Sunday, March 9, 2014

So you want to be a Runner? Beginner's Tips

Anyone can be a runner.  What type of runner you are depends on what you want and what you do. Some want to race, some want to blow off stream, some want to become part of a social circle, and some just want to get exercise.  Whatever your reasons, you have to start somewhere right?  Below I have 10 tips for the beginner that either worked for me or that I read about and now pass on to you. Remember, these are my thoughts and ideas, use what you like, forget what you don't.  I am not an expert, but I have tried a lot, read a lot, and talked/listened to runners of a variety of performance levels.  I'm just offering my opinions.

1.  Accept that it is tough to start!  

Running isn't easy.  In the beginning especially, you may not have the fitness to go more that a couple minutes at a time.  This is ok.  The human body reacts well to exercise though and before you know it, you could be going longer and farther than you ever thought you could.  

2.  A run/walk strategy is a perfect way to start.

There are a lot of beginner programs are out there.  If you google beginner training plans, everyone has a plan for you.  You need to find one you are comfortable with.  Some say this many minutes jog, then walk this many specifically.  Others are completely different.  One possible plan is the run/walk strategy.  While keeping track of the time, jog slow for as long as you can.  When you stop, walk for 1 minute.  Repeat this combination a couple times, ending with fast walk.  Your goal should be to have at least 20 minutes on your feet total.  If your ending fast walk is 10 minutes to get to 20 minutes total at first, that is completely fine.  If you can get to 20 minutes doing the jog/walk strategy, go for 25 or 30 minutes total.  Your ending fast walk should be at least 5 minutes.

3.  Do not over do it, rest is important. 

The basic theory of fitness is this.  Work your muscles and make them tired, sore, and torn.  Rest the muscles, they heal and become stronger.  When you are first starting out, it is important to get plenty of rest.  Aim for 3-4 days of running a week.  If you want to do other stuff other days, ease into it, but always have one day of complete rest.  Your and your body deserve it.

4.  Cross training of all types helps your running.
By definition, cross training refers to anything you will do that isn't running.  Biking, walking, strength training, snow shoveling, skiing, you name it!  All types help build fitness and get you strong. Also, the strengthening of your body as a whole will help you protect yourself from injury. Cardiorespiratory Fitness (heart and lungs) will continue to build with things like biking, cross country skiing, walking.  Weight training will obviously build muscle and also promotes fat burning and increased metabolism.

5.  Smart nutrition also helps!

Making the decision to start running is a great decision.  A secondary decision that will help is thinking about the fuel you are putting in your body.  Do I want you to completely change everything in your life all at the same time?  No, but start thinking about what is going into your body and make a change or two.  Start simple by adding something good rather than outlawing something.  Instead of saying, "I will not drink diet soda anymore," focus on thinking, "I am going to start drinking more water every day."  In time, you may find yourself choosing to add more things that eliminate others in this same way.  

6.  Get your best friend to join you, or join them.

A support system always helps.  A friend that decides to take on a challenge with you knows and is experiencing things along the same line as you. You can also find support in someone that is already a runner.  If you are reading this post, obviously, you have this blog as a support system.  As your support system, I say, "Go for it!  You can do it!  Being tired goes away in a couple minutes, stay with it."

7.  Start a training log.

There are multiple benefits/reasons to start a training log.  First, it feels good to write down your accomplishments.  Second, it holds you accountable.  Blanks days on a log make you feel guilty. Third, it helps you see what you have done, what you are doing, and you can project and plan ahead. For the last couple years I have kept a paper based training log.  Here is a link to the one I used.  I never got into the whole online training log/calendar.  However, I now use this blog as my training log.  Really, any calendar will do.  I always liked the runner feel to the journal.  

8.  The right sneakers/clothing make a difference.

The right sneakers can keep your feet happy and your body healthy.  They don't have to cost a million bucks, but they should be the right ones for you.  The local running store can put you on a treadmill and watch you run and tell you what type of sneaker you need.  It is either a stability shoe, a motion control shoe, or a neutral shoe.  Once you have this information, you can get sneakers from them or on the internet to fit your type.  I like RoadRunnerSports and RunningWarehouse.  I can usually find coupons online for both sites as well.  As far as clothing, I do not wear cotton, ever.  It holds water, sticks to you, stinks, and is heavy when wet.  Performance apparel can be any price range.  

9.  When something goes wrong, adapt!

Something goes wrong at least once a week for me.  The other day, my stationary bike broke again.  It's annoying, but I have to adapt.  Maybe a family member gets sick at 3am and you are supposed to run in the morning.  Maybe you get stuck in a meeting and cannot get out at lunch for your run.  Who knows, maybe someone stops at your house as you are heading out the door.  Whatever it is, stop and adapt so you can fix it or replace it the best you can.  If you have to scrap the lunch run, tell yourself you will go as soon as you get home or as soon as your wife/husband gets in.  There is a solution, you just have to figure it out.  Make the easiest option, not doing your workout, not an option at all.

10.  Set a goal race or event.

Setting a goal race or event is important.  It gives you a goal to progress toward.  It could be a serious race goal like setting a Personal Record in a 5K, doing your first 5K or other distance, or it could be doing a 1 mile fun run with your daughter.  Maybe you want to do a fundraising event.  Finally, put this goal in your new training log/journal with a big ! next to it and after it happens, record how it went and felt.  

Good luck and I hope you stick with it, for you.

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