Getting Started: Tips for the Beginning RunnerThe New Year is often when people of all ages and fitness levels consider starting a new running routine.
By: Tracy L. Yoder, Ph.D., Contributor, Moms on the Run, Hastings, Minn.
Running tends to be the first choice of new fitness enthusiasts due to low start-up costs and quick benefits, but while many new runners have good intentions in the beginning, they sometimes feel overwhelmed or quit during the first few weeks of training.
Here are 10 tips to ensure you can have a safe and successful start to your new running routine.
Remember, if you are over 40, not accustomed to any exercise, more than 20 pounds overweight, or have a known health risk consult with your physician first. Unless you have a health risk, your doctor will probably encourage you to begin a run/walk program, but it’s always proactive to get checked out first.
1. Start out slow:
Beginner running programs generally always start with walking. Before you start a new running program, you should be able to walk 30 minutes at a brisk pace. After you develop a good walking base, you can start to introduce a few jogs of a short distance.
With a lot of patience and discipline, begin to slowly increase the amount of time you spend jogging and slowly reduce the amount of time walking, but always maintain your walk breaks until you reach the goal of 30 minutes of continuous running.
Many new runners feel out of breath in the beginning and find that they cannot maintain a pace. This is generally because they are going too fast. Slow down and listen to your body. You should be able to hold a conversation while running.
2. Have a gameplan:
To be successful you need a road map to help guide you along the way. There are many wonderful programs available online, in magazine articles, and books and the most important item to consider is finding the one that is the best fit for you.
A good beginner running program will often include three- to five training days per week and include run/walk intervals for a total of 30 minutes, with a proper warm-up and cool-down.
Keep your training program visible (such as on the refrigerator) and mark off each day once you complete it. If one of the weeks is too difficult, then repeat that week before moving forward. By having a game plan you will be able to hold yourself accountable and track your success.
3. Stay on schedule:
First, you need to decide the best time to train. This can be early in the morning or in the evening hours after work. Schedule your workouts and be consistent with the times and days.
Sometimes it helps to lay out your running clothes the evening before so you are all set to go for the next day. The training program will often give you an idea of which days you will be training, but it’s important to schedule your training so that obstacles won’t get in your way.
Budget the time and be patient. It generally takes your body about six weeks to adapt to a new training program, and in some cases even longer, so by maintaining a consistent schedule you will give yourself an easier transition into the new habit.
4. Get in gear:
Probably one of the most important investments a new runner can make is in a good pair of running shoes. There really is a difference in the type of shoe you buy at a large sporting goods store compared to the type of shoe available at a specialty running store. Employees who work at specialty running stores are trained to help determine which shoe is the best for you based on your ability, goals, and the way your foot strikes the ground. Finding the proper shoe will help prevent injuries and will be well-worth the money spent. Other important gear for running includes a well-fitted sports bra for women and a digital sports watch to help you keep track of intervals.
5. Find a friend:
Find a training group or a friend who shares your commitment to running. Friends provide motivation, inspiration, and accountability and can help you get out of the door on the days when you don’t feel like running.
Many running stores and local gyms have running programs, but be sure to do your research and ensure that they have a program specifically designed for beginner runners (look for run/walk intervals).
There are also many private organizations that have running programs available in your community that might even be the perfect fit for you! Some of these are specifically designed for women who are just getting started with running.
6. Stay motivated:
Good running habits are often created as the result of happy running moments. So try to keep running fun rather than pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion.
Beginner runners who don’t put too much pressure on themselves have an easier time staying with it. Establish a personal rewards system for yourself. Rewards such as dinner out, new shoes, a good book, or a new sports watch can help motivate you to achieve your goals.
Maybe you are motivated to train for a charity-related race. Sign-up for a 5K race four- to six weeks out and start training for it. Setting a goal such as a race is a great way to stay accountable to your training program and a great reward at the end when you cross the finish line.
People of all levels and abilities are attracted to local races and you will find a supportive and encouraging environment no matter what level you are.
7. Listen to your body:
When you begin a new exercise program it may take some time for your body to adjust to the new demands you are placing on your body.
As with any new activity, it is possible you are going to feel the effects such as being tired, sore, or wiped out in the beginning. Anticipate that you may feel this in the first few weeks of training but know it does get better.
If you start to experience acute pain, take a few days off or back-off of the running and focus on just walking. Using a proper warm-up, cool-down, stretching routine, and rest can help prevent injuries.
8. Focus on hydration and nutrition:
Many have heard the statement, “you are what you eat,” and for many this is true. It’s important to consider how we are fueling our body.
Proper nutrition can help support an active lifestyle and proper hydration helps our body perform many crucial functions such as nourishing cells, flushing out toxins, and regulating body temperature.
Every day we lose fluid by sweating, breathing, and urinating. When we start a new running routine, and as we sweat, we are losing water that our body needs to keep our body functioning properly.
To prevent dehydration, it is important to drink water before, during, and after our runs, as well as, throughout the day. As a general guide, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water per day at the minimum, and even more if possible.
9. Enjoy the benefits:
Running is a form of exercise that can help improve your overall health and wellness, and you don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap these benefits.
There is no rule that states you must run continuously to be “a runner.” If you start jogging a few times a week, then you are a runner. There are many social, mental, and physical benefits to running. Running is among the best aerobic exercises for physical conditioning of one’s heart and lungs and a great way to drop unwanted pounds.
Running is a great stress-reliever and many runners enjoy experiencing the “runner’s high” which is the euphoric, clear, calm state they experience after a long run.
Running is also a great social activity because it gives you the opportunity to be part of the running community and to meet and train with new people.
10. Remember to rest:
Rest days are just as important as the training days. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have at least one day of rest in between runs when you are getting started. Rest gives your body the time it needs to rebuild and recover and also helps prevent injury from overuse.
You have complete control over the intensity of your workouts and your days off, so listen to your body and consider rest an important part of your new workout routine.
You can and will be successful in your new running program if you build slowly and remain patient in the process. Running is a life-long activity that you can enjoy at any age and fitness level. The running community embraces beginner runners and you are sure to find the encouragement and support you need to be successful in this sport.