How to start running

With Canadian marathoner Rae Cliff

Running is fantastic exercise, a great way to relieve stress and promote mental health, and can be done pretty much anywhere, even during a pandemic. It’s no wonder more people are running than ever before. 

For those who have yet to take it up, we checked in with marathoner Rae Cliff for some insight. 

Rae Cliff is one of the best distance runners in the country and part of several talented female runners who are collectively propelling Canada to greater heights. 

She broke the Canadian marathon record in March of 2019 on the way to securing her place in the (now) 2021 Summer Olympics and the half-marathon record last December. 
Like the rest of us, Cliff has been quiet as of late as competitions have been shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the better part of a year. 

When asked about the first steps to get running, she suggests a proper warm-up and cool-down are essential. 

“The little things that I think when you've been in the sport for a long time you take for granted, but it's really important. If you're going to lie on the couch for a day working in COVID times or sitting at your desk then jump out the door and go for a run it’s best to do a little warm-up before going,” she says. “And similarly, when you finish your run, it's important to not just stop and sit down again but to do a bit of a cool down.”

She also suggests that if taking up running, it should be part of a more holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle. 

“If you're moving into running just make sure to have an active lifestyle as a whole, not just running,” Cliff says. “It's about being active, but also being conscious of the load you're putting on your body.”

Also, to make sure the entire body is getting the proper exercise it deserves, Rae says cross-training, taking up a different and complementary activity, is a good idea. 

“I really like pool running. It's something just a little bit more challenging with COVID, obviously, and the restrictions,” she says. “But I just feel like it's a nice type of class, it keeps you using several muscles for running but there isn’t the pounding on the pavement. I feel like it works similarly to having a massage in some ways. And, just going for a walk or hike.”

Okay, ready to run, but one might wonder how far and how fast they should push in the early weeks and months of training. 

“The rule of thumb you hear is 10% every week, you don't want to go above that,” Rae suggests. “It's really good advice. Everybody is a little bit different, and it's important to listen to your own body. There should be a natural progression. It’s less risky to give your body some time to acclimatize.”

To help with the progression from 1K to 10K and beyond, Cliff says putting together a plan is important. 

“I think one of the things that people do. They kind of run one day, then not for four days, then four days in a row of running. You either need to get a coach or research yourself and come up with a weekly plan,” she says. “And then you're taking notes about how your body feels and whether or not you think you can do more or less. It’s a learning process. The key I think, is when you get into running to be running more a month from now than you are right now.”

When running becomes easier, and mileage increases, there is inevitably the desire to do more, the need to push and develop. But Cliff cautions not to rush into extra workouts like running hills.

“It depends on where you're starting from. If you've already been running consistently, I think you're ready to start workouts,” she says. “I think you probably want to be at a point where you've done a month of running four to five days a week before starting to add workouts. It’s best to establish a running volume that you're happy with.”

Lastly, it’s important to take nutrition into account. 

“I think balance in your diet goes a long way. So getting in three square meals that have protein, carbs, and vegetables,” Cliff says. “As a runner, I don't there's anything I don't eat although some athletes might be vegetarian or lactose intolerant or something like that. But, provided there's no reason to not eat a certain food group, I think you want to get as much variety as possible and prioritize healthy meals and some solid snacks if you're doing some big workout.”



“The body achieves what the mind believes.”

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