Nicky Park: Can anyone run?

Anyone can learn to run.Photo / Thinkstock
Anyone can learn to run.Photo / Thinkstock

I'm always keen to get more outdoorsy. There's something about being active in the air that feels wholesome and satisfying. I'm forever envious of the sporty folks I see pounding the pavement, looking all happy, bopping along with their ear buds in. I want that to be me. See, I've always preferred working up a sweat at my favourite gym classes.

Recently, a pair of Adidas Boost trainers came my way to try out before they hit New Zealand shelves. They promised fancy new technology like "foam cushioning that makes for a whole new, endlessly energised running experience". If these babies can't spark up my inner sprinter, then I've got no chance.

First, I wanted to find out more about running. Can anyone learn to do it? Why is it so darn hard? How can I learn to like it? Are black toenails normal? Will this new hobby inevitably lead to a saggy bosom?

Meet, Rachel Skilling, the technical representative for Adidas and a sports physiotherapist. She is all trained up in the importance of gear, plus she's an avid runner. Perfect for my brain picking.

One of the first things she tells me I am guilty of (and I am SURE I'm not alone). You can't just pick gear off the shelf based on the colour you like. Great, that means no more grabbing at the trendy neon bits I bet.

The next thing she says is reassuring: yeah, anyone can be a runner. But don't get too carried away, not everyone will be a marathon man (or lady).

"Even if that's a goal you want to do, it may not be an achievable goal," Skilling says.

"But there's a level of running and type of running that everyone can do. We're made to do that. We used to chase food."

So how do you figure out the best kind of runner you can be? Skilling suggests talking to the pros.

First, you need to get the right kit. You'll want to get a pair of shoes made for running that fit your foot to perfection, (otherwise you could end up with two black toenails after a 30 minute run on the treadmill - yep, that happened.) Also invest in a good pair of breathable socks that cushion your foot. And dames, get a proper sports bra fitting. If you're not supported, the bouncing of your breasts will see them dropping low and putting pressure on your shoulders and back.

Then, if you can get your hands on one, talk to fitness expert. Find a physio or a trainer and talk through your exercise experience (there should be someone at your gym, maybe a friend will have the smarts). They should be able to help you nut out your potential, which will maximise your chance of running success and consequentially, satisfaction.

For me, the hardest part about running is that I get bored. Fast. Then I start looking at the clock which seems to be ticking at snail's pace. Skilling suggests trying to relish the solitude that you get with running all by yourself out there. That "mental health time" is what she goes for.

Right now though, this doesn't work for me. I'm still learning to appreciate being alone and finding clarity in the thoughts that buzz around in my head.

I want the training wheels:

• Find an inspiring track that will take about 20 minutes to complete. Run as long as you can then keep walking at pace. This active recovery will keep your heart rate up, your fitness levels improving and the fat burning.

• Get out there three times a week.

• Every time, try and run a little longer.

• Don't start expecting to be able to knock out an 8km run. This will be disappointing, disheartening and discouraging.

• Reassess your run every couple of weeks. You want to make sure you're still challenged and improving.

• Know what will keep you inspired. Maybe you're a solitude seeker like Skilling. Maybe you need to recruit a running buddy to keep you on track. Or maybe, you're more like me, and get pumped with uplifting pop music.

"You want to look forward to going for a run," Skilling says.

"It's hard for the first few weeks, but you do get to a point where you want to get home and actually go out for one."

I'm looking forward to that day!

This competition is now closed.

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Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

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