Are you looking to start running? Are you a recreational runner looking to turn it into a lifetime habit? Coming back from an injury?
Whatever your situation, running has tremendous benefits; not only will it help burn calories and build endurance, it helps to reduce anxiety, boost your mental health and provide many other health benefits.
Running also has a low bar of entry—you don't need any fancy equipment, it's relatively inexpensive, and you can do it almost anywhere.
Whether you're brand new to running or you’re getting back to it after a long break or returning from injury, it's important to start out easy. Here are some tips to get you started off on the right foot.
Choose the Right Gear
One of the great things about running is the simplicity of throwing on shorts, a shirt and some running shoes and off your go. But, it’s not quite that simple. First things first, it is critical you get the get a pair of running shoes that work for YOU; it’s amazing how many different type shoes there are for different type runners, and choosing the right one will make all the difference in the world.
One of the best things you can do is get a “shoe fitting” at one of your local running stores (most running stores offer a computerized fitting process free of charge). This most likely will include a video of you running to determine your foot strike (degree of pronation) as well as your gait type; combined, these will lead you to the right shoe.
I also recommend buying a few type running socks to determine those most beneficial to you and your running style; there are many options. Do you want “no show” socks or those that full calf socks? Cotton or synthetic? Compression or no compression? Pick a few, take a run and see which is best suited for you.
Start with Walk/Run Intervals
Are you excited to start your running training? As a new runner, you shouldn’t plan on running the entire distance in one go. Break down your runs into intervals, with walks in between for recovery; one good way to start is to run for 2 minutes at a slow pace, then allow yourself a 2-minute walk break for recovery.
When you begin to find this easy, you can start to increase your run intervals by 1 minute while keeping your recovery period the same and continue this gradual increase in intervals until you’re running your full run.
We’ve discussed the benefit of the run/walk method of training, so don’t be embarrassed to maintain some form of walking in your training.
KISS Method (Keep It Slow Silly)
If you’re new to running, coming off a prolonged period of not running or returning from injury, your body must get used to the new stresses and strains of running. If you start out by running at a fast pace, you’ll suffer from frustration, fatigue, pain and even injuries.
What’s the right pace? The simple rule is to run at a pace where you can maintain a conversation; if you run with a partner or in a group, maintain a steady conversation to ensure you’re not running too fast. If you run alone, think of something like the Pledge of Allegiance and say it every few minutes to ensure you’re at the right pace (but, say it quietly so people don’t think you’re nuts!).
Build miles gradually
Just as running at too quick a pace, many beginning runners want to start running 30 – 40 miles per week right away; avoid this trap at all costs. Even worse than running too fast, running too many miles too quickly is the quickest way to injure yourself and that layoff will bring you right back to square one.
Follow this simple plan, when you start your running plan do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% and do not increase your miles more than 3 consecutive weeks. So, let’s say you’re starting out at 15 miles per week; below is how you would increase your weekly mileage over an 8-week period (miles are rounded to keep it simple).
Week 1 15 miles
Week 2 16 miles
Week 3 18 miles
Week 4 16 miles
Week 5 18 miles
Week 6 20 miles
Week 7 22 miles
Week 8 20 miles
It seems like a slow build because it is, but you’re probability of being injured is much smaller and you’ve given your body the time to acclimate itself to the strains of running.
Short steps, quick cadence
Many beginners don’t have the proper running form and make it harder by wasting a lot of energy. The first rule of good running form is to take short, easy steps rather than long, powerful strides; these longer strides typically end with a heel strike, acting as a brake and slowing your forward momentum with every step.
Cadence is the amount of times your feet strike per minute when you’re running; while each runner varies, the general rule is a cadence of 180 strikes per minute is optimal for most runners; however, you should find the cadence between 170 – 190 strikes per minute that is optimal for you.
Let your body recover
So, you finished your first run and you’re pumped; you feel good physically and want to get out there and run again. But you should wait a day before attempting the next workout: your body needs to rest so it can recover from the first running session. Your body must adapt to the new demands on your cardiovascular system, as well as your tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones.
Keep it simple when you start out, and go with the one day on, one day off schedule; this simple training schedule will help you recover better and achieve the greatest training effect and avoid injuries.
From a cardiovascular perspective, you will benefit from cross training while also reducing the stress running puts on your joints, tendons, muscles and spine. Plus, it keeps things from getting boring and keeps your love of running fresh and alive.
Remember, running is a full-body workout and your core is the control center and your arm swing influences every movement from your hips down, including stride length and cadence. The best running form is when you “run tall” and to run tall you need a strong, healthy and stable core.
In addition, the rest of your muscles should also be in good shape so you can run light on your feet and a well-conditioned body helps prevent overuse and compensation injuries. Here are some ways to incorporate strength training at home for improved running form.
Rich Flaherty is a middle of the pack runner and triathlete, whose only real claim to fame is his daughter Bekah Brooks qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first marathon.