So, you’ve got the itch to start running. Whether you’re already a fitness enthusiast or a true beginner in the couch-to-5K realm, there’s one burning question on your mind: Where the heck do you even begin?
Sure, it may seem as easy as slipping on those trusty sneakers and pounding the pavement. But let me tell you, putting a little thought into your goals, pacing, attire choices, and scheduling of other activities and workouts can make a difference. Not only will it help you avoid pesky injuries, but it’ll also propel you forward on your journey toward progress.
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Lucky for you, I’ve gathered some expert advice from the running gurus out there, and I’m ready to share it with you. I’ve even whipped up a basic four-week training plan to get you started on the right track. Get ready to conquer those miles, my fellow runner!
On Motivation: Getting Started With Running
Allow me to share the wisdom of Kourtney Thomas, a remarkable running coach and certified trainer from St. Louis. She believes that understanding your underlying motivation is key to sticking to any training plan. Unravel the essence of your pursuit, grasp its significance, and identify the grand achievements you aspire to. You’ll forge a profound connection to your running endeavors through this self-reflection.
Perhaps it’s the allure of triumph that accompanies completing a 5K race that beckons you. Or maybe you’ve noticed a hint of breathlessness while frolicking with your beloved children, sparking a fervent desire to fortify your endurance. The weight of work-related stress has burdened your spirit, and the mere thought of venturing outdoors and engaging in physical movement revitalizes your very being.
Whatever the catalyst may be, Thomas urges you to delve deep into its essence and even put it down on paper. Such an exercise will prove invaluable in anchoring your focus towards your overarching goal.
Set Your Pace and Distance
According to Amy Morris, a certified running coach from the RRCA and the head of personal training at CrossTown Fitness in Chicago, the distance and pace of your run will rely on factors such as your health, athletic background, and current fitness level.
How to Know What Pace Is Right
When you’re just starting out, it’s important to approach your runs with a gradual and steady pace,” advises Morris. “If you push yourself too hard right from the start, you’ll end up building up lactic acid in your body, leaving your lungs struggling to keep up with the rapid pace. This can leave you feeling breathless and force you to significantly slow down.
Starting too fast will also lead to faster fatigue, which can be quite frustrating for beginners.
One effective technique that can benefit novice runners is incorporating run-walk intervals into their routines. Begin by setting a comfortable pace for running—remember, you should be able to hold a conversation while running—for a specific duration (start with a minute), then follow it up with an equal amount of walking time. Repeat this pattern throughout your run.
This approach allows your body to adapt to the running motion without tiring too quickly. As the running segments become easier, gradually increase the duration from one minute to two minutes. Once that feels manageable, add another minute to the running portion of the interval, and continue progressing until you can eliminate the walking altogether.”
How Long to Run When You Start
When determining the optimal distance for your runs, my friend, various factors come into play. Morris says your health, athletic background, and fitness level are key influencers. A half-mile walk-run combination can be a suitable starting point if you’re starting out. However, if you already have a higher fitness level from activities like biking or yoga, you might consider beginning with a mile or even longer distances.
The American Council of Exercise (ACE) recommends starting with 20- to 25-minute workouts and choosing a comfortable distance. Keep in mind that you’ll gradually increase the distance over time. ACE advises a conservative approach to progress, limiting the increase to a maximum of 10 to 15 percent in distance and duration from one week to the next. It’s also beneficial to schedule your runs on alternate days rather than consecutive ones.
Remember to take your training journey one day at a time, no matter which initial distance you choose. Morris emphasizes that progress is not always a linear path. There may be fluctuations, setbacks, and periods of plateau. Embrace those moments and trust in the training plan you’ve established.
Get the Right Gear
There’s no need to go overboard with extravagant equipment. However, selecting suitable apparel, shoes, and accessories can greatly enhance your comfort during your strides and in certain conditions, contributing to your safety.
Determining what to wear for your run will primarily depend on the weather conditions at the start and expected conditions when you finish, advises Morris. However, keep in mind that your body will generate heat as you move, so it’s advisable to opt for lightweight clothing compared to what you would wear for a leisurely walk or similar activities. As a general guideline, she suggests dressing as if the outside temperature is 10 degrees warmer than it actually is.
If you tend to feel warmer, Morris suggests dressing as if it’s 15 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. On the other hand, if you tend to get chilly easily, she advises dressing as if it’s 5 degrees warmer.
“Layering is always a great idea,” she adds. However, make sure to choose moisture-wicking fabrics such as merino wool, bamboo, or specific polyesters designed for this purpose. “During winter, jackets with zippers can act as body temperature regulators, similar to a thermostat. You can zip up if you feel cool and unzip if you’re warm.”
And remember, you don’t necessarily need specialized gear to start running. If the temperature is moderate, Morris suggests a combination of a T-shirt and sweatpants will suffice. So, don’t let the lack of fancy gear hold you back from getting out there and hitting the pavement.
A reliable pair of running shoes is the equipment that will truly carry you a long way. It’s highly recommended to assess your running stride at a specialized running gear store, advises Thomas. They will carefully analyze your running stride and the way your foot lands, allowing them to suggest the most suitable shoe types for your needs.
However, only some have easy access to such stores. If that is the case for you or if you prefer online shopping, Thomas suggests starting with shoes labeled as “neutral.” These shoes provide an average level of arch support without excessive correction for inward or outward rolling of the feet as they hit the ground.
Also, choose a shoe with cushioning that feels comfortable to you. As you gain experience in running, you’ll develop a better sense of whether you prefer more or less cushioning in your shoes.
