When you start running you will find out that running is a wonderful activity – it keeps you fit, gets you outside, and helps you meet people and discover new places.
Running is also, however, not very much fun at all the first time you do it.
Within minutes you’re out of breath and muscles you didn’t know existed are starting to hurt, and the idea of enjoying your surroundings or chatting with others seems ludicrous.
Stick with it, though, and after just a few outings all those benefits start become clear. But first things first.
Start By Setting a Goal
If you want to stay committed, then you need something to work for. If you have never run before, then find and enter a 5k race.
Your goal may just be to complete it without stopping, or to do it in under half an hour – it doesn’t matter, as long as you work towards that goal.
If you are a bit more experienced and just need a fresh boost, enter a longer race. Achieve your goal – then promptly enter another one.
You need structure, right?
What Equipment do I Need?
One advantage of the sport of running is that so little gear is required.
But the most important investment runners should make is in a good pair of running shoes — not cross-training, walking, or tennis shoes.
Running shoes are best purchased at specialty running stores, where employees can recommend models based on your ability and goals.
Many will also watch you run, to make sure the shoes you buy complement the way your foot strikes the ground.
You should also have a quality, well-fitted sports bra, preferably made of wicking material to keep you cooler and drier.
A digital sports watch is also helpful. As you advance in your running and set new goals, a heart-rate monitor is nice to have, to make sure you keep your effort level where it should be.
Start Out Right
It’s best to start out very easy, at a slow jog, and focus not on intensity but on how long you’re on the road.
Start out with a small amount of time — 10 minutes or 20 minutes, depending on where you are — and run or walk/run comfortably the entire time.
Do this for the entire first week, and even two weeks if you can stand it. Gradually increase your time until you can run 30 minutes.
From there, you can stay at 30 minutes or increase the amount of time you run gradually, every two weeks. But do not overdo it in the beginning!
Walk and Run Plan
If you are a true beginner, and cannot run for 10 minutes, you should start out with a walk/run plan.
Here’s a good one to start with (do each one three times a week):
- Week 1: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 1 minute, and then walk for 1 minute. Repeat these 1/1 intervals for 10 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
- Week 2: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 2 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 2/2 intervals for 10 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
- Week 3: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 3 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 3/2 intervals for 15 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
- Week 4: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 5 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 5/2 intervals for 20 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
You get the picture. The idea is to gradually increase your running time until you can do 10 minutes straight.
Then increase the 10 minutes to 12, and so on, each week, until you can eventually run for 30 minutes.
Now you’re a runner!
Listen to your body
Sorry to sound like a hippy, but do listen and learn the difference between an ache – perhaps just muscles getting used to all this new work they are doing – and a pain.
But don’t despair if you get the latter: check your shoes are right (see above) and that you haven’t upped your distance too drastically – increase by increments.
For aches, my top tip is Tiger Balm. I get through pots of the stuff. Just don’t rub your eyes before washing your hands.
How to Warm Up and Cool Down
…Why are they so important?
A good warm-up dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen.
It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart when you start your run.
Just as critical, the cool down keeps the blood flowing throughout the body.
Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually.
Here’s how to do a proper warm-up:
- It’s not a good idea to stretch cold muscles, so don’t start with stretching.
- Do about 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. You can do some of these pre-run warm-up exercises. Try walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. Make sure you don’t rush your warm-up.
- Begin your run. Don’t start out racing, but instead jog slowly and gradually build up your speed. You should be breathing very easily. If you feel yourself getting out of breath, slow down.
Here’s how to do a proper cool down:
- After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Now’s a good time to stretch since your muscles are warmed-up. Your body should be warm and stretching should be easy.
- Do these essential post-run stretches.
Post-run Stretching Tips:
- Don’t bounce while stretching. Hold still on each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Don’t stretch through pain. Don’t stretch beyond the point where you begin to feel tightness in the muscle. You shouldn’t push through muscle resistance, and never stretch to the point of pain. As you feel less tension, you can increase the stretch a bit more until you feel the same slight pull.
- Make sure you stretch both sides. Don’t just stretch your left calf because you feel tightness on that side. Make sure you’re stretching both sides equally.
- Don’t hold your breath. Stay relaxed and breathe in and out slowly. Make sure you don’t hold your breath. Take deep belly breaths.
