Have you decided you want to take on running? It’s a great sport to get into – running is good for your cardiovascular health and endurance, it reduces the risk of heart disease, promotes weight loss, gives you more energy and improves your overall mood. Plus, the running community continues to grow each year which means there are tons of running groups and social networks to get involved with and exciting events! It takes time to build up the stamina and if you want to feel comfortable in your running shoes, you have to start somewhere right? If you are taking the time to read an article about how to get into running, then you are already taking the right steps to becoming a runner.
Here are some tips for beginner runners, and always, always keep in mind, running is process and it takes time to build up the strength and stamina to get where you want to be. Make sure you have already began some sort of exercise program first such as walking or a regular cardio routine a few times a week (ex. aerobics, power walking, elliptical) and then slowly begin to add running into your routine.
Get the Right Running Gear
One benefit to taking on this new sport is the low demand for equipment. You will need comfortable and breathable workout clothes based on the weather or environment, a really good pair of running shoes and a supportive, comfortable sports bra for the lady runners. Clothing is important so you are completely content and there are no undergarment or clothing issues to get in the way of your focus. Shoes are very, very important because they improve your performance and most importantly, decrease the chances of injury or annoying shin splints. Go to your local running or sports store and have a professional have you try on shoes that compliment your stride, arch and running goals (marathon, 5K, or leisure?) so you pick the pair that suites you best.
Slowly Build Your Time and Mileage Starting with minimal mileage, as a new runner, is best to prevent injury and build stamina. Begin running 10 - 15 minutes 3 - 5 times per week. Start by running for 1 - 2 minutes and walking for 3 - 4 minutes. Do that until you have reached at least 10 or 15 minutes. As you get stronger, you can slowly start to decrease your walk time and increase your run time. Minimal running just a few times a week is already beneficial to your health, so you are doing your body good right from the get-go!
Here are some good walking/running plans to ease you in to becoming a strong runner:
Interval Running Properly warm up by walking at a slow and steady pace for 5 - 10 minutes. After your warm up, run at a comfortable speed for about 2 minutes (your heart rate should be up, but you should also be able to form sentences.) Stand tall with your abs in, using your arms to reach and pull forward. Walk it out for 1 minute for an active recovery, allowing your heart rate to go back down and prep yourself for the next high-intensity interval. Repeat this for 15 minutes. If 2 minutes of running is too much, reduce your time to 1 minute to 1:30 fast pace intervals until you build up more stamina. As time goes by, go for 20 minutes, and then work your way up to 30 minutes. Soon you will be able to go longer at a faster pace with shorter recoveries.
Weighted Walk Bring a pair of light walking weights with you (2 - 4 pounds total) to increase the intensity of your walk. Adding weight not only burns more calories, it helps strengthen your biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders and core. Try taking walking weights with you on every other walk to switch it up and allow the upper body a day of recovery. Some other things to keep in mind with walking weights:
Have a loose grip on the weights
Keep your arms in a 90 degree pumping motion while keeping them relaxed
Keep your core engaged and chest lifted
Go to your nearest sports store to find the right weight that is most comfortable for you.
Circuit Training Runs Circuit training is more intense than just interval walking. Here is an example circuit training plan:
Warm up with a brisk 5 - 10 minute walk followed by some shoulder roles, arm circles and torso twists. Pick up the pace for about 1 minute. And go right into your circuit: One set of pushups (on a bench, on a flat comfortable surface), triceps dip, lateral (side) lunges, plank jumps (standing in front of a park bench, lower into a squat, put your hands on the bench and jump out to a plank. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat), and side planks. Walk it out for 1 minute, and then increase your walking speed for another minute. Perform your circuit. Repeat this routine 3 times and then cool down with easy walking and stretching.
If you haven’t started a strength training routine yet, now is the time. Just because you decided to take on running, that doesn’t mean you have to throw out every other exercise program out the window. In fact, proper strength exercise and stretching such as yoga will benefit your speed, performance and reduce your risk of injury. So keep going to yoga class on your off days and continue to do those morning pushups and squats to build muscle and make you a better runner.
Here are some great, basic exercises you can add into your routine (perform 10 - 15 reps, 2 - 3 times):
Squats: to do a basic squat, stand tall with your feet about hip width apart. Sit back, keeping your weight evenly distributed on all four corners of your feet. Keep your core engaged, knees behind toes and your chest lifted as you sit deep into your squat and return to starting position.
