I remember a soccer coach telling me that I had an easy job as the cross-country coach because all I had to do was to tell them to run. He had no idea it’s more complicated than that. There are ways to start safely, to improve consistently, and tools and exercises to prevent injuries. It is a very easy sport to start, but many people become frustrated and quit because they do not start correctly. Let me help you start a running program.
Why you should run
Running has truly saved my life both physically and mentally numerous times. It has helped me through the rough spots and kept me healthy. The people who know me best will always describe me as a runner before anything else. Here are ten reasons to run.
1. Runners have the best-looking legs. Muscles are sexy and runners’ legs are rippling in muscle. Those muscles might be sore, torn, or strained, but they look good no matter what.
2. Running strengthens your mind as well as your body. Runners set goals, reflect on their progress, but most importantly they develop mental techniques to help them run faster or longer and this mental strength can help in other aspects of life as well.
3. Running teaches us a lot about our bodies. We learn where the iliotibial band is and how to stretch it. We learn about ways to strengthen body parts to protect ourselves from injury and we know how to avoid chafing, aching, and blistering. We know how to treat our body like a fine machine; give it the right fuel and maintain the parts and everything will be fine.
4. You will never need to buy another t-shirt. Even if you have a dresser full of shirts a runner cannot help but be excited to see what the t-shirt will look like for the next race.
5. You have an excuse to eat carbs. Runners need energy so it’s ok to eat those carbohydrates and although we still have to eat in moderation, we can eat a little extra than a non-runner.
6. The demands of running will make you stronger. Running allows you to discover where your limits are and to try to push beyond those barriers. Trying to go to the next level will help you improve.
7. Running allows you to meet new people. I have never been to a race where I have not met at least one new interesting person. Runners tend to be nice people and as you are standing around before or after a race people will strike up conversations with you.
8. Running gives you time to think. Some of my best ideas and problem-solving are done while I’m running when no one is speaking to me or demanding my time.
9. You can connect to the community. Running gives you a chance to get out and about, to see what is going on in the neighborhood. It is difficult to go out for a run and not interact with at least one person. On Sundays, I run in my neighborhood and one after another my neighbors wander out to talk to me while I run around them or shuffle in place. I find out more information on that run than I do at any other time. You can explore roads and paths and really get to know your community.
10. Your mood will be better. Ask any runner what he or she is like after not running for a few days and words like moody and grumpy are used. Running is a healthy drug that can make you feel better in general.
How to start
Running can seem like an insurmountable task to some people. They see slender people who are scantily clad with colorful shoes racing past them and they say “Oh, no, I could never do that.” Well, why not? Running is a great way to strengthen your body, lose weight, control stress, improve your mood, and with some simple steps anyone can get started. Here are some basics to get you on your way.
1. Keep your head up and run tall with arms at a 90-degree angle. This allows you to breathe at maximum capacity. This is also about being relaxed as well as not wasting movement by having your arms flailing about.
2. Keep your shoulders relaxed and focus on breathing. It is very common for beginning runners to tense up their shoulders. This will result in painful cramping in their shoulders. Try to run with the body completely relaxed. This will also help to avoid some injuries since a loose body reacts to certain situations better than a tense, rigid one. New runners will sometimes hold their breath because they are so focused on running. Focus on regular breathing in and out until it becomes second nature.
3. Never run through an injury. A small problem can become a larger one if it is ignored. It is often difficult for a runner to take time off, but a little rest can prevent the need to be sidelined for longer periods.
4. Feet should follow a straight line. This will help to keep your body aligned. Runners who point their feet to their sides often end up with hip and knee problems.
5. Lean into hills with short strides and control running downhill. Shortening your stride and leaning into the hill will make it easier to get up it faster. Hill running also requires some mental training. Remember that it is only a hill. Have some mental boosters ready to repeat as you ascend. An example would be “I will not stop, you cannot defeat me, I will conquer this” It is surprising how well this works. When going downhill, control the way your feet impact the ground. Many runners slam their feet down with each step and end up with shin splints. Lean forward into the hill and run through it.
6. Do a variety of different types of runs. Do some long slow runs because you have to build a base of miles in order to run well. A long slow run also is a great way to ease out the kinks and unwind. We say that we are doing LSD (long slow distance) the runner’s drug. Run some hills.
Hills not only make you faster and stronger, but hill work also helps you with technique. It also prepares you mentally for a hilly course. Do some speed work because the only way to get faster is to run faster. Speed work is also a great way to learn how to pace yourself.
7. Run softly. Pay attention to how hard your feet hit the ground. If you can lessen the impact when you run, you have less chance of injury.
8. Buy good shoes and Take care of your feet. . Everything starts with the shoes. They can protect you from injury so find a good pair. Pay attention to what is happening to your feet. Apply lotion after running to make sure they do not crack. Check for blisters and black toes.
9. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a variety of food. Most of us do not drink enough fluid even when we are not exercising and a deficiency of fluids can make us sluggish. When we are running, we lose fluids and need to replace them. The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink a little all day. You know you are drinking enough if when you go to the bathroom your urine is clear. Do not follow the fad of the day whether it is a high protein or low carbohydrates. Eat a variety of healthy foods.
