Soweto Marathon

Fears and phobias of first-time runners

2015-10-20 08:46

Running routes are brimming with newbies taking up the challenges of running – but most of them have loads of questions and concerns that often go un-answered. Here we tackle a couple of the most common fears and phobias surrounding running your first race.

1. What are the risks of having a heart attack?

Many amateur runners fear that their hearts won't be able to handle the the distance. Experts say it is a valid concern that almost all first time long distance runners express.

According to a Sports Psychologist Clinton Gahwiler of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, the fear of a heart attack is common among people embarking on any kind of fitness activity, regardless of whether they have a history of heart disease.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa recommends exercise as a treatment for people with coronary artery disease as it helps to rehabilitate the heart by restoring normal or near normal function of the heart and lungs.

Exercise is also important for people who do not suffer heart disease as a lack thereof has been shown to be one of the main risk factors for developing heart disease.

2. Will I get hurt?

Another concern for many new runners is that they might injure themselves while running. This is not an unrealistic fear, especially since even experienced runners experience injury.

Injuries, however, can be avoided by taking the following precautions:

- Don't skip the warm-up or cool-down.
- Add strength training and stretching.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day you are running. It minimises cramps. Just remember, on the other end of the scale, too much water can be just as dangerous
- Consider the running surface, especially if you're trying a new route. Be extra careful when roads are wet.
- Wear the correct gear, especially good shoes.
- Listen to your body, and do not push yourself too hard or you'll have to contend with pain or discomfort.

3. Will I be able to do it?

Your general health, in addition to your overall strength and fitness, contributes to your ability to be able to run longer distances. Most healthy people with a sense of self-discipline can participate in half and full marathons.

A long-distance athlete must have extremely strong core muscles for good balance and posture, a good sense of rhythm and good lung capacity.

To be able to cover the distance of a half marathon, your training should include lots of cardiovascular exercise and strength training for the muscles of your stomach, trunk and back.

Good preparation and a positive state of mind will contribute to a successful first long distance race.

Image: Shutterstock

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