Sunscreen & Other Health and Safety Tips
Regardless of whether it’s warm or cool outside, protecting your skin with sunscreen should always be a top priority. The American College of Sports Medicine advises applying sunscreen with the minimum SPF of 30 for at least 30-minutes before venturing out into the sun. If you find yourself sweating profusely, make sure to reapply sunscreen every hour to maintain its effectiveness.
Another crucial consideration regarding running gear is safety, emphasizing Thomas. If you prefer running during dawn or dusk, attaching reflective strips to your shoes and clothing is a good idea to enhance visibility. Opt for brightly colored attire as well. Additionally, stick to well-lit areas during your runs whenever possible, and ensure your phone is securely tucked away in a zippered pocket. Taking these precautions will contribute to a safer running experience.
Don’t Skip the Warmup
As Morris explains, a proper warmup is crucial to running, my friend. It primes your muscles for exercise and promotes optimal oxygen and blood circulation throughout your body.
It’s time to ditch those static stretches from your gym class days when it comes to warmups. Instead, focus on dynamic flexibility. Engage in active movements that prioritize mobility over holding static stretches.
A beneficial warmup can involve simple yoga sequences, brisk walking, or exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises, and arm swings. Morris recommends dedicating around five minutes to your warmup, although longer sessions may be beneficial for longer runs.
To make your warmup truly effective, you want to engage the specific muscles you’ll be using while running. Nicholas Romanov, Ph.D., an Olympic running coach and creator of the Pose Method, emphasizes the importance of simulating running movements during the warmup. By incorporating light hops on both legs or single-leg hops, you can effectively mimic the motions of running and prepare your muscles for the demands of the activity.
Follow a Plan
While a spontaneous run can be invigorating, my friend, developing and following a training plan can greatly contribute to achieving your running goals.
The perfect training plan depends on your current fitness level. If you’re already accustomed to regular workouts or physical activities, you might feel inclined to embark on a higher-intensity training program, be it in terms of speed, distance, or both.
However, Romanov advises a more gradual approach if you’re new to exercise or returning after a lengthy hiatus. It’s crucial for your training to feel manageable in the beginning to avoid injuries and gradually build up your running capacity over time.
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Day 1: Run 10 minutes, walk 3 minutes||Day 1: Run 13 minutes, walk 2 minutes, run 5 minutes||Day 1: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 5 minutes||Day 3: Run for 30 minutes|
|Day 2: Rest||Day 2: Rest||Day 2: Rest||Day 2: Rest|
|Day 3: Run 10 minutes, walk 2 minutes, run 5 minutes||Day 3: Run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 5 minutes||Day 1: Run for 28 minutes||Day 7: Run for 30 minutes|
|Day 4: Rest||Day 4: Rest||Day 4: Rest||Day 4: Rest|
|Day 5: Run 12 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 3 minutes||Day 5: Run 17 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 7 minutes||Day 3: Run for 25 minutes||Day 5 Run 20 minutes|
|Day 6: Rest||Day 6: Rest||Day 6: Rest||Day 6: Rest|
|Day 7: Cross-train||Day 7: Cross-train||Day 7: Cross-train||Day 7: Run 30 minutes|
For instance, here’s a four-week training plan designed for beginners with limited running experience. The ultimate aim is to progress to a continuous 30-minute run. Remember to warm up before each session, as discussed earlier, and maintain a comfortable pace. As you begin, consider incorporating jogging during the running segments (which entails running at a slower pace) or alternating between brisk walking and running.
Morris suggests focusing on time rather than distance, as it allows you to become accustomed to the running motion. Once you complete these initial four weeks, you can introduce additional variables such as distance and speed as you continue to advance in your running journey.
This comprehensive guide has provided valuable insights and practical advice for getting started with running. From choosing the right equipment and attire to understanding the importance of warmups, training plans, cross-training, and rest days, you now have a solid foundation to embark on your running journey.
Remember to listen to your body, progress at a pace that suits your fitness level, & celebrate every milestone along the way. Whether your goal is improved fitness, completing a race, or simply finding joy in the rhythm of your strides, embrace the process and enjoy the incredible benefits of running. Lace-up those shoes, hit the pavement, and let your running adventure begin!
How Do I Choose the Right Running Shoes?
Selecting the right running shoes is crucial for your comfort and performance. Consider getting your stride analyzed at a specialized running gear store, or opt for neutral shoes with adequate cushioning if you’re unable to access such stores.
How Should I Dress for Running in Different Weather Conditions?
Dressing appropriately for the weather is important. Opt for lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing in warmer conditions, dressing as if it’s 10 degrees warmer outside. Layering is useful in cooler weather; remember to wear sunscreen for sun protection.
Should I Warm Up Before Running, and if So, How?
Warming up is essential for preparing your muscles and increasing blood flow. Focus on dynamic flexibility exercises like yoga sequences, brisk walking, squats, lunges, and arm swings for about five minutes before your run.
How Should I Structure My Training Plan as a Beginner?
For beginners, start with a gradual approach. Consider a four-week training plan that gradually increases running time. Focus on time instead of distance, and incorporate rest days to prevent overuse injuries. Listen to your body & make adjustments as needed.
Can I Include Other Exercises in My Running Routine?
Absolutely! Cross-training is beneficial for overall fitness and injury prevention. Incorporate activities like cycling, swimming, strength training, or HIIT workouts to engage different muscle groups and add variety to your routine.
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