Running 101: Tips for the Beginning Runner

Published in Wellness

Spring is in the air and runners—experienced and beginners alike—are lacing up their shoes and hitting the paths, roads and trails. And you can too with these simple, but important tips.

  1. Set yourself up for success with the proper workout gear. First and foremost, make sure you have a good pair of running shoes. Walking shoes won't cut it. A good pair of running shoes will support your feet well, give good cushioning and more stability for your ankles. If you aren't sure what to buy, talk to someone who really knows something about a good pair of running shoes. Above all, don't skimp on your shoes. You'd be surprised what a good workout outfit and pair of socks can do for your running too! Fabrics that "wick sweat" include synthetics and lightweight wool, which limits friction-causing moisture that cause chaffing, irritation and even blisters.
  2. Respect your body. Running isn't like flipping on a light switch. It takes time to develop your running routine. If you haven't been running much before, start with a walk-jog pattern and work your way up to running. I'd suggest that beginning runners run for one minute and walk for four, similar to a good "Couch to 5K" training plan. Repeat this for 20 to 30 minutes. You'll gradually increase your jogging interval, while decreasing your walking interval as your body acclimates to running. Be patient, but persistent. Typically your body will take four to six weeks to respond to new demands so don't give up if it feels tough early. It will get easier.
  3. Set a comfortable pace. Your pace may vary from another beginning runner. If you can carry on a conversation with someone running with you, then you've set a good pace. As you become fitter, your body will become more efficient. Then you'll be able to go faster without running out of steam. If you rate your fatigue on a scale of 10 (1 is light, 10 is strenuous), a comfortable jog should be rated about a six or seven.
  4. Don't forget to hydrate before, during and after your run. If you're out for less than 20-30 minutes, this is not as important. But if things are heating up outside or you're approaching an hour run or longer outside, keep that body hydrated. Water is fine but some sport drinks are more effective at re-hydrating the body. Do yourself a favor: sip, don't chug.
  5. Warm up and cool down. No, this doesn't mean endless stretching. When I go for a run, I walk a couple hundred yards and do some hopping, skipping and slide shuffles before I start my run. On longer runs, I've found that stopping after a mile for thirty seconds to stretch my calves, hamstrings and hip flexors improves the quality of my run. On my cool down, I'll typically stretch out my stride and end with similar exercises from my warm up.
  6. Know your route and take safety precautions. Be familiar with whatever route you will take. It's important to know where the smooth paths are, to have well lit areas and to be aware of your surroundings. A lot of people who run alone find listening to music helps relax them during their run. I'm all for that, but I still stress that you should exercise caution and be aware of what is going on around you whether it's traffic or other runner.
  7. It's okay to run on a treadmill, but mix it up. Inside runners should keep the same tips in mind from the proper gear to intensity and duration. Running outside gives you natural inclines so pump up the incline to at least two or three percent. You'll still get the cardio workout and break a sweat; however, running on a treadmill is more passive than running outside so I always suggest that you mix it up.

If you've been thinking about starting a running program, why wait any longer? There has never been a better time. Your body will thank you for it!