So, you’re ready to try running. Or you’ve been a runner in the past but are ready to take it up again. You’ve noticed your social media feed is filled with pictures of your friends, happy and sweaty, after completing a fun 5k, half marathon, or even a full marathon and decided to find out if running is for you.
Good for you! Running can be a pleasurable, social, and fulfilling way to get or stay in great shape and enjoy what your body can do. But it is essential for a beginning runner to follow some key pieces of advice. Start off running too fast, too far, or in the wrong type of shoes and injury could derail what would otherwise be a rewarding pastime.
Check With Your Doctor
Before beginning any new exercise endeavor, it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor. Chances are your doctor will be happy you are starting an exercise program because exercise is so essential to good health. But getting the all clear before undertaking any strenuous exercise is always the best practice.
Buy the Right Equipment
The beauty of running is the simplicity of it. You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to run. Sure, some runners may sport an expensive watch to keep track of mileage and pace, blue tooth headphones for music, and the latest Lycra running clothes, but all you really need to run is a good pair of running shoes.
When you are ready to buy a pair of shoes to run in, don’t just head off to your local sporting goods store and pick up a pair of shoes based on the way they look. There are different types of running shoes made to support your foot for the way you run. Based on how your foot pronates (turns in or out as you take a stride) you will need to choose the proper shoe.
Running shoes fall in several main categories such as neutral, stability, and motion control. Head to your local running store to have your feet and gait analyzed so you can be sure you are choosing the right shoe. Running in the correct shoe can help you avoid overuse injuries.
It’s likely you already have clothing suitable for running, but comfortable and stretchy clothes in a moisture-wicking fabric (not cotton) are the best to avoid chafing. A good, supportive sports bra if you’re a woman is also a must. Depending on the weather outside, dressing in layers is a good idea. While you may be chilly at the start of a run, you will warm up quickly.
Once you have the right pair of shoes you are ready to head out the door. But make sure you do it slowly. Even slower than you think you should. Many people who decide to take up running are so excited to become one of those fit, happy runners that they push themselves too hard and end up hating running or injured.
Start with walking. I know you want to be a runner but if it has been a while since you’ve exercised, make sure that you can walk for at least 30 minutes at a brisk pace before attempting running. Don’t be discouraged if you have to begin with walking, you’ll be up and running in no time!
Once you are able to walk briskly for 30 minutes, or if you are already there, you are ready to begin running. The key thing to remember here is SLOWLY. As you start out, run slower than you think you can. There is plenty of time to speed things up later. Try one of the available programs for beginning runners such as the Couch to 5k (C25K) program. There are even apps for your smart phone that plan out beginning running programs.
Add Distance Slowly
Again, the theme here is slow. Once you begin running you may want to push yourself to increase the distance quickly. Once you run a mile, you may want to push that to a 5k (about 3 miles) and then further. But to avoid injury you should only increase your mileage by about 10% each week. Add distance the smart way and you’ll enjoy running more and your body will be much happier with you.
In the beginning, try out many different styles of running to find the best one for you. Run by yourself (in a safe place) and be alone with your thoughts. Run with a friend or two for companionship. Run in your neighborhood. Run on a trail. You may discover that your favorite way of running is different than what you thought it would be.
Remember to always be aware of your safety. If you are running in less populated areas you will want to run with a friend. Running when it is light out is important for visibility. If you enjoy running with music, run with only one ear bud in so that you can hear out of the other ear and be aware of your surroundings.
Schedule a race for motivation
Once you’ve been running long enough (it happens quicker than you’d think) you are ready to register for a race if that interests you. Fun, casual races have become very popular. There are runs that have themes, runs that have obstacles, runs that have glow lights, runs that have colored powders thrown on participants, and many others.
Pick a short race that sounds interesting to you and register with a friend. Most people running these races are not out to win. The object is to finish and have a great time while becoming healthier.
So do a little research, buy the right pair of shoes for you, and discover what all the happy runners already know. Running is a great way to be the best you. Get healthier, get social, and get out and run.