It’s no secret: running is making headlines today. Between the Boston Marathon tragedies to the conception and introduction of the new, fun, and walker-friendly 5K races sweeping the nation (think Color Run, Zombie Run, Glo Run, etc), it appears more people than ever are dabbling in the sport. No one can deny the attractive health benefits of an afternoon jog–weight loss, lower cholesterol, better heart health, and stress relief, just to name a few. And after much deliberation, you’ve decided to give the sport a chance, to see what all the fuss is about. But honestly, where to begin?
I’d like to disclaim this article with ‘I am not a medical doctor nor do I hold a degree in exercise science.’ I’m simply a layperson who found myself in the same position: beginning a sport I knew almost nothing about. These tips and tricks are the result of my own experiences, information I’ve gathered from fellow runners, and some Internet research on a variety of reputable sites.
Things you’ll need: A pair of running shoes (running, not cross-trainers), an mp3 player, work out clothes that won’t chafe, and a solid amount of determination.
First, I cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing a good pair of running shoes–they will help to correctly distribute your weight with each stride. Most running injuries occur between your knees and feet, so it’s imperative that you find a shoe that will give you both support and stability. A perfect fit will make the overall experience more comfortable, enjoyable, and help to stave off any injuries. Personally, I’m a fan of Mizuno, but I understand not everyone has the financial ability to invest $140 on a pair of shoes. That being said, there are a variety of great options out there in the $60-80 range. My best suggestion? Head to your local sporting goods or athletic store and find an associate who’s a runner, or at least has a decent amount of knowledge on fits and brands. Try on a few pairs, jog around the store, see which one works best. If you’re on a budget, take note of your favorites and go home, scope out Internet deals and sales. On more then one occasion, I’ve been able to find the same pair of shoes for almost half price using sites like Amazon and Zappos.
So you’ve successfully acquired a moderately priced pair of new running kicks, now what? Do not, I repeat, do not open the box and immediately head out. Nothing is worse then a few blisters and sore calves from running on a pair of stiff, unworn shoes. Just like a fabulous pair of heels, you need to break those sneakers in. Wear them to work, walk around the house; make sure they’re comfortable doing simple activities. If you’re experiencing any discomfort now, I can guarantee it’s not going to get any better once you’ve hit the pavement. A couple days of light activity should give a good indication of any problem spots as well as enough time to create a little stretch to the shoe.
Now that you’ve managed to loosen the leather, get ready to hit the road (trail, treadmill, wherever you’re planning on running). If this is your first time, or perhaps it’s been awhile since you’ve participated in any sort of cardio, don’t expect to log multiple miles immediately. Focus on short burst of running with walking breaks to recuperate. Personally, I wasn’t able to jog more then five minutes continuously when I began. But don’t get discouraged; Rome wasn’t built in a day! Endurance comes with time and repetition–just keep pushing through. I’d also recommend a few nifty applications for newbies, such as Couch to 5k, which can be downloaded straight to your smart phone.
Just like any other sport, practice makes perfect. All runs aren’t created equal, and sometimes they’re going to downright suck. These are the runs you want to take note of–figure out exactly what went wrong. Perhaps you didn’t wait long enough after eating? Maybe you chose a route with more hills then usual? Bad runs shouldn’t deter you. Instead use them as an opportunity to change habits that aren’t working, and learn from them. After all, there’s always tomorrow.
Finally, enjoy your run. Don’t take it too seriously. Create upbeat playlists, switch your route, keep things fresh and exciting. This is supposed to be challenging, but fun. After all, running is the closest your body will ever get to flying.