There has been an increased interest in running in the past few years, with new athletes of all shapes and sizes taking to the road. And why not? Running is a wonderful way to get outside, exercise, meet new people, and enjoy the great outdoors (not to mention some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets). No matter when or where you decide to take up running, here are some tips to make your experience rewarding.
Have realistic expectations of your first few weeks. You WILL be sore and certainly don’t want to push yourself so hard that you are scared (or hurt too much) to continue. Concentrate on your distance, rather than your speed; you can build your mileage gradually, with small interim goals (a half mile, then a mile, and so on). Allow yourself to train over time to allow your body to become fitter. If you need to start with walking, then you can add running at a gentle pace. Walking can build strength and endurance, especially if you add weight training to your plan.
- An effective way to start your running routine slowly is with a run/walk combination: Beginning with a 1 min run:5 min walk combination, slowly revise that ratio to increase run time and decrease walk time, until your run is 30 minutes with no walking.
Find the Perfect Shoe
Have your gait analyzed at an athletic or running store, and take into consideration the terrain you cover, how often you run and the distances you plan to focus on. You may need to go up a ½ size as your feet may swell or retain fluid, especially early in your running regimen. Although superior running shoes may seem expensive, your feet and legs will thank you for the investment.
- Money saving idea: Once you find a brand and style which fits perfectly, look for the previous years’ model. The colors may be different, but you can get the same great fit at up to 75% off!
No Pre-Run Stretching
This may sound counter-productive, but it’s “old school” to start with those static stretches. It will not only NOT help you perform better, but increases your risk of injury (and soreness). The key is not to stretch cold muscles. However, a dynamic warm up will raise your heart rate and prepares your body for the workout. Save the stretching until your muscles are heated up, and you will find that you can not only stretch farther, but with less pain.
Find the Right (Dry) Clothing
Let’s face it; you’re going to sweat. You want to look fashionable while you are running, but you certainly don’t want to wear anything that will inhibit your running ability or make you sweat more! There is a large variety of clothing specifically designed for runners and other athletes, with wicking fabrics which pull moisture (sweat) away from your body, reducing that clammy feeling you can get when running in cool, humid weather. No swampiness here!
- Treat your feet! As important as your shoes are, your socks are important, too. Steer clear of 100% cotton, as it soaks up wetness and holds it to the skin. If your feet get wet (due to sweat or a puddle!), they will remain so until your take them off and dry them out. Cotton is notorious for causing friction, which can cause blisters (not the reason you want to take a rest day!)
Track Your Progress
An app or notebook can help you monitor how you’re improving. You can keep notes about your patterns, specific area you like (or dislike) running in, and build up your confidence. A training log can help you pinpoint areas where your training needs adjustment, to help push you to the next level, and determine where you can set additional goals (speed and distance).
Change It Up
One way to prevent soreness is to adjust how your body is working. By utilizing different workout methods, you can allow your “running” muscles to recuperate from stiffness and focus on other muscle groups. Add some weight training, yoga, or Zumba to your routine. By varying your exercise schedule, you can strengthen your entire body. You likely want more than your legs to be fit! Another reason to vary your regimen is to prevent boredom; if you do the same thing every day, you will lose interest.
As odd as this may sound, one cannot live by running alone! If you don’t allow yourself some down time, you will wear yourself out, both physically and mentally. Especially early in your running program when your joints are adjusting, you will reduce the number of days LOST to soreness by incorporating rest into your regimen.
- Newbie plan: Consider running only 2-3 days per week and recovering the other days until you no longer experience soreness after your run.
Make Running a Habit
Just as it is important to start slowly and incorporate rest into you plan, you also need to establish running as part of your weekly schedule. Even if you choose a shorter run due to a busy schedule or change your workout regimen for the day, the act of making yourself get out of bed (or off the couch) to do something physical will become automatic. Think about how you feel AFTER your workout as motivation for getting out there!
Join a Group or Find a Partner
When you find someone (or some group) to run with, your motivation, commitment, and accountability will rise dramatically. It is a proven fact that your workout experience seems easier to accomplish with a friend, as the social aspect of the activity heightens the levels of mood-lifting hormones.
Don’t Forget Your Posture
Your posture is an important aspect of running, even though you may think its automatic. If you don’t have good posture, tensions increased in your neck and back, arms swinging across your torso causes torque, “chicken wings” cause you to shorten your stride, and each of these restricts your breathing ability. Posture influences air flow, and with restricted air flow, you cannot perform your best.
Train Your Lungs
You may have thought about training every (obvious) part of a runner’s body, but without optimized breathing, you simply can’t perform your best. Efficient breathing ensures your lungs are getting blood flow and oxygen to the necessary parts of your body, including your legs. Respiratory muscle training (RMT) has been proven to increase oxygen levels in the blood, reduce fatigue, and increase your power and efficiency. Using a RMT device like PowerLung helps you to concentrate on training your respiratory muscles without wearing the rest of your body out in the meantime. The PowerLung device allows you to work on both inspiratory and expiratory function, and the short (less than 15 minute) regimen can be easily added to your existing workout plan.
These tips will help you jump start your running plan. Starting with a plan and quality running gear, you will find yourself looking forward to your workouts, possibly even considering a fun run or longer race to prove to yourself (and your friends) that you have truly improved your health and your life! Don’t get discouraged if you have a few setbacks; remember that you and your running plan are works in progress, and your goals are long term. Now get out there and RUN!