Sarah Cassells looks into the best ways to take baby steps towards distance running.

PUBLISHED: 12:53 13 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013

Sarah Cassells looks into the best ways to take baby steps towards distance running.

Sarah Cassells looks into the best ways to take baby steps towards distance running.

On the right track- from beaches to back roads, we're spoilt for choice for suitable places to jog in Norfolk.

On the right track

From beaches to back roads, we're spoilt for choice for suitable places to jog in Norfolk. Sarah Cassells looks into the best ways to take baby steps towards distance running.

Who hasnt caught coverage of the London Marathon and been moved by the stories of everyday people tackling that most epic of endurance races? From the comfort of an armchair your heart swells with admiration for the contenders determination as they cross the finish line exhausted but exhilarated. Inspired, you vow that this will be the year you do something similar youll exercise your fitness demons and tackle your own charity run or local distance event. In fact, tomorrow youll dig out your trainers and have a go at 20 minutes around the park.

But then tomorrow comes and you make your excuses because the weather looks a bit grim, youve had a long day at work, or the family demands your attention. Or you make the effort this once, ache for a week and lose all motivation to try again . . . sound familiar? Thats because many people do too much too soon and expect changes to their fitness to happen overnight, explains Richard Polley, road-running co-ordinator for the City of Norwich Athletics Club.

But if you build up your fitness gently and gradually, the world is your oyster, he promises. And when it comes to the amount of calories burned, running is one of the best forms of exercise. Richards top recommendation to beginners is to join one of the many running clubs in the county. His club runs from the Sportspark in Norwich and has a dedicated beginners running programme aimed at people starting from scratch who hope to compete in a short-distance event. Its a seven-week programme we devised a few years ago especially for the Race for Life, says Richard. The first session has people walking for a minute and then running for a minute 10 times. Each week is a bit harder so they build their fitness up slowly.

By the end of the seven weeks they will be able to run comfortably for 30 minutes without stopping. For someone starting a running programme for the first time, Richard advises consulting with a GP beforehand and then using the support of a club for motivation. A local club will also take you on some of the best running routes through well-lit towns, across picturesque countryside and, contrary to Norfolks flat reputation, up a few challenging hills too.

The great thing about being part of a club is that you commit to making appointments to go on runs with other people. We give runners a programme to stick on their fridge where they can tick off their runs and feel a sense of achievement, he says. By building up gradually with the help of experienced running guides you will find it much easier. Over the years, the club has got hundreds of beginners around the Race for Life and on to other local distance events like the annual City of Norwich Half Marathon. Even something like the London Marathon is do-able the next year the key is regularity and consistency, says Richard. Running three times a week is a good aim and one you should be able to fit into a normal schedule. Youll also notice a number of benefits: Improved levels of fitness, better sleep and weight loss and you can get away from the stresses of work and family life and make new friends.

To find out more about the beginners running programme at the Sportspark, contact Richard on 07767 205922 orvisit Details of local fixtures can be found on the website under Road Races.

Fit for life
When motivation is waning, just remember why youre out there:

Lose weight: Running is one of the best forms of exercise for losing body fat. A 10-stone individual running at 10mph for 10 minutes will burn just over 100 calories thats the equivalent of two extra Jaffa cakes with your afternoon cuppa!
Improve health: Running is proven to make bones stronger, improves the function of the heart and lungs and boosts your immune system. It can also lower your blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
Fight disease: Exercise like running has been proven to help fight certain diseases, including reducing the risk of stroke and some cancers and developing conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension.
Mental strength: Alongside the physical benefits, running can be a good way to release anger and unwind from daily stress. It stimulates the release of endorphins (those feel-good chemicals) and is also believed to significantly improve mental skills.
Feel better: People who run regularly report better quality sleep and the increase in blood flow around the body is said to lead to improved sex lives too.

Race dates
Get your trainers on and use these next six months worth of local running events for inspiration:

April 11: Chase the Train, North Norfolk Beach Runners. This nine-mile run starts from Aylsham Station and follows the Bure Valley Railway line path to Wroxham.
01692 407993;
May 1 and 2: Race for Life, Norwich or July 20: Race for Life, Kings Lynn.
Sign up for Cancer Research UKs 5k event at the Norfolk Showground and Houghton Hall respectively.
0871 641 1111;
June 27: Humpty Dumpty 10k, Great Yarmouth and District Athletics Club.
The Humpty Dumpty Brewery-sponsored run through the villages of Reedham, Limpenhoe and Freethorpe.
July 23: Worstead Festival Run. This five-mile fun run is a highlight of the festival week.01692 407993;
August 26: Wroxham 5k, Norwich Road Runners. A fast, flat 5k course from the Broadland High School in Hoveton.
September 26: Diss 7.5mile race, Diss Athletic Club. This is the oldest road race in Norfolk, with the option of 7.5 and 15 mile finishes across quiet rural lanes.
And of course, the big one: This years City of Norwich Half Marathon takes place on November 28 from the Norfolk Showground.

Road to success
Before you get started, heres a tick list of things to make your efforts easier:

Good running shoes
Head to a specialist sports shop where you can have your gait, arch and movement of your feet analysed to ensure you are wearing the best possible shoe to suit your running style. Richard Polley recommends The Runners Centre in Norwich (01603 665398), Sportlink in Taverham (01603 868606) and Wynsport in Wymondham (01953 603729).

Sturdy sports bras
Regardless of the size of your chest, a good sports bra is an essential piece of kit for all women runners. Choose a style that minimises bounce, and supports the delicate ligaments in your chest to avoid sagging. Bear in mind that your breasts may change size if you lose weight so you will need to get measured regularly.

Comfortable running wear
If you like what youre wearing, youll be more inclined to put it on and get out there. So head to a department store or sports shop and invest in some new comfortable, colourful clothing that makes you look and feel good.

Reflective clothing
If youre running outdoors in the mornings or evenings its important to be as visible as possible to road users. Wearing high visibility clothing or accessories with fluorescent material and reflective strips will enable drivers to see you better and reduce the risk of an accident.

Motivational music
Few clubs and organised races will allow you to run with iPods and MP3 players on the grounds of personal safety, but some runners particularly those who run alone find a quick burst of the likes of Journeys Dont Stop Believing or Survivors Eye of the Tiger an invaluable boost for flagging spirits.

A running partner
Running clubs are the best places to meet like-minded people whose support and encouragement will help you get the most out of running. If youre unable to get to a club, running with a friend of similar ability will help keep you both motivated. To find a running partner, try

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