Beginners guide to running – make it a fun hobby (even if you hate it)
With the end of 2014 fast approaching a lot of you will be setting new fitness goals. Have you ever dreamed about being a runner? I find that many of us secretly want to start running however the idea of even a simple jog can seem worse than a root canal.
I used to be one of those people. I would say things like “ I can’t run” and “I am not built like a runner”. The thing was that every time I would see a runner I would secretly imagine being in their shoes. The idea of running was appealing and intimidating all at the same time. Then one day I just had enough of hiding behind this fear!
It’s been about three years since I began running, and I can’t express enough how beneficial it is mentally, physically and spiritually. My personal preference is all-around fitness, and I’m not a hard-core runner, but I do believe that some amount of running can be beneficial and life changing for everyone.
So if you are just starting out as a runner, or if it’s something you’d like to do let me share 11 tips that I have learned along the way.
Now,this comes with a Disclaimer: I am definitely not an expert on running! I consider myself an OK runner, completing a couple half marathons. But what I have to share is what I’ve personally learned along the way. Also, see a doctor before starting a new running or any other exercise program — I don’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks!
Here we go:
1. Invest in a good pair of running shoes.
This is the biggest investment (other than your time!). There’s no one shoe that works for everyone so head to a specialty running store and ask for help. Find a pair that provides the support and fits your foot needs.
2. Start out slowly.
Many people, when they begin running, shoot for big goals. From a personal experience -I advise you to hold yourself back. Start out with a small amount of time, like 15 minutes – 20 minutes, and run or walk/run comfortably the entire time. Take your time to gradually increase your limit until you can run 30 minutes with no breaks. But do not overdo it in the beginning as this could lead to injury!
3. Warm-up and cool down.
Speaking of injuries…easing into any activity is always essential. Warm-up by walking for 5-10min, do some high knees, leg swings, hip circles. At the end of your run cool down by slowing down your pace and walking for few minutes. This helps to ease tired muscles and speeds recovery.
4. Form is important.
Keep your head up, eyes forward and arms bent at the waist. One thing to watch out for is how tense your upper body is — try to relax your shoulders, relax your hands. Shake it out if you need to. The reason is that you may be using extra energy (and tire yourself out faster) if you’re running with your fists clenched and shoulders shrugged.
There’s some debate about the best way to stretch for a run. I personally prefer warming up before I run and stretching areas of my body that “feel” the need after a run. Get in tune with your body and listen to what your muscles are asking for.
6. Cross-train and be sure to get rest and recovery days.
If you run hard every day, you will just continually break your muscles down, and improvement will be slow and difficult — and it could lead to burnout or injury.
The repetitiveness of running results in pounding the ankle, knee and hip joints and puts you at a higher risk for shin splints, stress fractures and overuse injuries. Rest days allow these joints to heal, plus if your only activity is running it can get boring both mentally and physically.
Find yourself another complementary activity to enjoy. Good options for cross training are swimming, weight lifting or yoga. If you’re really feeling sore or tired, just go for a 20 minute walk and by all means, take a day off here and there if your body is asking for it.
7. Keeping the body properly fueled and hydrated is the key
It’s not fun running with a full belly! On the other hand if you are starving you will not have an enjoyable run either. Eat a light meal or snack one-two hours in advance. You want healthy carbs, fat and protein.
My favorite pre-run meal is a small banana with one tablespoon of natural peanut butter. After running, you want to replenish energy stores as quickly as possible to help minimize muscle stiffness and soreness. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before you get some water. Hydrate with water before, during and after your training. Also give coconut water a try.
8. Run outside.
Personally I am not a big fan of the treadmill. Most of us spend way too much time indoors as it is. Plus running outside has many benefits. Some of the obvious reasons are the fresh air and the scenery which makes your run more interesting, beautiful, and is much better than staring at the treadmill clock. It gives you the proper terrain training if you are planning on running a race. Mix it up, try some hills, and venture into the trails, if possible.
9. Sign up for a local race.
Speaking of race one of the most motivating things of running is an upcoming race. I suggest you sign up for a 5K after a month or two of running, even if you don’t think you’re ready. Why? It will motivate you to keep running, so that you’re prepared to do the 5K. So go ahead and look online for a race in your area 😉
10. Growth is in discomfort
I’ve come to understand that running is just as much mental of a mental sport, as it is a physical sport. It’s easy to “think yourself out of the zone”. When I first started running I was playing many mental games to trick the mind out of quitting. For example the “counting game.” When I felt like slowing down or stopping, I set a number of steps to count as I kept running, usually around 100. Then I started to count every step in my head and cheer myself on to help reach my goal. This allowed me to push through, and before I knew it the 100 steps were up and I was on my next set of 100! However be mindful to recognize pain from discomfort. Do not “push through pain”! Always take a break if you need it.
11. Join a running club.
Personally I prefer running on my own. I use this time to clear my mind and treasure my time alone. However you might find motivation and inspiration from being part of a group. Whether it’s casual or competitive, this can help push you to go harder and dig deeper than you may on your own.
Here you have it, remember that every runner began with a first step, and you can too.
Dedicated to your health and wellbeing