So, you have decided you want to start running. Are you ready to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement? That’s fantastic! And we’re here to help you every step of the way.
I’ve been distance running for 13 years now. Over the past decade and a bit I have learned a lot about running, and myself, through reading countless running publications, talking to runner friends, and through my own experience.
The start of my running days seems like an eternity ago, but I remember one thing clearly: I knew nothing about running in the beginning. Seriously, zilch.
I was walking my dog one day and just decided to run for some reason. I wasn’t wearing running-specific shoes or any running gear. I had no watch and no plan. I just ran until I got tired, walked until I caught my breath, then ran again, and so on. I did this same workout for months, but I never told anyone I was taking up running. Because in my mind I wasn’t a runner since I needed to walk breaks. Oh, how wrong I was!
Here are some things I wish I knew when I started running
Walk breaks aren’t for the weak. In fact, very much to the contrary. I used to think to be a runner you had to run the whole way. Now, I swear by walk breaks and many popular training plans call for them.
You don’t have to race to be a runner. I ran my first race, a 10k, a year after I started running. Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the experience. It was 6 months before I raced again, and that’s when I caught the racing bug. But during that non-racing time, I wasn’t any less of a runner because I didn’t show up to any start lines. I still ran just as often and enjoyed my miles just as much.
Don’t compare yourself to others. When I first started running, all my friends were way faster than me. I was embarrassed to share my times because I was so much slower. Now, I have plenty of friends who are faster than me and some who are slower, and I am lucky to have a couple of training buddies who run the same pace. But here’s the thing, I don’t care about anyone else’s times and no one cares about mine either. The pace is all relative.
Running is classified as an individual sport. I don’t compete with my friends, only against myself. However, the running community is incredibly supportive. During a race, my performance may seem like it’s only up to me, but the cheers from the crowds and support from other runners along the course helped enormously.
There is no need to time every run. One of the downsides of only competing with yourself is the constant drive to improve. I went through a phase where I tried to run faster on every run. It was draining, to say the least. Now, when I’m not following a training plan, I leave my watch at home. I like running “naked” and just going.
Everyone has bad runs. A bad run, a disappointing race, or a less than stellar year of running doesn’t define you. The opposite is also true. Every runner has ebbs and flows with running. It’s how the sport keeps us on our toes!
Here are a few things that helped my running motivation in the beginning, and still continue to keep me on track:
Run for time not the number of miles. Running for 30 minutes instead of 3 miles takes the pressure off pace and goals. It allows you to enjoy the time rather than focusing on a set number of miles. You’re also more likely to run by feel, which helps you to run longer than if you gun it right out of the gate.
Set multiple alarms on your smartphone. The great thing about having a smartphone is you can set multiple custom alarms for a run. You can set it to say, “get out of bed” or “be inspired.” You can set as many alarms as you need to get you out the door.
Sign up for a race. Nothing keeps you motivated to run like training for a race. No matter the distance, following a training plan will help you focus on getting in your runs.
Join a local running club. By meeting others that are motivated to run, you will be more likely to stay committed. Also, most clubs have scheduled weekly workouts that will help you plan your runs for the week.
Buy new running gear. Nothing says “RUN” like a shiny new pair of sneakers. If you find running in the cold or rain difficult, a sweet new hat or pair of compression leggings may be the motivation you need to get out there.
As you embark on the spring challenge, these tips can help keep you motivated and on the road. What are some tips you have for beginner runners to stay motivated?
The basics of building a running foundation
Almost every training plan assumes that the runner has a “base”. Your base is exactly what it sounds like, it’s your current fitness level. You cannot go from running zero miles per week to training for a marathon. Base building is the work that comes in between zero mileage weeks and training, it’s basically pre-training.
Proper base building is a prerequisite for a successful training cycle. Base building increases your endurance, strengthens your muscles, and ensures your body is ready for tougher workouts. Having an adequate base may also lower your risk of injury.
Some training plans call for a base of 10 or 20 weekly miles before you start a training plan. But base building is about more than weekly mileage totals, it matters how you run those miles, too.
If you’re training for your first race, experts suggest focusing on speed or endurance, not both the first time around.
For example, if you’re training for your first half marathon, it’s best to concentrate on endurance. Look at your half marathon training plan to see what distance long run you begin with. If it’s 8 miles and you can only run 4 miles now, work your way 7 miles continuously before the plan starts. Do one long run each week, increasing the distance of the long run by a half mile or a mile each week. In addition, do two or three shorter mid-week runs.
I hope this helps to get you going. Please let us know how you are doing.
It would be impossible to stretch every muscle in the body using only thirteen stretches. The stretches outlined below cover the most important muscles used for walking and jogging. We suggest doing them after your walk or run. You can also do them any other spare time you have.
The routine starts on the floor so you should have a thick carpet or large thick mat to work on. You’ll also need several props, including a sofa for lower back support in the sitting position, a counter top to lean against in the standing position, and some pillows to sit on or use in other ways.
Each of the following stretching exercises consists of a starting position, a mental focus and a subtle stretching movement.
13 Great Stretching Exercises for Runners
Start: If you are not able to sit cross-legged comfortably with a straight back, either support your lower back with a piece of furniture or raise your rump on pillows so you can relax your groin.
