Want to be a runner but don't know where to begin? Here's a guide

Lace up, hit the track and start sprinting

By Karim Gabriel

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Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 4:58 PM

Last updated: Sat 2 Dec 2023, 4:34 PM

Long-distance runner and two-time Olympian Kara Groucher once said that it doesn’t matter how fast or how far you’re going; if you’re putting on your shoes and going out for a run, you are a runner. You are in that club.

In this guide, we’ll tell you how to begin your journey in that club. With the right training, equipment and nutrition, you will be able to lace up, hit the open road, and explore the journey of a pursuit that extends beyond the physical. Running offers a gateway to mental resilience, community, and self-discovery and, when done right, can change your life drastically for the better.

Setting up your habit

Running is about discipline more than anything. You must show up, day after day, and that is the simple motif for your new hobby. Showing up is half the job done and the key to progress. That being said, a simple motif doesn’t mean that the act of showing up every day itself is simple.

Selecting the right running routes is a fundamental step in ensuring an enjoyable, safe and - most importantly – a repeatable routine. Whether you opt for city streets, dedicated running tracks or the tranquility of local parks, make sure your venue is one that is easy to get to. The Jumeirah Beach Running Track is a top-tier running facility you can try out, stretching for about seven kilometres till Sunset Beach. For a more laid back speed, the Safa Park Running Park and its 3.5km track is a good place for beginners, as is the Dubai Water Canal.

When to run

Running can be a gruelling activity in the UAE due to the heat, so factor in how well you protect yourself from the sun - sunscreen, full sleeve, breathable clothing and water bottles are compulsory. Nothing gets in the way of discipline like heat. As much as possible, make sure you’re getting your run in before the sun is beating down at full capacity.

If you’re starting out during the warmer months, 20 minutes of running time might be a decent target to try to hit - but make sure you are hydrating during the run when you’re in your early days. Between October and March is when the temperatures might be most forgiving in the region and you can gradually increase your running time during those months.

Before you run

Investing in quality running shoes is a non-negotiable. Each runner lands differently and requires different types of cushioning in their shoes for adequate support and flexibility. Visit a specialty store to get fitted for the right pair based on your foot shape and running style - you will be categorised either as a toe-striker, a midfoot-striker or a heel-striker and be fitted accordingly.

Even if you don’t have access to such a store, make sure you’re still buying running shoes and not walking shoes. The latter tend to be stiffer and offer almost no ventilation to your feet, which is a vital feature when they begin heating up.

Looking after your body

Before and after your runs, a stretching routine is essential. Learn about the different types of stretches as you begin your running journey. The three types of stretching exercises are static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). The singular goal of all of them is to improve the range of motion in whichever muscle group you are targeting.

In your case, those muscle groups will be your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Leg swings, knee-to-chest pulls, and hip flexor stretches are some elementary examples of stretches that target these muscle groups and can make a big difference before you run.

Post-run, use static full-body stretches to cool down and speed up your recovery before your next run. Research suggests that static stretching is superior to ballistic and PNF techniques.

Good nutrition is your secret ingredient

We said earlier that showing up is half the job done - staying nourished is the other half. There isn’t one without the other, and the better you optimise this cycle, the more consistently you will be able to run on a daily basis. With nutrition too, there are some non-negotiables. One of them, of course, is hydration. When you run in the Dubai climate, in particular, make sure you never slack on hydration.

On running days, it is vital that you consume a sufficient amount of carbohydrates to keep yourself fueled. If that happens to be before you run, make sure you’re giving yourself at least two hours after a heavy meal, or at least an hour before a light one.

Protein in general is necessary for overall health—- for immunity, for growth, for a lot of regulatory functions. Quality proteins from food, plus supplements, will provide you with the building blocks necessary for muscle recovery, endurance and athletic performance.

At Optimum Nutrition we always believe that one should focus on getting their proteins from food first, and if your needs increase with regular exercise, then add a high quality complete protein supplement to complement your diet. Choosing the right supplement brand can give you long-lasting, sustainable results. A high-quality complete protein such as Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey is a great choice once you’ve hit consistency with your running routine - it is a great supplement to maximise athletic performance and build muscle.

BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) are another category of supplements that can be useful, particularly to retain muscle mass and delay fatigue. But always remember that supplements are not substitutes - they must be an addition to a good diet.

The art of order

Running is a synergy of discipline, thoughtful preparation, and proper nourishment - and the ultimate way to slow down your thoughts and create time everyday to be in your own company. Each stride comes with a chain of thoughtfulness and order that you’ve set up and as the miles accumulate, so too will the transformative power of this simple yet profound act. So, lace up and embrace your new journey.


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