With more people wanting to lose weight or get in shape, running has exploded in popularity over the past decade with 42 million regular runners, according to a Runners USA report. Running is a great exercise with many benefits including weight loss, strengthening of your cardiovascular system, and increased happiness by relieving stress.
Start running armed with these simple tips-you will build up your running from minutes to miles, whether you’re a beginner or getting back in shape.
Set realistic goals.
As a beginner, you should first write down some short term goals that you can easily achieve. Post them on the refrigerator to remind you. They may be as simple as “I will work out for five minutes longer today.” Build on these small victories first to get a sense of accomplishment before setting long term goals. Later, as your running progresses, and to challenge yourself, make long term goals that you can conquer. One day you may find yourself running in a 5k, 10k or 13.1 half marathon.
Start with the right shoes.
For a sport that depends on healthy feet, a quality pair of running shoes is the most important gear you will need. Deciding which shoes are right for you can seem overwhelming, but visit a running store where they have specialized personnel trained to analyze your running gait and recommend the best running shoes for your style. A reasonable price for a good pair of running shoes will cost $75-$100. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles.
Get the proper running apparel.
While you don’t need to break the bank for running clothes, it is important to buy the right apparel. Cotton t-shirts and shorts will get heavy when they become wet from sweat, which may cause painful chafing to your skin. Invest in running clothes made of 100% polyester or similar synthetic materials that wick away sweat and keep you more comfortable. Women should always wear a supportive sports bra to prevent permanent sagging of their breasts.
Fuel your body.
Running will help you burn 400 calories or more per hour. But in order to get or maintain a fit body, you’ve got to replace them with healthy food. “Your pre-run snack should be sugar boosting, like a banana, energy bar or energy drink says Coach Edwards. Running on an empty stomach is neither good for your body nor does it make running fun.
Hydrate before you run.
Beginners need to pay attention to what and how much they’re drinking before, during and after exercise. Staying hydrated is critical to your running performance and, more importantly, for preventing heat-related illnesses. Drink water often during the day. “The rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 0.6 to determine the amount of water in ounces you should consume every day to keep your tissues healthy and injury free,” Coach Edwards says. Dehydration in runners may cause fatigue, headaches, decreased coordination, and muscle cramping.
Stretch before and after your run.
Some research suggests that static stretching cold muscles can cause injury. “Loosen up cold muscles with light stretching of your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves to avoid shin splints, hamstring pulls and other common running injuries. Hold each stretch for 15-25 seconds. Add easy jumping jacks, a five minute run, or a brisk walk,” says Elizabeth Edwards, a high school track coach and 9 time marathon runner. Cool down the same way to help maintain a healthy range of motion in your joints and prevent tight muscles, which can cause inefficient form and injuries.
Motivational music is cool.
While some runners think music is distracting, many runners believe music provides them an advantage when they pump up their tunes. “Research is mixed on the topic, but I use my music playlist to pace my distance. One day out the week I run without music to focus on my form,” says Coach Edwards. Other runners enjoy listening to books, podcasts or motivational speeches to pass the time. Try what works best for you.
Start at a slow pace.
While you may feel you can run a good distance fairly fast, start with 20 to 30 minutes (your body will be surprised at how long it feels!). Don’t overdo it. Give your body a chance to adjust to this new activity. Gradually increase your distance with a walk and run plan until your stamina improves. Aim to increase your running by 10 percent each week. You should be able run and to carry on a conversation without being out of breath. As you start to feel stronger, run more and walk less, the distance will naturally increase. This will ultimately help you feel better and stay injury free.
Think about your form.
When starting, it normal to feel awkward during the first few weeks of running, even if you’ve run in the past and are starting up again. Start every running workout by thinking about good running form; ensure that:
– Head is balanced over your shoulders and focused forward
– Shoulders are relaxed to allow your lungs to expand
– Arms are around 90 degrees and swinging like a pendulum from your shoulders
– Hands are relaxed and not crossing over your belly button as your arms swing
– Hips are under your shoulders and stabilizing your legs as they move under your body
– Feet are landing with short, light, quick strides under your hips
Decide where to run.
If you choose to run on a treadmill, your surface is stable and there are no concerns about the weather. But, like many runners, you may need to step out your front door and run outside for a change of scenery. Running on sidewalks or pathways is generally safe. But if you have to run on the road, run facing traffic so you can react to distracted drivers. Wear bright or reflective clothing to improve visibility, especially before dawn or at dusk. Drivers may not always see you, especially at night. School tracks are ideal places to start running, since they’re flat, traffic free, and four laps around most tracks equal one mile. Many tracks are available to the public in the evening or on the weekends.
Running is safe.
Whether you are running near a police station or a near a high crime area, you should always think safety first. You need to be safe on your runs, so you’re well enough to run another day. Take the necessary precautions by carrying a cell phone, carry identification with your name and phone number and avoid unlit or isolated areas. Remember to alter or vary your running routes to avoid stalkers. Be extra cautious when wearing headphones because you are less likely to hear a person approach you. Consider running with a friend or a dog. Most importantly, trust your intuition and avoid situations if you’re unsure. If you think a situation doesn’t feel ‘right’, run in another direction.
Track your progress.
As you feel stronger, start to measure your run by time and distance. There are easy to use running apps that track your time, distance covered and calories burned. Tracking your running will help keep you motivated and you’ll see your progression.
Give it a rest.
Now that you are running, listen to your body. In most cases, expect some muscle aches and soreness for a few days, especially in the quadriceps and calves. Persistent or worsening pains as you walk or run are indicators that you may be pushing too hard. Back off a bit and you’ll continue to improve without injury. Rest is necessary for your muscles to repair and become stronger. “Depending on your fitness level, beginning runners should start off resting every other day,” according to Edwards.
Reward your efforts.
After a week of workouts, reward yourself for all the hard work with your favorite meal, drink or buy a graphic t-shirt with a running theme to use on your next run. It will motivate you for the upcoming week.
Sign up for a race.
Once you are feeling better about your endurance, sign up for a 5k race. It is great way to add the extra motivational push while giving back to help raise funds for nonprofit organizations of your choice. Sign up is easy online.
Many people either love or hate running. Give running a try, it may change your life. Hopefully, these running tips will get you started and make it fun. But the best tip is to fight through the negative thoughts and continue to push forward. Once you overcome that difficult barrier, the rewards will truly be more satisfying.