How to start running. It’s interesting that when people decide to get fit, the first thing they usually turn to is running. While running is a fantastic form of exercise, it can be fairly intimidating and tough to stick with in the long term. So let’s just get past the obvious tips like: run with a friend, plan ahead, stuff we all know… Providing that you are healthy, sometimes you just have to get out there and start.
HOW TO START RUNNING
Where should you run? First I am going to assume that you have a decent pair of running shoes and a safe place to run. I recommend a well lit park where you can stay off the side walk (hint, this will be easier on your joints). Also look for a place with uneven terrain. As you get stronger, hills are your friends, as they burn extra calories and are great for some extra strength training. This your perfect opportunity to discover some new neighborhoods in your city. Just remember to be safe.
Treadmill vs. Outdoors? Both have their pros and cons. If you are new to running and the weather is awful, it’s perfectly okay to start on a treadmill, there’s no need to procrastinate until spring. I would suggest setting the treadmill to a 0.5 – 1 deg incline, because that mimics the natural resistance of an outdoor run. Personally, I like to practice my sprints on a treadmill. I’ve had some foot injuries in the past and a treadmill allows me to focus more on my stride.
How fast should you go? The general idea is that you want to be able to hold a conversation while you run. I sing (quietly) along to my music which gives me a good idea of my pace. That being said, it’s also a good idea to do the occasional sprint, otherwise you’ll never progress to a faster pace. I like to run at a higher speed for 1-2 minutes and then walk for a minute.
How long should you go for? It’s best to start slow. I often find that people want to run before they can walk. Answer honestly, can you do a fast 30 minute walk without becoming exhausted? If not, then it’s probably wise to improve your conditioning first. Once you are comfortable with walking then try adding some running. The first time out, set aside 30 minutes. Don’t stress too much about it. Increase your pace to a light jog and just go (we’ll get into a training schedule later). If you can run for 30 seconds, that’s great. If you can run for a minute, fantastic. Don’t go for too long or too far. Just spend that first 30 minutes alternating walking and jogging. This is not the time to worry about what you think you “should” be doing, this is the time to get to know your body and how it works.
What should you be thinking about? When I run, especially when it starts getting hard and I’m not having fun any more, I like to focus on several things. First, I try to find the beat in my music. A consistent beat helps me keep up my tempo and allows me to forget that my body is starting to protest. Then I start to think about my breathing and actively slowing it down. If I’m gasping, I might slow down my pace a bit. After that I think about my body. It’s important to expend as little extraneous energy as possible. Keep the shoulders down and your arms bent at a 90 degree angle, fingers relaxed. Due to my specific shoes, I can’t strike heavily with my heel, so I try to really roll through my foot using all of its muscles.
Are there any mental tricks? My secret to keeping on running is mini-goals. When I start feeling like I need to stop, I focus on the next lamp post, garbage can, road sign. I tell myself that all I need to do, is keep running till I get there. It’s only a couple of dozen meters away. I avoid thinking about the rest of the run. It’s just me, that lamp post and the short distance separating us. Then when I get there, I celebrate my mini success and pick the next target. All I have to do is keep running to that next post…
Remember, it’s normal that you will be out of breath and this won’t be easy. Also, you might hurt a little bit (or quite a bit) after the first few times you go out, but as long as it’s just muscle soreness, you are good to go. Set some time aside for a nice deep stretch. I read somewhere that the first 2 miles (or just over 3 km) is the hardest, so once you can comfortably run that distance, the road ahead is open.
Do you have any tips for beginner runners?