Perhaps one of the reasons why running is such a popular way to get fit is that it’s so darn convenient. There’s no equipment required, and you can literally do it any time in any place. There aren’t many other sports or modes of fitness that you can say the same about. Yet many people who try running quickly get hurt or discouraged because of a few big mistakes. Here’s how to avoid some of the more common rookie moves, so you can develop a love for running that lasts for life.
Ease into it. If the last time you ran was grade-school gym class, it’s tempting to just hit the road and try to just run as fast as you can. That’s not a good idea. If you try to hit top speed right out of the gates, then just hold on for dear life, it’s going to be a very short uncomfortable run that you won’t be in any hurry to repeat any time soon. Ease into your runs instead. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of walking to loosen up your stiff muscles. Then gradually accelerate into a running pace that feels easy and sustainable. It should feel like you could run all day in that rhythm. The pace should feel easy enough that you can sustain a conversation. If you’re gasping for breath, slow down. Make “run relaxed” your mantra.
Run by time, not pace. It’s easy to get discouraged by whatever conceptions you or others have of what “fast” or “real” running is. Forget about pace at first. Instead, just set goals for total workout time. Start small. At first, just focus on getting out for 30 minutes of walking and running each day. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you go. Just focus on developing the habit of regular exercise, and finding ways to enjoy it. Do you like listening to music, books, or podcasts while you exercise? Do you prefer to go solo or meet up with friends? Do you prefer to work out outside or at the gym? Explore the area near your home and work to find safe, convenient, well-lit routes that you can regularly take. Take detailed notes on your training in your log. You will draw confidence from watching your workouts add up. And if you start to feel aches and pains, you can spot any areas where you may have added mileage or speed too soon.
Make it happen. Don’t make excuses. If you wait for some wide-open opportunity to exercise, when you’re feeling free enough from work and family commitments to break away, it’s likely not going to happen. As the day goes on your energy and motivation are likely to wane. If you make fitness a priority, you can find a way to make it happen. Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier and get the workout done before the family wakes up. Set the coffee maker the night before so it’s set to brew when you wake up. Lay out your clothes so that you put them on right away, sending a signal to your body that you’re ready to go. Experiment by working out at different times of day to determine what time of day works best to regularly exercise, so that you don’t feel stressed juggling it with your work, family and social commitments. Talk to your family and friends about your desire to run on a regular basis, and find ways that they can support you.
Get fit for a proper pair of running shoes. Ill-fitting and worn-out footwear are leading causes of running injuries. A new pair of running shoes may seem like a big investment, but the money you spend on a new pair is undoubtedly less than the doctor bills you’ll have if you get hurt. Be sure to go to your local Fleet Feet Sports store to get fit for a new pair of shoes. At Fleet Feet Sports, you can get help from a trained, experienced shoe-fitting professional, who will help you find the right shoe, taking into account your current goals and needs, as well as any past injuries. You will have your foot measured—foot size changes over time, and it is very common for people to have two feet that require different sizes. You will also have your bare feet assessed from sitting and standing positions, and while walking to spot signs of pronation, and identify special areas where you need support. The time and money you spend to get the right pair of shoes for you will pay off in the form of many happy pain-free miles!
Start eating like an athlete. Many people start logging miles and take it as license to start eating with abandon—as much as they want of whatever they want, figuring that it will all get burned off on the road. Or they go overboard on engineered sports drinks, energy bars, gels, beans, and chews. That’s a great way to start gaining weight, instead of losing or maintaining it, and getting derailed by stomach or bathroom issues on the run. Watch out for entitlement eating or overindulging after workouts. It’s way too easy to eat back the calories you burned, and then some. If you want to reward your hard work—always a good idea—pick non-food treats like a spa appointment, a new book, a movie, a new piece of running gear, or a night out with a friend. To avoid GI distress, it will be important to pay careful attention to what you eat before you hit the road. Aim for a 100 to 200-calorie carb-rich, low-fat, low-fiber snack at least 20 minutes before your run. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Aim to drink at least half your weight in ounces of calorie-free fluids each day. So if you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces of water per day. If you weigh 180 pounds, aim for 90 ounces.