BEGINNERS GUIDE TO RUNNING
Running is one of the popular, cost effective and uncomplicated sporting activities practiced worldwide. It requires very little equipment and with nature already providing the trails, all you need is the willingness, running shoes and clothes and you are good to go.
Starting running either for newbies or people returning to running after a long hiatus can be daunting. However, being equipped with helpful information about running can help alleviate such anxiety.
Here are some basic information to help you start.
Get Cleared To Run By Your Doctor
One of the reasons people start exercising is to stay fit and healthy. Most activities of daily living including brisk walking is considered safe for most people.
However, not everyone is fit to run, especially if you have not been active in a long while, are of a particular age and/or have health issues like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
If you are in any of these categories or are not sure of your health status, before starting any exercise at all, consider going to your doctor who will carry out a few tests to confirm your fitness level.
The doctor may also recommend some exercises and activities you can engage in.
What To Wear Running
Running shoes are a necessity when considering running. Consider buying shoes you are comfortable in, it is recommended that you go to an athletic store to get fitted for the right pair to running shoes.
The quality of shoes to buy has been an issue for debate, a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine debunks the popular belief that high end shoes are better at preventing running related injuries than low to moderate cost shoes. In another study, the moderate to low cost running shoes offered equal to superior cushioning of the sole of the feet compared to high end shoes.1,2
Note: People with diabetes and/or reduced sensation in the feet should not run without shoes.
Get comfortable running clothes that fit. They should not be too tight and should be appropriate for the weather. For example, runners in humid areas should wear breathable fabric. Cotton sportswear should not be worn in winter as it will stay wet and cause cold feet.
Wear reflective clothes, shoe laces, wristbands to get attention of drivers and motorists.
Wear sunscreen if you are running during the day, even on days when the sun is not hot or obvious. Note that though the sun may not be hot, ultraviolet rays are still present and can cause skin cancer.
Women should buy comfortable, supportive, sports bras that fit perfectly.
Compression Shorts: Male runners will benefit from wearing compression shorts or supportive underwear made from breathable fabric like nylon to protect the testes from injuries and soreness
These are helpful running items but can be done without if you are unable to acquire them.
1. Smart wrist watch for logging time and distance.
2. Phone and running related mobile applications.
3. Running belt to hold your valuables such as ID, phones, money, keys and other valuables, so your hands are free while you run.
Choose A Good Terrain
Running through a rough terrain especially in the early period, may increase your risk of injuries.
When running through an unfamiliar terrain, run slower than you normally would, be alert and aware of your surroundings, and run the trail in daylight first.
When running uphill, making short strides while leaning slightly forward helps you navigate the hills easier and minimize the risk of injury.
The distance uphill or tough terrain is difficult to ascertain and may be longer. When running uphill, consider time to be more important than distance as a way to track your progress.
Maintain A Proper Running Form
A. Head, back and shoulders posturing: Maintain a good posture. Keep body erect, your head and back straight up with shoulders squared and relaxed.
Keep eyes focused on the ground about 10-15 feet ahead of you to ensure you see the trail clearly.
B. Hands and Arms: Keep your hands at the level of your waist. Avoid making a common mistake of keeping your arms close to your chest, this will make you tire easily.
Don’t make a fist while running as this will put tension on your neck, shoulders and arms muscles causing them to tighten, rather relax them.
Keep your arms at your sides, they should be held at a 90 degree angle.
C. Feet: Place your feet so that your toes point straight forward in the direction you will be running. Your toes pointing inwards or outwards will increase your risk of injuries.
Ensure You Are Well Hydrated
Running revs up your metabolism making you sweat. Sweating when you run is a way your body tries to cool your body, however, water is lost into the atmosphere in the process. The amount of water lost through sweat increases if you are running in hot weather.
To maintain adequate hydration, it is recommended that you drink about 12-16 ounces of water about an hour prior to your run. Drink to your thirst to avoid overhydration or under-hydration.7
The choice of fluids include plain water, non caffeinated drinks and sports drinks like lucozade sport, gatorade, these provide the right amount of electrolytes and glucose that help absorbs the fluids faster.
Drinking water after your run is necessary to replace lost fluids, as you may begin to experience the effect of dehydration after a while. Drink to your thirst.
