Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So you want to start running?

Congratulations on your decision to start running and to get fit. Whether you have trouble running out to your mailbox or you have run a few miles before, getting started is half the battle. From here, take it one step at a time.  Here are a few suggestions if you want to make running a long-term habit and part of your lifestyle:

1) Get a good pair of shoes.  The old sneakers you have in your closet probably aren't the best choice of footwear.  Shoes are an important tool in staying injury free.  After about six months to a year, they do not offer as much support as they once did.   Once you start running even more, shoes need to be replaced more often.*  I always suggest going to a specialty running store for the first-time runner.  I know that they tend to be a bit more expensive, but it will be worth it in the long run.  Go to a store that can evaluate your gait to determine what kind of shoe you need.  Often they have you try on several pair of shoes, run on the treadmill and find the one the feels best.  I like Roadrunner Sports, but there are plenty of other stores out there. They evaluate your running and even have a 60 day guarantee.  You can run on shoes for two months and if they don't work on your feet, they'll return them.  It's easy.  I've done it.  Once you know exactly what kind of shoe you run well on, then you can search the internet for the best deals (although, most of the better shoes are around the same price wherever you go).

2) Find a running partner (s).  Running offers some great solitude and alone time.  However, sometimes you need that extra motivation to get out on the road (especially if it is cold, dark or rainy).  Running with friends is a wonderful way to catch up, get to know people better and to make the time go faster.  In my pre-running life, I would chat with my friends over coffee. Now, we do most of our talking on our runs.  On those days when you really don't feel like getting out of bed early to go for your run, knowing that someone is meeting you gives you that extra push you need.  I have rarely regretted going out for a run, but often regret when I don't.

3)  Sign up for an event.  There are few things more motivating than a deadline. if you know you have a 5K in 10 weeks, then you will be more likely to go out and do your runs.   Don't just talk about running a 5 or 10K, actually sign up for it. It is much easier to make excuses about not running it if you haven't paid money to do it.  A training plan is key. There are a lot of great training plans on the internet on sites like Active.com. You need to find one that increases your mileage gradually and allows ample recovery time, in order to avoid injury.**

4) Start gradually.  You don't need to run miles and miles when you first start out.  In fact, it is better to gradually build your mileage.  If you want to run a marathon, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Marathon training plans are usually at least six months long if you are not already running long distances.  If you run too far too soon, you increase your risk of injury.  The goal here is to stay injury free in order to make this a long-term deal.

5) Take it slow.  Remember that it is ok to walk.  If you are truly just starting out, you should even build regular walking intervals into your workout.  Taking walk breaks allows you to recover for a bit, allowing you to go even further.  So many people think that they need to run fast.  In fact, going too fast is counter-productive.  If you cannot carry on a conversation while running, you are going too fast.  There is a time and place for running at your max (races, for example).  For now, keep it slow and easy.  You'll enjoy it more.  If you feel the need for speed, designate one or two days a week for intervals or a faster-paced run.  These workouts, however, are best after you have run for a while.

6) Find interesting places to run.   While running around your neighborhood is good for most runs, occasionally treat yourself with a run around a lake, river or something with a great view.  Adding trails to your running routine is not only good for your mental state, it is good to give your feet a break from the pounding of concrete and asphalt.   Once I discovered trail running, I realized that places that I love to hike are even better while running. You'd be surprised how certain routes get old fast.  While training for my first marathon, my friends and I ran around a nice lake.  At first, I was so happy we had such a great place to run.  By the time the marathon arrived, I never wanted to see that lake path again.   Keep your runs fresh and mix it up so they don't get old.

7) Fuel and Hydrate.  Don't forget to eat and drink before your run. I like a vitamin-energy drink called Zip Fizz and a Luna Bar.  Some people have a cup of coffee and an English muffin. You need to find out what works for you. You don't want to eat too close to run time, in case it causes you tummy issues.  It is important, especially as your runs get longer, to eat/drink something. Once your run is longer than about an hour or in hot weather, you need to think about bringing water with you or running where water is available (i.e. parks). Be sure to replenish after you run.

Friends of mine tell me that they would never run unless someone was chasing them. I too, used to hate running. However, if you approach it positively and run smart, you are more likely to enjoy it. Before you know it, you might surprise yourself and be one of those people who gets grumpy when you miss your run.  If you don't love it right away, that's OK too. Running is hard.  But there are so many good things about it.  Have fun finding those good things for yourself.

Happy Running...

*I replace my shoes every 300 miles or so, which is about every three months.
**Email me at runnermommylisa@gmail.com for a quote for a training plan.

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