The best way to get your mate up off the couch and running

Ever get asked by mates what the attraction to running is?

Or maybe you've got a friend who's shown interest in running and is ready to give it a try? As you know, starting isn't easy, so here's how to help them take their first steps, and stick with it.

Walk first

The saying goes that you must crawl before you walk. With running, you need to walk before you run.

While you may want to get your friend up and running, for a problem-free start they need to have spent at least two weeks walking, cycling or cross-training for around 30 minutes a few times a week. This helps to build aerobic fitness and strength.

Just because you can run non-stop for more than 30 minutes, doesn't mean you should try to get your friend to do it. Get them to start running short bursts during their regular walks and gradually increase the time running so that it is double the time spent walking until they reach one hour of exercise.

Pick a program

Instead of winging it, pick an appropriate running program for your friend's fitness goal. There are plenty of beginner programs designed to get anyone running five kilometres or 30 minutes.

The best ones maximise training results by running the right distance at the right pace on the right day; gradually increase anaerobic threshold with each run by matching running pace to current level; and set measurable goals. Some popular options are include , , and .

Don't ignore niggles

It's normal to have some muscle soreness when people start running for the first time. Therefore, it's not advisable to run on consecutive days. If your friend has pain that's sharp or severe, or is being carried from one run into the next, encourage them to make an appointment with a qualified health practitioner such as a Sports Physiotherapist.

Get the gear

Running can be a very affordable sport and doesn't require a lot of financial outlay. But a non-negotiable is a good pair of running shoes. Often newbies dust off their old runners that have seen better days.

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Be a good mate and take your friend shopping for a new pair of running kicks. Head to a shop that will analyse your friend's running gait and help them to buy shoes that will support their new pursuit.

Break it up

Encourage your friend to take breaks. Once they've been running for a few weeks they might feel like ditching the walk breaks on their walk/run program. But it pays to take walking or drink breaks before they're needed to prevent fatigue or going too hard too soon. Remind them that even endurance athletes take walk/run breaks.

Be there for the ups and downs

When starting something new, there are bound to be moments when things get hard. Maybe your friend has had a bad day, perhaps they've missed a training session or their last run felt horrible. We've all had those days, so be there for your mate. Share a story of your tough runs and remind them that it's likely their next workout will be better than the last.

Introduce them to other runners

The running community is one of the best things about running so take time to introduce your friend to other runners who can motivate and encourage them to push on or keep them accountable if you're not around. Be mindful that early on your friend may be self-conscious or intimidated by the thought of running with others. Make sure you choose a social running group like that welcomes runners of all abilities.

Be realistic

Don't push your friend too hard. Let them gradually build their running fitness and encourage rest days. Most of all, don't rush them as this can lead to momentum-crushing injuries. Use your slower recovery runs as a chance to join them for runs, and be patient. Remember that the goal is to help them transition to running, not hurt them.

Register for an event

Entering a running event together can be a great motivator. Seek out a five-kilometre fun run three months away from when your friend starts their training program. Choose a run with the help of .

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

Follow Laura Hill 

How have you got a mate up and running? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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