Pushups: Pushups work the core, legs, arms and back. It is one of the best and most basic exercises to incorporate into your workout routine. You can add different variations as well. Start on all fours, hands directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Engage your core and keep your back flat and aligned with your neck and head. Lower down and back up.
Lunges: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, step forward with your right foot right into a lunge, keeping your knee behind your toes, chest lifted and abs in. Lunge straight down (knee below your hip), step back into starting position and switch sides.
Deadlift: Using a bar, set of dumbbells or no weight at all, stand with arms in by your sides and feet hip width apart. Lower at the hips keeping back flat, chest up. Once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, return to start position locking your shoulders and engaging your glutes and hamstrings.
Planks: Try a different variety of plank exercises such as high planks, low planks on your forearms, low plank with leg raises, spiderman planks (bring your right knee up along your side to meet your right elbow while you hold a plank, and switch), plank with leg extension (bring your right knee into your chest as you pull your abs in and curl your back. Extend your leg back out as you lift it up behind you; switch sides), and plank-ups (start in high plank, drop your right forearm down ,then your left until you are in low plank). Bring your right arm back into high plank, then your left. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute; repeat only leading with your left forearm this time.
Accept There Will be Bad Days and Sore Muscles Accepting that some days may be a little more difficult than others is a must if you want to avoid discouragement. Building up your running stamina is a process, so your muscles will be sore in the beginning, but that will happen with any exercise program you add into your daily routine. Overtime, sore muscles will go away if you keep up with your training. If you begin to feel an acute injury (or any ongoing sharp pains) that is beyond soreness, take a few days off, ice and rest. If the pain continues, you need to stop what you’re doing and consult with a sports medicine doctor or orthopedist.
Here are some great stretches to do after your run (for an effective, deep stretch, hold each stretch for 15 - 20 seconds):
Hip flexor stretch: Starting on your knees, step your right foot in front of you into a lunge with your hands resting on your front knee. Barely push your hips forward just until you feel a stretch and hold. Switch sides.
Laying down hamstring stretch: Laying flat on your back, straighten your right leg, bringing your heal up to the ceiling. With one hand below your knee and the other above, slowly pull your leg in a little closer until you feel a nice, comfortable stretch. Switch sides.
Seated spinal twist: Sitting with legs extended out in front of you, put your right leg over your left. Pushing your right knee back with your right elbow and left arm at your side for support, twist your torso to the left and hold. Switch sides.
Open Lizard: Similar to the hip flexor stretch, this one is deeper. Lunge forward into a deeper lunge until you can place your hands in front of you for support. If you can go deeper, place your forearms on the ground for a deeper stretch.
Find your Best Route
The track is a great place to start. Why? It’s flat and lighter on the joints than concrete, plus a great way to track your distance if you’re new to running. Try running the straightaways and walking the curbs going counterclockwise, and then turn around and go clockwise to give both sides of your body the chance to work.
Sign Up for a 5K
This a a great way to stay motivated during your new running routine. If you commit to a run, something you signed up and paid for, you are more likely to continue with your new running schedule. Whether you run, walk or skip across that finish line, know that you are one step closer to becoming a better runner. Make it fun and sign up with a friend or family member and keep winning in the back of your head. It’s not about winning at this new milestone in your life, it’s about finishing.
Keep a Running Schedule
Do whatever it is you have to do to pencil in your weekly runs. Keep your workout clothes out in the morning, ready to put on or throw in your gym bag, and make it a part of your day. Already know when you are going to do it so you know when in your day you will have time to fit it in. Eventually you will build a running routine and figure out what time and days work best for your schedule and life. You are more likely to commit to a running or exercise program if you plan it out rather than doing it spontaneously – that way you are less stressed and you are prepared mentally for your new commitment.
Eat the Right Foods
Whether you are running to get fit, lose weight or to start a new hobby, eating the right foods is essential to having the energy to run and becoming a better runner. Eating a good mix of carbs, proteins, fruits, veggies and healthy fats is essential to being a runner. Running at an average pace will burn about 100 calories per mile, so think about how many calories you can burn in 30 minutes or more of running? If you are sprinting or running intervals, then you can almost double your calorie burn, so eat well! Here are some great snack foods you can fuel your body with before and after your run: Whole wheat toast with ½ chopped banana and 2 teaspoons natural peanut butter, Greek yogurt with honey and a handful of mixed berries, ¾ cup of your favorite whole-wheat cereal with 1 cup almond or soy milk, low-fat cottage cheese with avocado and chopped tomatoes, almonds or healthy trail mix, etc. As for lunch, breakfast and dinner, think brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, mixed veggies and a variety of fruits.
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