New year, new me, right? It’s already 2021, and many of us are getting ready to start checking boxes off our new year’s resolution list. And on the top of almost everyone’s list is - start exercising. It could be starting from scratch or simply trying a new workout routine to achieve other fitness goals. For some reason, running seems to be the work out that non-active and active people like taking on as a challenge. Well, it is the perfect cardiovascular activity that can help improve endurance, help you train for the marathon you’ve been wanting to do, help with weight loss, and simply improve your overall health. Plus, anyone can do it! You don’t need heavy equipment or a certain fitness level to start running, just a little bit of determination and a good running plan!
With that being said, we want to help guide you through your new running challenge by giving you a few dos and don'ts so you can start your new routine smoothly, without setbacks, and without injuries!
Set a running plan
Before you get ready and start running, you need to have a plan set out in order to know exactly what you’re going to do. If you’re not an active person, you might want to have a few walking days before you actually get to the running part, in order to get your muscles used to a higher level of movement and activity. Then, once you’re ready to start running, schedule your running days and hours, and try to stick to it - remember that consistency and creating a habit is key to making progress! A good training plan for new runners is doing it three times a week, 20-30 minutes per session, and working your way up from there, gradually increasing your running days and the amount of running time as you feel more comfortable. With time, you’ll be able to run faster, and you’ll find yourself reaching the end of your route or doing more laps than planned before time runs out - this is when you’ll want to try running for a little bit more time, or making your route a little longer. Gradually, you’ll start thinking in miles instead of minutes.
We know that trying a new activity is always exciting, but don’t start by going too fast. Pace yourself and go at a comfortable speed so that you don’t get too tired too quickly. Also, don’t plan on going too far away either! Planning your route is an important part of your running plan, so try to make sure that you choose an appropriate distance in order for you to be able to make your way back without feeling completely exhausted and burned out.
Tips for beginners
In order to become an efficient runner, we have a few tips that you need to know to get the most out of your running time and finish your exercise feeling like a champ!
Try the run-walk method
Running may seem like an easy activity at first, but it can get difficult and tiring really fast. For beginner runners, attempting to run an entire distance without stopping isn’t recommended because you’ll put a lot of pressure on your joints if they’re not used to that kind of activity. Instead, try implementing the run-walk method in order to build endurance and manage the intensity level of your runs! This is the “start slow and work your way up” of running, and basically what you’re going to do is divide your route into running and walking intervals, that way you can get your running done and take some time to recover at the same time without actually stopping. You can start with one minute of running and then one minute of walking, or two minutes and two minutes, however, you feel more comfortable. Then, work your way up to longer running intervals until you don’t feel the need to have walk breaks at all!
Practice good form
When doing any physical activity, maintaining good form is a must in order to prevent any injuries and really reap the benefits of the exercise. Running is a natural movement and it shouldn’t feel forced, but it’s important to keep a good and upright posture, with your head up and your shoulders relaxed but without letting them drop or hunch. Also, you should avoid swinging your arms and instead aim to keep them at a 90-degree angle in order to help impulse your body. One thing to keep in mind is that the longer you run, the more tired you will be, and you’ll probably find yourself leaning forward or backward at the waist - so keep an eye on that and try to maintain your good posture. These proper running form tips will help you improve your pace, run long distances, and become an efficient runner overall!
Explore new places
A great way to motivate you to go on runs is to explore new places and locations. Think about the different interesting places you could go, perhaps a new park that they opened just a few weeks ago or those woods or hills near your neighborhood. Exploring a new area allows for a change in your routine since it means taking a different route, probably on a different surface and a completely different landscape. There are so many new things to discover while running at new locations that will make the activity a lot more enjoyable, so try to change things up from time to time! Don’t forget to make sure that the place is safe, especially if you’re running alone, and always tell someone where you’re going to be.
Invest in essential gear
The most important thing to own in order to start running is a good pair of running shoes! Be prepared and get yourself a comfortable and durable pair that are fit for your feet and running style. If you prefer running on concrete or any hard surfaces, a regular pair of running shoes with good cushioning from a running store should be fine for you, but if you prefer running on terrain (like in the woods) then a pair of trail running shoes might be a better choice since they have better grip for you to move smoothly and without risk of slipping. You should also invest in breathable and lightweight running clothes and well-fitting sports bras if you’re planning to go on runs frequently, plus some nice comfortable socks, a good water flask to keep your water cool, and a small running bag to keep your phone, earbuds, ID, and maybe even a snack or two! Some people also like having a digital sports watch or GPS watches in order to monitor their heart-rate and their stats while they’re on the go. It’s not essential, but it can help in the long run to see your stats. And investing in gear will motivate you to make sure you're money's not going to waste!
Make your routine manageable
In order to build up a routine and actually be able to follow it, it should be manageable for you. It’s perfectly fine to follow advice from other runners and fitness websites or social media, but that’s just as long as you feel comfortable. Just because others are doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it too, so if you feel that a routine is too tough, too long, or too exhausting for you, then modify it! Take breaks, run slower, and go for shorter distances until you feel like you can take your exercise a little bit further instead of just quitting. If you feel like you’re running out of breath, don’t push through, just slow down or walk for a bit until you feel like you can start running again.
