New to Running? A quick guide to the neophyte runner

IMG_1950Words by David Allison

You’ve heard all about this running thing. How it is a good way to lose weight, get fit and something about a “runner’s high” that you’re still not quite sure what that is exactly. Well, before you throw on those athletic shoes (the ones you usually wear to mow the lawn on the weekends) and hit the road, there’s a few things you want to consider before, during and after you delve into this sport of running.

 Before You Start Running

 Get fitted for a pair of running shoes. Nothing against the numerous national sport chain stores across the country, but they aren’t the best places to go to get yourself a pair of running shoes. Usually the staff are not trained on what is the best shoe for your foot, gait, etc. What I recommend, if possible, is to find a specialty running shoe store in your area. What you’ll get when walking into a place like this is a staff that will take their time in looking at your foot strike, your gait and asking numerous questions on what sort of running and distance you’re planning for the the future. Roughly, you will pay anywhere between $95 – $130 on a pair of running shoes, but this is money well spent.

Go to a track. No, I’m not telling you to do 100-meter sprints to find your own inner-Usain Bolt, but I am saying find a local high school track and run or run/walk a mile this way:

If you think you’re in pretty good shape then jog the first lap nice and easy. If you haven’t done anything cardiovascular in while, then simply walk the first lap leisurely – this is a warm up.

  1. On the second lap move to either a faster jog or a faster walk cadence.
  2. On the third lap, try to walk the turns and jog the straightaways if you have been walking; and try to pick up your pace to one where you are going about 85% of max effort (if you have been running the entire time).
  3. On the fourth and final lap, continue the walk/run combo routine if you started walking from the beginning; or continue your 85% run pace effort, if you’ve been running since lap one. DO NOT SPRINT AT ANY TIME!

If you could not finish the mile walking, then that’s good to know. This means you should start your running program with a walk/run type of training plan. If you had to walk some or parts of the mile, even though you started to run from the beginning, ask yourself did you go out too fast or simply are you truly physically spent? If you just couldn’t make it around four times without walking, then you too should consider starting with a walk/run training plan. If you did get around the track without issue, then you are probably ready for a straight running program.

Nike_Running_ShoesFind a local running group/club. It’s so much easier to start running if you have others to share your pleasure and pain with. Don’t worry about being the slowest runner out there, believe me, everyone thinks this honestly. While you of course have Fitfathers.com as a running resource, you may also want to ask running stores in your area about groups they know of or go to Meetup.com, which is a good place to find almost any type of group in your area.

During Your Running

Start out slowly. If you have not run in a while, then definitely start at a pace that is conversational in nature. If you are breathing heavy five minutes into a 30-minute run, it’s going to be a long day, brother.

Make sure you’re hydrated. Depending on the temperature and the distance of your runs, make sure you drink or have on hand enough water to get you through. At the very least, know of where water fountains are along your run route so you don’t get dehydrated.

Make sure you’re dressed correctly. The days of cotton shorts and t-shirts are long gone. Make sure you have wicking material running gear, which can be found now at any sport, big box or department store these days. Also, if the temperature is cool when you start, ascertain you still don’t over-dress. Understand that your body will heat up as you get going. So make sure you have layers on, at least, so you can slough off a shirt or two if needed during the run.

Wear a running watch. I’m not telling you to go out and spend $400 on the newest GPS running device on the market, but I am telling you to have a watch that you can start and stop. Although, there is nothing wrong with going for a run without being timed. When you first start out, it’s good to know how many minutes you are running, so as not to over extend yourself physically.

IMG_4498After You Start Running

Make sure you take days off. Don’t go from couch potato to trying to run every day. Running puts a lot of stress on your joints and muscles, so I would start off running just every other day at the most for the first couple of weeks and then add another day of running every 4th or 5th week.

Don’t make up miles that you’ve missed. If you were supposed to run 4 miles on a Saturday and couldn’t get the run in for whatever reason, don’t try to double up your next run because of these missed miles. This is how people get injured. If you miss a run in your schedule, don’t sweat it. Just pick up your training from where you left off.

Make a goal for yourself. This could be a race you want to run, a time or distance you wish to reach without stopping or going against a friend or family member for bragging rights. The point is, having a goal with your running keeps you focused and motivate to continue on those days that you may not want to go that next mile or next 10 minutes.

So there you have it. It’s a place to start. Good luck out there. Be proud of yourself for taking this first step into the world or running – you may be surprised of what you’ll be able to accomplish.

 

David Allison has been a runner for over 35 years and has coached age-group, high school, collegiate as well as every day adults for over 12 years. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is the owner/coach of Marathon Coaching Consultants as well as the co-founder/coach of Phoenix Flyers Track Club.