How to Run Safely Outside
Using your common sense and taking some precautions when running can help you avoid getting injured or becoming a victim.
Follow these steps to stay safe on outdoor run:
1. Use common sense
Before you even head out for a run, take a minute or two to do a safety check. Are your shoes tied? Are you familiar with your route?
Does someone else know where you’ll be running? Once you start running, continue with the safety checks.
Make sure you’re running off the street or against traffic (so you can see cars coming at you). Watch out for cracks or bumps in the sidewalk, or rocks and branches on your running path.
2. Make sure you’re visible
No matter time of day you’re running, it’s important that you’re visible, especially to drivers. Get in the habit of wearing white or bright-colored clothes.
When running in the early morning, night, or dusk, make sure you have reflective gear on.
Although some items (running shoes, jackets) already have reflective pieces on them, it doesn’t hurt to add more.
A reflective vest can be worn over any form of running clothing and will definitely help drivers see you.
3. Don’t run alone at night
No matter how comfortable you feel running at night, there’s always more safety in numbers. If you usually run solo, try to find a running group so you’ll have running partners.
4. Always have identification on you
Put your driver’s license and your medical insurance card (in case you get injured) in your pocket or wear an ID tag on your shoe.
If you’re wearing an ID tag or bracelet, make sure it has an emergency contact number on it.
Whenever possible, I try to run with my cell phone, and it has my ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers saved.
Many runners use running belts to hold their ID and mobile phone.
5. Limit your distractions
I know it’s tough — maybe impossible — for some of you to run without music, but you really shouldn’t use your iPod or phone for outdoor runs.
Cutting off your sense of hearing means you can’t hear oncoming cars, cyclists yelling to move, unleashed dogs, or any other potential threat.
Save your iPod/phone for your treadmill runs.
And make sure you pay attention to your surroundings. If you let your mind wander too much, you may find yourself wandering into an unsafe area.
6. Don’t make assumptions about drivers
Remember that many drivers aren’t paying attention because they’re listening to the radio, talking on their phone, or reading a map.
Don’t assume that drivers can see you or that they’ll let you go because you have the right of way. Be sure you make eye contact with drivers at street crossings before you cross.
And, better yet, try to stay off the roads as much as possible and stick to running in parks or on paths and sidewalks.
7. Watch out for cyclists and other runners
Even if you’re running on a path or in a park with no cars, always be aware of other runners and cyclists.
If you’re approaching another runner or cyclist and need to pass them, communicate with him and let them know on which side you’re trying to pass.
Before you stop or turn around, make sure your path is clear.
8. Carry cash or Bank Card
It’s always a good idea to have money on you, in case of emergency.
For example, if the weather turns bad, you get lost, or an injury starts bothering you, you may need to take a cab or bus back to your starting point.
Some extra cash may also come in handy if you need to stop and buy water, sport drink, food, or first aid supplies during your run.
9. Trust your instincts
If a location or person makes you feel comfortable, trust your gut and run in the other direction.
What You Need:
- Brightly-colored running clothes
- Driver’s license or other form of ID
- Reflective gear
How to Train to Run Your First 5K
Running a 5K is an excellent goal for new runners. You’ll get lots of motivation, as well as enjoyment, from participating in a race.
A 5K, which is 3.1 miles, is the perfect distance for first-timers. Even if you’re a couch potato, you can be ready for a 5K in a couple of months.
Below is an eight-week 5K training schedule to help get you to the finish line. It assumes that you can already run at least a mile.
Training Schedule Overview
Each day on the schedule calls for something for you to do, whether it’s running, cross-training, or resting.
You can switch days to accommodate your schedule, so if you’re busy on another day and prefer to work out on a Monday or Friday, it’s fine to swap a rest day for a run day.
Each week, you’ll increase your runs by a quarter mile, which is a lap on most outdoor tracks.
Strength-training is also very beneficial for runners. If you’re feeling very sluggish or sore on a CT or rest day, take a rest day.
Sundays are active recovery days. Your run should be at an easy, comfortable pace. Or, you can do a run/walk combination or cross-train (CT).
Rest and Recovery Days
Some days are rest days, which are critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. Don’t skip them! You’ll also get mentally burned out if you run every day with no breaks.
