Running also helps beat the winter blues, by getting the blood pumping, filling your lungs with fresh air and releasing lovely, stress-reducing endorphins into the brain. You can run anywhere, at anytime, and it costs nothing.
And then there are the long-term health benefits. Running has been proven to help prevent obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and even some cancers. All that for the price of a pair of trainers, that's a pretty good deal!
To help you get 2018 off to a healthy start we’ve put together 10 handy tips for novice runners. Remember to share them with your friends and potential running buddies. Good luck and happy running!
1. Slow down.
If you're just starting out as a runner, it's best to put that dream of being Mo Farah on the back burner for now. Start at a gentle jog and build up slowly. Running slower means you can run longer, which is the best way to increase your overall fitness. Everyone will have a different pace they are comfortable with, but a general rule of thumb is that if you're breathing too hard to hold a conversation while you run, you're probably going too fast.
2. Get a proper shoe fit.
Getting the running habit means getting serious about footwear. Running is an impact sport, so it's vital to wear shoes that offer stability, support and cushioning where you need it. And no, those tatty old gym shoes that have been gathering dust in your cupboard for a decade won't cut it. Invest in some good quality trainers from a specialist running store that offers a professional fitting service (this should include someone checking your running style).
3. Listen to your body.
Running isn't just about blindly pounding the pavement. You need to be in tune with your body at every step. For novice runners this is especially important, as the body is getting used to a new routine. Take time to warm up and stretch properly before each run. If something starts to hurt during your run, or just doesn't feel right, then stop. Walking home is better than pulling a muscle and not being able to train again for weeks.
4. Find a running buddy.
It's much easier to stick to a running routine when you do it with a friend who shares your fitness goals. Try to choose a running buddy who runs at a similar pace to you, and plan with them to run at the same time (or times) each week. It could be a friend, a family member or even the neighbour's dog – any sort of company on your run will help the miles go by faster.
5. Run for a reason.
Running to get fit is all very well, but on days when motivation is flagging it helps to have a more concrete goal to aim for. Training for a fun run or short distance race (5-10km) provides a useful focus, particularly if you're running to raise money for a charity that's close to your heart. If you'd like to get fit and help the Lily Foundation fight mitochondrial disease, visit our web page to find a running event near you.
6. Get app happy.
Running apps such as Runkeeper and MapMyRun aren't for everyone, but they can be useful for planning routes, pacing your runs, tracking your fitness and providing structure to your training. You don't need to spend money on a dedicated fitness gadget, a regular smartphone will do. You can also download podcasts that work like a virtual running coach. The NHS 'Couch to 5km' series is ideal for beginners.
7. Learn to love hills.
At first hills can seem intimidating, but including an incline on your running route is a good way to burn calories, strengthen your leg muscles and get fit fast. Start off with a small hill and work up to more challenging slopes. Try to include a hill towards the end of your run, so you’re already warmed up when you tackle it. Shorten your stride, slow your pace, and don't be ashamed to walk a bit if you need to. You'll be powering up hills like a pro before you know it.
8. Don't give up.
Even experienced runners have bad days. Sometimes your energy levels are low, or you're just not in the right frame of mind. That’s ok. If a run doesn’t work out, don’t lose heart or beat yourself up – just walk it off and try again another day. Remember, running isn't about achievement or failure. It's about feeling good. The important thing is to get out there and enjoy it, no matter how far or how fast you go.
9. Eat smart.
Start thinking of food as fuel. That means sticking to a balanced diet with the right mix of vegetables, clean proteins and healthy carbohydrates to give you energy and build muscle. Avoid processed food and rich meals that are difficult for your body to digest. Don't run immediately after a big meal – if you need energy, eat a healthy snack before you run. Bananas and almonds are great running food. And don't forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, particularly as the weather turns warmer and your runs get longer.
10. Be patient.
At first, running can feel like all hard work with little visible reward. That 'running bug' that runners talk about takes time to kick in, but once it does everything becomes a lot easier. Humans are naturally evolved to run, for hunting and escaping from danger. Modern life has made us slow and lazy, but that primal urge to run is still there – your body just needs reminding. So if you’re wondering if you've got what it takes to be a runner, remember what Bruce Springsteen said: we were born to run!