Running for weight lossYou probably have friends who rave about the benefits of running, but you may feel you’re too unfit or overweight to give it a go. Or perhaps you’ve tried running but ditched it because you found it was just too darn hard. Your feelings are perfectly understandable, but if you follow our seven top tips to getting out there, you’ll be in love with running before you know it. And watch those pounds melt away…

1 – DON’T DELAY, START TODAY

Don’t wait until you’re fitter or slimmer, because without running that day is much less likely to arrive. ‘Running is second only to cross-country skiing in terms of burning calories per minute,’ says personal trainer Tony Douglass. ‘It’s unlikely you’ll be skiing to the shops anytime soon, so running is your best bet for losing body fat.’

However, if you’re returning to exercise, have a chat with your doctor first, says running coach Suzy Fitt. ‘It’s also important to visit a reputable running shop and get advice on the right shoes for your particular running style, as the impact of each step is three-and-a-half times your body weight.

‘The other must-do is to buy a decent sports bra, regardless of the size of your breasts – limiting breast movement will improve comfort and make you feel less self-conscious.’

2 – EASY DOES IT

‘Start off with a walk/run programme, then slowly increase the time you spend running and reduce the time you walk,’ suggests Fitt.

‘For example, you could run for 30 seconds (preferably on grass or trails to protect your joints) and walk for three minutes, and repeat this a few times.’

3 – IT’S NOT A SPRINT

If your only memory of running is the lung-busting effort you made on school sports day, you’ll have to rethink your approach. What you did then was sprinting – what you’re going to be doing now is what we called “jogging” back in the 1970s (but “running” sounds more sporty, so we’ll stick with that). The idea is to run at a pace that allows you to chat comfortably. When you’re starting out, you should be able to speak in sentences – if you’re only managing phrases or gasping out a word or two, you’re going too fast, so slow down.

4 – FIND A FRIEND

When you’re following your walk/run training plan, rope in a friend to make the miles fly by, or join a running group. It can be fun to set a conversation topic for each session, such as “The best comedy shows on TV” or “My top-ten dream destinations”.

5 RUN LIKE NO-ONE’S WATCHING

Because no-one is. ‘Whatever you do, don’t feel embarrassed about your weight and running,’ says Fitt. ‘You’re taking control and everyone who sees you will respect what you’re doing and feel guilty that they’re not doing it too. Be proud and enjoy the journey.’

6 – EXPECT THE “TOXIC TEN”

Even seasoned runners sometimes experience discomfort and breathlessness in the first ten minutes of a run. This is normal – at this stage of the run your body is warming up and adapting to the new demands you’re putting on it. Just smile, say to yourself, ‘This too will pass’ and look forward to minute 11.

7 – TREAT YOURSELF

To ensure you’re still a runner this time next year you need to inject lashings of fun into every run. Whether that involves going out afterwards for a cup of tea and a laugh with your friends, jumping into a steaming-hot shower or building up a large medal collection, make sure your heart flutters every time you hear the word ‘run’. That way, your new love affair will last a lifetime.

Words by Lisa Jackson