5K Training Schedule for Beginners
|1||Rest||1 mi run||CT or Rest||1 mi run||Rest||1.5 mi run||20-30 min run or CT|
|2||Rest||1.5 mi run||CT or Rest||1.5 mi run||Rest||1.75 mi run||20-30 min run or CT|
|3||Rest||2 mi run||CT or Rest||1.5 mi run||Rest||2 mi run||20-30 min run or CT|
|4||Rest||2.25 mi run||CT or Rest||1.5 mi run||Rest||2.25 mi run||25-35 min run or CT|
|5||Rest||2.5 mi run||CT or Rest||2 mi run||Rest||2.5 mi run||25-35 min run or CT|
|6||Rest||2.75 mi run||CT||2 mi run||Rest||2.75 mi run||35-40 min run or CT|
|7||Rest||3 mi run||CT||2 mi run||Rest||3 mi run||35-40 min run or CT|
|8||Rest||3 mi run||CT or Rest||2 mi run||Rest||Rest||5K Race!|
Going beyond beginner
Once you’ve gotten a few 5Ks under your belt, and have been running for a few months, you’ll want to start a real training plan and progress to the next level.
Training plans are available online for free (see some of the sites below).
Good articles and sites
- Runner’s World
- Cool Running
- About.com Running
- Beginning Runner
- Beginner’s Guide to Running
- 100 Beginning Runner Tips
Before diving into cadence and its impact on your form, a quick disclaimer:
If you have no history of injuries and you’re performing well, you probably don’t need to make adjusting your running form a top priority.
What Is Cadence?
Cadence is very simple: It’s the number of steps you take per minute of running.
It’s important to remember that when we talk about cadence, it’s only applicable when you’re running at your easy pace. None of the following suggestions pertain to running at faster paces because cadence is directly influenced by speed. The faster you go, the faster your cadence.
But at an easy pace, there’s a general range that’s optimal for most runners — but this can be age and size dependent. For example, shorter runners generally have a higher cadence and taller runners a lower cadence.
As a very general guide, if your easy pace is:
Faster than 10 minutes per mile, cadence should be 170–180 steps per minute
Slower than 10 minutes per mile, cadence should be 160 steps per minute or higher
To determine your cadence, simply count the number of times one foot touches the ground in a 1-minute time period.
Then double that number (to account for both feet) to get your step rate.
Why Should You Increase Your Cadence?
If you find your step rate is below the recommendations above, it might be worthwhile to increase it. Even though you may feel uncoordinated at first, it’s worth it.
The reason cadence is a global problem solver is because the running stride is a global activity. We should avoid the temptation to focus on one individual part of the leg or phase of the stride.
Just by increasing the number of steps taken each minute, runners can:
- Avoid overly aggressive heel-striking
- Lessen the likelihood of over-striding
- Reduce the impact forces of each stride
- Encourage a more neutral midfoot strike
As you can see, just by increasing cadence a litany of other running form issues can be solved or helped.
Learn How To Increase Your Step Rate
Fortunately, you don’t need a fancy biomechanics lab or expensive testing equipment to begin realizing the many benefits of a faster cadence.
The first step is to simply measure your step rate. Go for an easy run and count the number of steps you take in one minute. That’s your cadence.
Next, if you’re running faster than 10:00/mile, you should generally be running at 170 steps per minute or higher. If you’re slower, you should be at about 160 steps per minute or greater.
If not, you can simply try to increase your cadence by taking shorter, faster steps. Some runners struggle with this and find that they simply run faster. But the goal is to run the same pace with a faster cadence.
A helpful strategy is to play with your cadence on a treadmill. By keeping the pace constant, you can find out how certain cadences feel so you’re more effective at it outside.
Several training tools can help as well:
- Running strides or form drills 2–3 times per week
- Running a faster workout once per week
- Spending more time on technical trails
These strategies can all unconsciously increase your cadence, thereby improving your economy and performance while lessening your injury risk.
Running is a fun and simple hobby that you can do anywhere you go.
Starting to run takes a little preparation by purchasing the right running shoes, getting the right gear, and heading out for a run.
Remember to keep an eye on your form and practice proper breathing techniques. Within time, these will become second nature to you.