Three things every beginning runner should know before they lace up their sneakers and hit the trail.
Running is one of the most accessible and efficient forms of cardiovascular fitness around. It’s no wonder it has been growing in popularity. In 2010, the total number of U.S. running events was recorded at 22,800, an all-time high! And now you’re ready to join the estimated 13 million road race finishers across the nation. But before you lace up your sneakers and head out for your first run there are a few things to consider so that your transformation into a runner is successful.
Choosing the right equipment
Compared to many other fitness activities, running has a relatively low start-up cost. This is one of the reasons it is so attractive to beginners. So why can’t you use your old tennis shoes? Using the right shoe for your foot will keep you injury-free and proper footwear will help you reach your training goals. Don’t be afraid to invest a little money in a new pair of shoes. A good pair of shoes should last for about 500 miles, and they are the only critical piece of equipment you need.
The best place to go for running shoes is a running specialty store where they can evaluate your foot and gait. If you don’t have a running specialty store near you, Websites like Runner’s World have a shoe finder feature that helps you determine what kind of support your feet need. It will also give you suggestions on shoe brands and models. When shoe shopping, keep in mind that while you want a snug fit, there should still be adequate room in the front of the shoe to accommodate any swelling. In many cases, your running shoe may need to be a half size larger than your regular street shoes.
Warming up and cooling down
Warming up and cooling down should be a part of every run. By taking the time to warm-up you are giving your muscles a chance to elongate. This increases muscle flexibility and efficiency. A good warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes. Some options include walking, jogging, or pedaling on a stationary bike. Then you can gradually work up to your training pace.
When you’re done with your run, cooling down is also a good idea and can help you avoid personal injury. By walking or jogging for a few minutes after your run you are aiding the removal of lactic acid that has accumulated in the muscles. This helps speed up recovery. Stretching should be the last part of your cool down while your muscles are still warm and elongated. Never stretch a muscle to the point of pain, which indicates you are stretching too hard. Move slowly and gradually between each stretch.
Acclimating your body to a running routine
It is important to let your body ease into running. If you train too much too soon you are more susceptible to injury. Depending on your fitness level prior to running, you may want to start out just walking for 30 minutes a few times a week, or if that is too easy, try a combination of walking and jogging. Each week spends a little more time running than walking. Then slowly increase your time and distance. Be sure to give your body rest days as well. Training hard every day can really wear down your body.
You may even want to consider cross-training to give your running muscles a break. Instead of running every day, try another sport on some days—bike, swim, take an aerobics class or lift weights. Cross-training gives your legs and feet a break from the constant pounding, and it helps build other muscles that running does not utilize. If you want more structure, there are some great training programs that layout a weekly schedule for you such as From Couch to 5k. Your local running club or gym may also provide a group class for beginners.
Now it’s time to get moving! You’ll soon be on your way to a happier, healthier you!