Running is a great way to burn calories, build your physical endurance and boost your mood. In fact, according to the New York Times (nytimes.com), running causes the brain to produce a marijuana-like chemical that makes you feel happy and satisfied — the much-touted “runner’s high.” When you’re a beginner, though, running can seem like an intimidating task to undertake.
The good news is, you don’t have to leap instantly into a marathon to reap the full benefits of running. A steady, gradual approach will build your stamina and increase your strength. Tailor your run to your personal needs and make it work for you. You have a much greater chance of sticking with running, and becoming quite good at it, if you do.
1) Get the Right Shoes
The New York Times reports that a study on running shoes and athlete performance found that the most important feature a shoe must have is comfort. Try on several pairs of running shoes before you make a purchase, and don’t be embarrassed to jog in place to see how they feel. John Hanc, author of The Essential Runner, tells newbie runners to expect to pay at least $60 for good running shoes.
2) Create a Plan
Get a reasonable goal in mind, such as running three times a week. Choose the time of day that works best for you, but roll with the punches if something comes up. Steady effort makes progress, even when you have to make adjustments from time to time.
Running on empty means you’re going to surrender sooner than you meant to. Eat a small serving of food dense in carbohydrates and protein, such as half a peanut butter sandwich, an hour before your training. This will give you the fuel you need to succeed. Finish that sandwich soon after you return to feed your hungry muscles.
4) Stay Hydrated
Don’t ignore thirst. It’s your body telling you what it needs. Take a bottle of water with you and drink when you need it. Just don’t feel like you need to drown yourself. When your body tells you it’s thirsty is exactly when you should drink water.
5) Warm Up, Then Stretch
Did you know that stretching “cold” muscles can do more harm than good? That’s right. Women’s Health (womenshealthmag.com) recommends warming up the muscles with a short walk or a light jog before you stop to stretch.
6) Stay Loose
Keep your body relaxed and fluid while you’re running. The editors of Runner’s World (runnersworld.com) say you should keep your jaw loose and hold your hands in relaxed fists, as though you were carrying a bird’s egg in each. Stretch your arms and shake out your wrists and hands at intervals to make sure you’re following this rule.
7) Find Your Form
Some people run on their toes, while others lead with their heels. Neither form is better than the other. The trick is finding which form works best for you. Your form should feel natural and rhythmic, with your elbows bent at 90 degree angles and your chin up.
8) Run, Walk, Repeat
Beginners may be embarrassed to interrupt their first run with a walk, thinking they’re failing. The truth is, intervals of running and walking builds the best stamina and muscle control. According to WebMD (webmd.com), new runners should try running for 10 seconds and walking for the rest of the minute. Eventually, your stretches of running will lengthen as you build endurance and strength.
9) Catch Your Breath
You should be able to keep up a conversation as you’re running. If you’re gasping for breath, it’s time to slow your pace or take a walking break. Don’t punish yourself for needing this break. Remember, you’ll get better the more you run.
10) Don’t Overdo It
Bursting out the door and trying to sprint for 3 or 4 miles when the most exercise you’ve had in the past year is opening the refrigerator door is a sure way to injure yourself, and injury only delays progress. Take it slow and steady. Build up gradually.
The moment you decide you want to run, you’re a runner. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. Don’t overtax yourself and don’t see tiredness as failure. Listen to your body and be attentive to your own needs. Pretty soon, you’ll be running with the best of them.