Ever feel the need to get outside and get moving? Running is a great way to get active and enjoy the fresh air. You can run by yourself and enjoy the solitude or run with friends. A common misunderstandings of running is that you have to be a skilled athlete. This is not true. There are all kinds of runners in this world -- slow, fast, big, tall, short, small, serious and not so serious -- absolutely anyone can do it. Running doesn't have to be a competition unless you want it to be. As a runner, the most important competition is yourself. That being said, here are some tips for the first time runner.
1. Before you start running, make sure you have a good pair of running shoes. Don't choose shoes by how they look, this isn't a fashion show. You will be traveling many miles in them so make sure they are comfortable--any uncomfortable rubbing or pinching will only increase when you run. You want shoes that move with you not against you. Check out a local running store for good running shoe advice, or try RunnersWorld.com, they have a great shoe finder tool.
2. Develop a schedule for running. Find a time of the day that works best. Running in the morning is a great way to wake up. If you tend to be night owl you may want to run in the evening. Another component is scheduling certain days for running. We all have lazy days so don’t feel pressure to over do it. Accomplish small goals first. Try running 1 to 3 miles two times a week, and add more when you feel comfortable. There are also great running applications for your smart phone that can track your progress, your schedule, and even offer a training program like Nike+ Running and Map My Run.
3. Run at your own pace. Don’t worry about how far you can run or how fast. Run for 20 or 30 minutes at first depending on your abilities. It is also totally acceptable to stop and take breaks as needed. Try not to over work yourself during the first couple of weeks. Let your body tell you when it's ready to push harder. Try using the run/walk method, running and alternating every 30, 45 seconds, or a minute between running and walking. This will help build endurance without completely exhausting all your energy. When you finish running you should feel good.
4. Don’t deal with peer pressure. Maybe you have a friend who’s been dying for you to start running with them. Your friend can wait. There's a good chance they are much more trained than you and can run several miles without even stopping. Don’t let them peer pressure you into running longer or faster than you are ready. Unless they are willing to slow down to your speed and support your efforts, there is no reason to run with them just yet. A running buddy should support your efforts and push you when you're ready.
5. Stretch. As a first time runner, you should try to stretch out your body with basic stretching or even better, yoga. Yoga will help stretch out your body, strengthen it and help you achieve proper balance. There are conflicting ideas out there that stretching helps prevent injury for runners. Some would agree that stretching prevents injury for them and some would disagree. Play around with stretching and see what works for you. You can stretch before running, after running or both -- do what feels right for you.
6. Listen to your body when you are in pain. New runners commonly get overuse injuries like Iliotibial band syndrome, runner’s knee or Achilles tendinitis. Educate yourself on injuries like these and learn how to prevent them. Most running injuries can be prevented by taking your training slow and paying attention to the warning signs your body sends you. If you think you have an injury then rest for a few days, ice the injury, if the pain persists, schedule an appointment to see your doctor.
7. Always have recovery days. Recovery days help your body do exactly that, recover. These days can range from doing absolutely nothing at all, cross-training, weight lifting, or easy runs. Cross-training consists of activities like going on a bike ride, swimming, walking, even active play with the kids. The important thing is to make sure your training is balanced with running, cross-training and relaxing. If you’re feeling over worked then adjust your schedule according to your body’s signals.
8. A runner’s nutrition is extremely important -- bodies need fuel to get through long runs. Consider what you already put into your body and adjust. You will need more calories and protein now that you’re burning more. Enjoy balanced meals and add extra vitamins and minerals to your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. When snacking go for things like eggs, protein bars, nuts, yogurts, and more fruits and vegetables. Finally, drink lots and lots of water!
9. One of the benefits to running besides getting fit and healthy -- the races! There are races everywhere going on all the time. Check out websites like Active and Run Sign Up where you can search and register for races all over the world. Races give you a chance to challenge yourself, compete with others, and accomplish goals. Hundreds to thousands of people sign up for these races so don’t be intimidated. The races are filled with runners of all levels from beginners to the advanced. There are also different kinds of races; some are timed and others are just for fun like the Color Run, Mudathlon, and the R.O.C. race.
10. Lastly, make sure you have a great support system around you. Gather some friends together to run with or make some new ones! Casually get to know some new running friends at the park or join a running club at your local gym. It's easier to stay committed when you have other people there to push and motivate you.
This may all seem a little overwhelming at first but in time you will strengthen as a runner, leading to a healthier you. Building a plan will make the transition from non-runner to runner much easier. Running is difficult but don't give up. The longer you stick with it, the stronger you will become. Happy running!