Note: Do not run drink alcohol the night before your early morning run. Running with a hangover will make you dehydrated quickly.
Participants of a study published in the Journal of Sports And Exercise Psychology showed increased endurance during exercise while listening to music and were less exhausted compared to when they exercised with no music.6
Although some experts recommend not wearing headphones, many runners consider running without music boring.
Listening to good music can be fun and may help take your mind off running, especially if you are finding it tough adapting to life as a runner.
Gradually Increase Your Mileage
Risk of injury is highest in people new to running, according to a review article published in the Springer Sports Medicine journal. So it is important that new runners start small, from 1-4 miles per week, 2-4 sessions, within 20-30 minutes and then gradually increase it by 10% within 2 weeks to avoid running related injuries.
Increasing your mileage by more than 30% within 2 weeks increases the risk or running related injuries.6
To incorporate long runs into your routine and gain endurance, wait till after a few weeks of starting and then add about 5 – 10 minutes to one of your weekly runs. Do this intermittently until you are confident that you are able to maintain your new routine going on.
Pace yourself, do not continue running after you are tired or out of breath.
You run because you want to be in good health, fit and probably live longer. It would be unfortunate to be harmed or at worst, die before the effect of living a sedentary life kicks in.
Important safety measures to take include
1. Night time running: invest in reflective running gear especially when you run in the dark. Reflective gears ensure you are visible to drivers from at least 500 feet.
Wear reflective gear on your head and moving parts like your wrist, ankles and feet. Use headlamps or arm flashlights to light your path and alert drivers of your presence.
2. Staying safe outdoors: Choose a path that is not isolated, safe neighbourhoods and trails, avoid running through dimly lit areas or run with a friend or even your dog if you can.
Run during the day if your schedule permits. You may want to learn some self defence skills to help you stay safe. Also carry some form of identification, a cell phone.
Have your personal details; name, phone number, blood type, emergency contact written somewhere such as the inside sole of your running shoes.
3. Using the road: Run against traffic, this way you are able to see oncoming cars. Stay on the sidewalk or shoulder of the road, yield to cars at intersections and follow traffic rules.
4. Headphones: Many runners like running while listening to music. If you must, reduce the volume so you can still hear things around you.
Set Realistic Goals And Be Consistent
Starting running, as with other forms of exercise and staying consistent can be quite challenging. Many intending runners never end up doing it and many new runners fall off the wagon early in their journey.
One of the reasons many dread attempting running is the anticipation of the soreness and aches that often follow the first run, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). To help minimize DOMS, use ice, heat and massage the affected area.
Here are some ways to stay motivated
1. Define the goal: Write down what you hope to achieve by running. e.g ‘to live healthy’, ‘ to lose weight’ e.t.c
2. Keep a running journal: Keeping a journal (notebook or a mobile application) and logging information on distance covered, dates and few comments after each run, will help track your progress and help you stay motivated.
3. Get a running mate or join a running club: Having someone to share your experience with can help you stay motivated.
4. Celebrate your accomplishments: Celebrate your milestones no matter how little, for example treat yourself to a facial, mani-pedi or pamper yourself at the spa.
5. Do not skip exercising: If you are not able to run because of your schedule, you may go for a shorter run or engage in other sports that may take a shorter time.
6. Have a mantra: Have a phrase you find motivating and then repeat it to yourself over an over when you feel you need it to get you through the run.
7. Read inspiring quotes on running.
8. Listen to music on the run.
Pain Is Not Gain
The human body can do incredible things and show resilience, however it speaks out when under pressure through pain.
Listen to your body, do not run if you are in pain, rest when you need to and get enough sleep. Running with pain increases the risk of injury while running.
If you are injured, go to the doctor to get treated, don’t muscle through the pain.
Health Benefits of Running
It is great to know there are numerous benefits to running. Here are a few.
1. Running promotes weight loss. Running increases body metabolism causing you to burn calories. This continues even after you have stopped exercising; excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
2. Running enhances longevity.
3. Running like other forms of exercises improves age related memory decline.8
4. Running reduces stress, combats depression, increases happiness hormones called endorphins.9
5. Running improves heart health.
6. Running can strengthen your knees and improve its function.10