Running is a great way to keep fit, but it’s important to plan your program first. Follow these tips to start off on the right foot.
Maybe you’ve thought about running as a way to achieve that sleek, lean body, for health benefits or even just for the simple pleasure of getting out and enjoying the weather. If so, these 10 tips can help get you on the right track.
Before you get started, check with your doctor, especially if you:
- Are overweight
- Haven’t exercised in a long time
- Have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or another chronic condition
Get a comfortable pair that conforms to your feet for both arch support and toe box room. For example, if you have wide feet, a narrow shoe may pinch your toes or cause painful blisters. Shop at a reputable running or sporting goods store with a knowledgeable sales staff. They can help you with fit and answer any questions you may have.
Slow and steady
Don’t get the weekend warrior syndrome and try to run a marathon on your first workout. Too much too soon sets you up for soreness, injury or burnout, all of which can discourage you from sticking with your program. At least for the first 2 to 3 weeks, train every other day to allow a rest period between runs. You can do a run/walk at first until you build up your endurance.
Warm-up and cool-down
Do a gradual, slow-paced jog (slower than your normal pace) for at least 5 minutes to warm up your muscles. This helps direct blood flow to the working muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints involved in running. Avoid high-intensity activities without proper warm-up. They could lead to injury and muscle soreness.
A post-workout cool-down at least 5 minutes helps redirect blood flow to central circulation. Exercise causes your veins to temporarily dilate, so stopping immediately after a run lets blood pool in the legs. This is why some people get dizzy or perhaps even faint when they abruptly stop a strenuous activity. Slowing down to a walk or a slow jog helps circulate your blood until your veins shrink back to normal.
The best time to stretch is after you exercise or at a different time than an exercise session, not right before. Stay flexible by putting your joints through a gentle range of motion.
Don’t fight your breathing. Try to stay at a pace that does not make you run out of breath. Breathe rhythmically and comfortably with your running technique. If you’re gasping for air, you may be running too fast for your current fitness level.
Don’t hang yourself out to dry – literally. Make sure to stay hydrated while exercising. How much to drink will depend on the amount of water you lose in sweat and how long you exercise. And after exercise, drink enough water to quench your thirst.
Carbohydrates are an endurance athlete’s best friend. They help maintain blood glucose and liver and muscle glycogen stores.
Consistency is the golden key for most things in life. That applies to running, too. You get results through regular participation in a running program, not by a once-every-other-weekend run around the block. First, run for the “health” of it, and the fitness benefits will follow.
Run with your spouse, friend, or even your dog – at least from time to time. Having someone to yank you out of bed in the morning or out of the easy chair after a long day’s work can be very motivating. It’s easy to make excuses for yourself, but try telling that to old Rover when he’s expecting his morning run through the park.
Join a running club
Once you’ve established your running habit, you might be interested in joining a running club. This will give you a chance to meet advanced or expert runners. You can glean tips on your running form, speed, training for competition, or whatever technical questions you might have. It’s also a great social atmosphere for meeting healthy, like-minded people