Stay properly hydrated
You need plenty of water before, during, and after any physical activity, whether you break heavy sweats or not. Bring a bottle of water or a water flask with you every time you’re going on a run, even if the weather is cool or if you’re not going to be running for long - water is essential! Make sure to drink every time you feel thirsty in order to avoid feeling fatigued and burned out at the end of your run.
If you're preparing for a long run such as your first marathon or half-marathon, hydration doesn’t just start on the day of the race. Start hydrating weeks prior and drink plenty of water to allow your body to be ready to reach the finish line on the big day! You can also try sports drinks, which contain carbs that help your body absorb liquids more rapidly, or electrolyte drinks if you’ll be exercising for long periods of time to get a boost of energy and make up for the electrolytes that are lost through sweat.
Bring your earbuds with you
Some people like to hear the sounds of nature or the city when running, but others need some kind of distraction in order to stay motivated and entertained without thinking too much about the actual work. If you’re one of those people, bring your earbuds with you! You can listen to your favorite music while running, discover new podcasts, or finally listen to that audiobook that you downloaded weeks ago. You can even create a personalized music playlist that goes well with your running mood and the landscape you’re exploring that day. Just remember to lower the volume or use only one earbud in order to stay safe and aware of your surroundings!
Dress for the weather
Different kinds of weather demand different running attires and cold and hot weather can be really rough! For cold weather, make sure to cover your head with a hat and your hands and feet with gloves and warm socks in order to prevent heat loss. You’ll also need to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer and then an outer layer that will keep you warm. Avoid really thick clothes or wearing a lot of layers, because you will get warmer as you go, and you really don’t want to overheat under all of those clothes!
For hot weather, do the opposite. Ideally, just one layer of clothes that is synthetic and loose-fitting to get the airflow going around your body, like a t-shirt and some shorts. If you prefer wearing tight clothes like leggings, make sure they’re breathable enough! Also, try to avoid dark-colored clothes since they tend to absorb more heat, and choose visors instead of caps of hats.
Doing different kinds of activities helps to balance your different muscle groups and also reduces the stress that running puts on your joints. With cross-training, you can mix up your routine so that you don’t get bored doing the same activity over and over again. Some cross-training activities that are great for you and don’t stress your running muscles are swimming, biking, and full-body strength training with light to medium weights. These exercises will complement your running routine and help you avoid burnout!
Have a running partner
Having a running partner helps you stay motivated and makes exercising more enjoyable. Your running partner could be a sibling, a neighbor, or just a friend that wants to build a running habit just like you! If your partner is someone more experienced, you could benefit from their tips and running knowledge, but their pace may be a lot different than yours since they’ve probably been doing it for a while. So try to find a running partner that’s on the same level as you, that way you can both start at an easy pace and make progress together without overworking yourself trying to get on someone else’s level! Joining running groups, like a running club, is also a good idea to stay motivated, although with COVID going on right now it’s best to wait a little longer for that.
Mistakes to avoid
Now that you know a few tips and tricks for your running routine, let’s take a look at a few things that you’ll want to avoid:
- Not warming up properly: Warm-ups are necessary in order to activate your muscles before you actually start running to help you exceed your workout and avoid any injuries! A great warm-up could be dynamic stretching or jogging in place for a little while until you start feeling your muscles getting heated and your blood flow going.
- Skipping cool-down: Just like a good warm-up, your body needs a good cool-down in order to let your body gradually go back to its resting state. Suddenly stopping after you’ve been running or doing any other kind of exercise will leave your muscles very tight, so end your run with a slight jog or walk and then do a little bit of static stretching to release the tension from your muscles. This will reduce muscle soreness and you’ll feel more prepared for your next run!
- Running with casual shoes: We all have a favorite pair of shoes, and they probably feel like the most comfortable pair in the world, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fit for running. Wearing a pair of Converse to do your usual workout routine at home or at the gym is perfectly fine, but with running you have to make sure that the shoes that you’re wearing were designed for that specific activity in order to avoid any risk of injury. So make sure to find a good pair that you also love!
- Going the extra mile while you’re still a beginner: Trying to prove something to yourself? That’s amazing, but make sure to approach it with caution! We all have our own fitness goals, but working hard to reach them instead of overdoing yourself is the correct way to go. Don’t push yourself to do more than you’re physically able to, just work on it and with a little bit of effort, you’ll get there in no time!
- Not breathing properly: This may sound obvious, but it’s a common problem among beginners! Breathing too quickly or taking only short breaths can cause side stitches, and you’ll want to avoid that if you’re going to be running for a while. Make sure to breathe from your nose and mouth in order to get plenty of oxygen, and learn how to do it from your diaphragm, not your chest. A good rule of thumb for breathing when running is the “talk test”: You should be able to hold a conversation (not a monologue) while you’re running. If you’re too out of breath, slow down a little.
And that's it! A few running tips and tricks, and also some things to avoid if you’re looking to make running part of your regular routine. Be prepared, and remember these when you’re about to go out on a run at your favorite spot. Bring plenty of water, dress accordingly, and have fun!