10. Understand the mental aspect of running. There are several things that will benefit you mentally. You have to be confident that you will do your best. You have to work on a positive attitude and practice positive self-talk. Play games when you run like counting how many runners you pass. Never go out with a defeatist attitude, it will slow you down much faster than shin splints. Set goals and decide how you will meet them.
What would you like to achieve in the future and what can you shoot for in the short term? An example would be that you want to complete a marathon by the end of the year and to do that you are going to gradually do longer races until you feel that you are ready for the marathon.
Investing time in training
Spend some time planning your training. Make it enjoyable and vary your routines. You have to put in the time to see the results.
Go off-road and try some trail running. You will see beautiful views and have a different set of challenges from road running.
Be your number one fan and celebrate the successes. Believe that you can achieve anything that you attempt.
Never giving up
Try not to give in to frustration. Everyone has days when they want to run farther than their body wants to, there will be days when it is better to take a day off.
If you want to be a distance runner, you have to run distance. Set aside some time to fit in some extra runs.
· Good shoes
I know we are going through a minimalist phase right now and barefoot running is still popular, but I know that I personally need a good shoe. When I coached running, I found that most injuries stemmed from a problem with the shoes. Go to a running store and have someone evaluate your running style. Ask their advice about the shoe you need to match your style and mileage. If you can afford two pairs, it is a good idea to switch them out and wear them on alternate days. I learned that I had to buy a half a size bigger than I needed for a street shoe. Spending money on a good pair of shoes could eliminate the aggravation of an injury later.
· A foam roller
This is a round piece of foam that is used to roll out aches and pains. They can be found at most stores including Wal-Mart and Target. Position the roller under the aching muscle and roll back and forth on top of it. It is fairly painful but a great way to help your muscles recover.
- The stick
This is used for the same thing as the roller, but it is easier to use. It looks like a long baton, and you just run it over the muscles.
- A tennis ball
This can be used for the same things as the stick and the roller, but it is more portable. It works great on sore shoulders too.
- Elastic bands/resistance bands
You can buy pieces of elastic and use them to strengthen your legs. Put them around your feet and do leg lifts. You can also use them for arm exercises. You can also use resistance bands to stretch.
- Compression socks/sleeves
Compression socks and sleeves can aid in recovery, and they are also helpful during running. You can also find sleeves for things like sore it bands.
- Balance board
Balance is an important health component and balance boards can be fun. Once you think that you can keep the board steady, add something to it like bouncing a tennis ball off the wall and catching it while keeping your balance. You can buy them at almost all department or running stores.
- Epsom salts
These are placed in the bath to help soothe sore muscles.
- A hat for rainy runs
Rainy runs can be beautiful, but you need something to keep the water out of your eyes, so a baseball cap is a necessity in the toolbox.
If you are doing a high intensity or a long run it’s a good idea to carry something to eat with you. You can choose from a variety of bars, energy waffles, or gels. Find what you enjoy.
- Pepto Bismol tablets for long runs
Runners occasionally have gastrointestinal distress especially on long rungs and Pepto Bismol tablets can avoid a painful situation.
- Comfy running clothes
Running clothes do not have to be expensive. I have found my favorite running clothes at the local thrift store. Wear what you are comfortable in. Experiment with different fabrics and different layers during colder weather. Do not experiment with anything the day of a race though. It’s best to go with tried and true on those days.
Running stores sell body glide that helps avoid chafing but Vaseline works just as well and it’s less expensive.
- Bio freeze
You will eventually experience sore muscles. Bio freeze can help keep you comfortable.
Weights can help strengthen your muscles to prevent injuries.
Inspiration can be found in readings that motivate you, a friend who supports you or a fellow runner who runs despite of a disability or hardship. All you have to do to find this type of inspiration is go to a race and be an observer.
- A running log
Track your progress by writing down your workouts and how you felt. Record races and times and plan your goals.
- A l
ittle dash of crazy
This comes in handy when your friend convinces you to run a race that requires training that you have not done or when the weather is horrific or you are asked to run in a race that involves zombies chasing you, obstacles, or great quantities of mud.
If you can have at least some of these items in your possession, your adventure with running will probably go smoother.
The ABCs of Running
Most of the time reducing wisdom to its most basic form gives us the greatest benefit. An example of this would be to look at running advice in the form of the ABCs.
Add more mileage gradually. 10% more per week is the recommended amount.
Be a cheerleader for yourself. Celebrate the triumphs and don’t worry too much about the rest.
Continue to try to improve.
Decide what your challenge is going to be and get ready to meet it.
Energize with nutritious food.
Forget all your problems and enjoy a great run.
Get a good playlist on your IPOD.
Invest in a good pair of shoes. Many injuries stem from poor shoes. Protect yourself.
Just run and have fun.
Keep track of your time and your mileage.
Love your feet. They are carrying you and they need tender care.
Mentally prepare yourself to run.
Never run through an injury.
Openly recruit friends to run with you.
Prepare for a race.
Question veteran runners to find what works for them.
Try new routes and routines.
Understand that there will be days your body does not want to run.
Value a good long run.
Weather is not always an excuse not to run. Dress accordingly.
X out injuries with common sense.
Yell for and encourage others in your races.
Zeal will keep you going when your body does not want to.