On the surface, running seems like one of the easiest ways to quickly jump into the world of fitness. Compared to most fitness related activities, it’s pretty inexpensive and all you need is a pair of shoes, some shorts, a safe place to run, and you’re good to go. Right? Well, ask any of the dozens of beginning runners I’ve worked with and they’ll probably tell you that it’s one of the most challenging things they’ve ever attempted.
Why? Well, going from a sedentary lifestyle to all of the sudden expecting your body to run a mile is pretty unrealistic. Even though it’s low cost and can be done most anywhere at most anytime, a beginning runner, needs to do a little planning to get his/her head in the game before beginning one of the most rewarding and challenging quests they’ll ever experience.
Below are 10 tips to help your ease into running, succeed, and actually enjoy your new life as a runner.
Walk to build aerobic and muscular endurance. The month prior to beginning your new venture into running, go out for a daily walk. Try to walk at least 30 minutes each day. The first week, go for an easy walk. “Easy” is faster than a stroll, but just shy of breaking a sweat. For the next two weeks, up the walk to a moderate intensity. Now you’ll be sweating, but still be able to carry on a conversation. For the last week, increase the walk to a hard intensity. During the “hard” walks, you’ll be breaking a sweat and if you’re talking, it will be more like a one- or two-word conversation. This month of walking will help to open up the lungs, get you more in-tune with your breathing, increase your aerobic capacity, as well as start building some muscular endurance in your legs. It will also help by getting you into a daily routine of exercise.
Strengthen Your Core. Running actually requires almost as much upper-body muscular endurance as it does lower-body. During your pre-running walking month, add in a bi-weekly core and upper-body workout. A strong core and upper-body will help maintain good running form which will help keep fatigue from setting in as quickly when you begin your running. No fancy equipment is needed. Some light dumbbells and/or med balls will do the trick. Click here for a great core workout for runners.
Buy Running Shoes.This seems like a no-brainer, but starting your running with the right pair of shoes can help head off possible injury. The sneakers you’ve been knocking around in for the past two years are great for just that—knocking around in. The best thing to do is visit your local independently-owned running store and have them fit you for running shoes. Tell them you’re a new runner and you’re not sure what you need and that you’d like them to analyze your gate and determine the best shoe for you.
Find a Beginning Running Group. Running with others is one of the best ways to succeed as a new runner. Having the support of others when it gets tough does wonders in helping you hang tough and persevere. You’ll also be breaking new ground and experiencing things you never thought you’d be able to do. Having someone who can relate to what you’re experiencing to celebrate the small gains with each week is a wonderful thing.
Comparison Shop.Not all “Beginning Running Groups” are for beginners. I heard about one group that began with close to 100 runners, but it quickly dropped to about 15. Why? The group was doing 100m hill repeats during the second week of the program. That’s not a beginning running group. Look for a program that’s focused on endurance, not pace or distance. As a beginner you need to be building endurance not thinking about how fast or how far you’re going. Also check to see if the program includes learning about proper running form, breathing, and pre- and post-run stretching.
Begin with a Run/Walk Format. I use a run/walk method with my beginning running groups and I feel it’s the best way for new runners, particularly new runners coming from a sedentary lifestyle to succeed at running. There are a variety of run/walk programs available. The beauty of the run/walk is the controlled progression that helps you gradually build a longer and longer running base over the course of the program. My programs originally began as 10-week programs started with five 2-minute run/4-minute walk intervals for a total of 30 minutes. Over the years, I’ve refined my program so that now it’s 14-weeks beginning with five intervals of a 1-minute run / 5-minute walk for 30 minutes. The longer program allows for a wider array of individuals to participate, acclimate, and succeed. Each week the run gets longer and the walk gets shorter until the group members are running a full 30-minutes by week 14. Keep in mind that “group” is a loose term. Remember it’s all about endurance not about pace. I encourage my runners to find their “natural” pace and stick with that. So, as the weeks go by, the group spreads out with runners way ahead, some in the middle and some pulling up the rear. And….that’s okay. They all have the same incremental time goals. Some just are naturally faster or slower. It’s all good.