to complete a full session when you first get them out with you
- Play games around a track or park. Games such as relays, scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, red light-green light or Simon Says, will keep them smiling throughout
- Alternate training spots. Take the kids to different venues where they can train with you, but where there is also something for them afterwards, such as a park, a swimming pool or playground
- Take them to watch fun runs and races, or to watch you run. Kids are more likely to join in if they see others having fun or achieving their goals
- Start a running log with your kids. They can set goals and follow their progress. You could even set up a reward system for their personal goals
- Try taking them along to a kids’ running club or training session. Kids love participating in activities with children their own age, and it’s a great way for them to meet new friends. Doha Athletic Club provides indoor and outdoor training for kids from six to 18 years of age
- Once they have built up their stamina, achieved their goals or feel confident enough, enter them into a fun run. It should bring out their competitive side, and they’ll likely be hyped up for the upcoming event. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a free t-shirt or race souvenir, which is always an added bonus
Running Events in Doha
There are numerous annual running events in Qatar and many smaller running events that pop up throughout the year, especially on or around National Sports Day in February. Some events are free to join, while others require a joining fee that often goes towards a charitable cause. Smaller fun runs are generally all-day events that incorporate runs for the whole family, at varying distances and levels, as well as plenty of other activities and games.
Typically, event organisers include Aspire Zone, Doha College, Ooredoo, Qatar Foundation and Qatar Running Series. Keep an eye on the organisers’ websites or try entering “fun runs and races in Doha” into a search engine to find out when and where races and runs will be held.
One of the best events for beginners is The Colour Run held in January. This untimed 5K run is perfect for first timers, and there is even a one-kilometre version for the kids. A festival is held at the end of the run, so the whole family can enjoy a full day out. It’s too late to join the run this year, but get practicing now so you’ll be ready for 2020.
If you are feeling more confident in your running abilities, consider trying one of the Qatar Running Series or the Doha Marathon’s timed, 5K runs. Qatar Running Series events are held throughout the year and include races that kids can join too.
Whatever event you choose to take part in, or however you choose to take your new-found running skills, remember to stay inspired and have fun!
The beauty of running is that, if you are running regularly, you are a runner. Running is a sport, open to all ages and levels, which allows you to develop at your own rate.
Where to Run
Al Bidda Park: This park has numerous trails laid out over three areas. There is also open-air gym equipment at various points along the trails
Aspire Park: There are numerous trails across this enormous park, the longest loop being 5km. This is also one of the meeting points for the Doha Bay Running and Run Doha Run Clubs
Doha Festival City Outdoor Leisure Trail: This track boasts a 4.5-km running and biking trail that loops around the outside of the mall
Oxygen Park: Featuring a 1-km looped track with shaded and cooled stretches, this park also maintains dedicated sports facilities for Education City
The Corniche: Favoured by the Doha Bay Running Club, this is one of the most popular places to run in Doha. It is 5km from West Bay to the Pearl Monument, making it perfect to practice for a fun run!
Alternatively, you can run in any of Doha’s parks, along the boulevards of the Pearl, or even along the bike track on Ras Abu Abboud Street. Use an app such as Map My Run to measure out distances if necessary.
You can find training plans from any number of running apps that are available for most tablets and phones. Apps are useful for helping you track your progress, as a guide while training, or as a motivational tool. We found the following training apps were easy to use, tracked workouts, showed progression against goals and included plans for improving fitness:
- Map My Run by Under Armour (Apple, Android)
- Runkeeper—GPS Running Tracker (Apple, Android)
- Strava: Run, Ride, Swim (Apple, Android)
- Pacer Pedometer & Step Tracker (Apple, Android)
- Seconds Interval Timer HIIT (Apple)
- C25K 5K Trainer (Apple, Android)