The first part of a run often feels the worst, and you can feel that you won’t be able to complete what you set your mind on doing. This is perfectly normal and there are a few reasons for why the first mile hurts the most.
Most often, before we begin our run, we may have just woken up from a night’s sleep or been sitting for some time, either working or relaxing. Ultimately, before we set out, we usually come from a place of relaxation or a prolonged seated position. Our heart rate has unlikely gone above 100bpm, and the muscles won’t have had the opportunity to contract and propel us forward vigorously.
When starting the run, the oxygen levels in the blood are typically low, and there’s insufficient fuel in the tank to immediately engage in high-level activity. After a couple of minutes of running, there’s then a surge in demand from the muscles. The body starts to ramp up its oxygen levels to accommodate for these increasing requests, with the main priority to maintain an aerobic working environment.
Once the body has registered what’s happening physiologically, it’s not surprising that we may find ourselves in a tricky predicament. For example, we may experience an elevated heart rate, increased depth of breathing, and gradual onset of lactic acid build-up in our muscles, with the body trying desperately hard to restore some form of equilibrium. By setting off too fast, we increase the risk for the remainder of the run of feeling unpleasant and uncomfortable.
Where we sometimes go wrong, and what causes us to frequently get caught out, is that we often set off too fast at the start as it naturally ‘feels good’, as we’re not fully aware of the body’s needs. To ensure we achieve an enjoyable run, firstly begin the first mile at a leisurely pace. You want to feel in control and relaxed. Once you’ve passed around 8-10mins, your body should have adapted pleasantly to the running demands, and you should feel lighter on your feet and ready to settle into your target pace. Also, it may be beneficial to include some dynamic warm-up exercises before you set off. This will promote blood flow to your legs and allow your body to respond to the demands of the muscles quicker.
By taking the first mile steady and gradually building into your pace, it will not only help your body gently adapt to the demands of running, but will also mentally prepare you for the upcoming miles. Achieving the harmonious link between the body and mind will accelerate the release of endorphins, and you will end the run feeling happy, energised and motivated for the next training session.