Focus: Relax your legs from the groin to the knees.
Motion: Let gravity work to lower your knees.
Change the forward leg occasionally and repeat the stretch.
Start: From the same sitting position as #1, put the soles of your feet together with a comfortable distance from your body. Hands on your knees.
Focus: The closer you bring your feet to your groin, the deeper the stretch. Work for the right amount of stretch.
Motion: Let gravity work to lower your knees. Add the weight of your hands.
Start: From the same sitting position as #1, extend your legs until they are flat in front of you. relax your legs by shaking them up and down from the knees. Lock your knees, straighten your back, and bend your toes back slowly and release. Repeat with back and toes.
Focus: Work to ease the discomfort behind your knees before you try to place your chest on your knees.
Motion: As your leg muscles relax, your lower back straightens, and your toes come back farther.
Outer Rump Stretch:
Start: Separate from the furniture you were using for support, fold both legs to the right with your knees bent 45 to 90 degrees and your right knee against the bottom of your left foot. Support yourself with your arms. Lower your chest towards the left knee until you feel the stretch in your left rump.
Focus: Straighten your back and tilt your hips back for a deeper stretch.
Motion: Your chest drops progressively towards your knee.
Fold both legs to the left and repeat.
Inner Thigh Stretch:
Start: Lie down on your back with your legs and body straight. Bring one foot back beside your hip with your instep flat on the ground. Hold your foot in place with your hand on your ankle.
Focus: Relax the muscles holding the knee up.
Motion: Let gravity lower your knee, occasionally pressing down momentarily and releasing.
Repeat with other foot.
Neck and Torso Stretch:
Start (1): Lie on your stomach with your knees together, your arms at your side, and your head turned to the left. After a few moments, turn your head to the right, and repeat several times.
Focus: Work to release the tension in your neck from one rotation to the next.
Motion: Side of head lies flatter on the ground.
Start (2): Straighten your head and bring your hands up for support under your chin or forehead.
Focus: Relax upper body but be aware of lower back discomfort.
Motion: Neck sinks, upper back, and shoulders sink towards the ground.
Start (3): Rise up on your elbows and raise your head to shoulder level or above.
Focus: Avoid lower back discomfort by controlling abdomen muscles.
Motion: Lower back sinks as torso muscles relax.
Each of the following is a more progressive level.
Start (1): Lie on your stomach with your knees together. Straighten your head and bring your hands up for support under your chin or forehead. Raise your lower legs towards a vertical position.
Focus: Press your hips to the ground and avoid lower back discomfort by adjusting the position of your lower legs. Point and flex your feet several times during the stretch.
Motion: Your hips gradually settle on the ground without your having to press them there.
Start (2): Arms beside your body and your chin to the left shoulder. Bring your left lower leg back and grab your left ankle with your left hand, lifting your left shoulder slightly in the process. Then grab your left wrist with your right hand.
Focus: Press your left hip to the ground and avoid lower back discomfort.
Motion: Your hip gradually settles on the ground without your having to press it there.
Repeat this exercise with your right side.
Start (3): Holding your head straight and slightly off the ground, bring both lower legs back and grab each ankle with the corresponding hand. Press hips to the ground repeatedly.
Focus: Work for progressively more strength to hold up your head and shoulders. You should feel progressively less low back discomfort doing the exercise.
Motion: Head and shoulders rise, and hips drop.
Stretch Bottoms of Feet:
Start: From the previous position on stomach, push up on all fours. Sit back on your heels with your toes curled under.
Focus: Keep feet straight and work to stretch all toes equally.
Motion: Toes curl flatter on the ground.
Lower Back and Quad Stretch:
Start (1): From the previous all-fours position and the weight mostly on your knees, straighten your toes and place the tops of both feet flat on the floor. Gradually sit back on your haunches until your back is vertical. (If you can’t sit back all the way because of knee stiffness, then play with the stretch to the limit of your flexibility before moving to phase 2.)
Focus: Avoid joint pain in your knees and ankles.
Motion: You’ll settle onto your haunches and gradually your butt will slip between your lower legs to the floor. Use a pillow between your legs to support your butt while you are making this transition.
Start (2): From the previous vertical position on your haunches, lean forward from your waist until your chest is on your knees. If you feel discomfort in your hips, try placing a pillow between your thighs and torso.
Focus: Relax back, your arms and shoulders.
Motion: Your spine curves lower towards the floor.
Start: With top of right foot flat on the ground, bring your left heel back next to your butt. Hug your knee next to your chest and keep your left foot next to the right leg.
Focus: Minimize discomfort in the various joints involved in this complex exercise.
Motion: Lower leg bends forward towards the foot.
Repeat for other foot.
To stretch both calves at the same time, Start (1): Stand several feet from the wall (counter, tabletop, or fence). Lean into the wall with your legs straight and your knees locked.
Focus: Keep both feet flat on the ground and pointed straight ahead.
Motion: Your legs bend slowly towards your feet.
To stretch both calves separately, Start (2): Stand several feet from the wall (counter, tabletop, or fence). Lean into the wall with one leg straight and that knee locked. (The other leg can be held relaxed.)
Focus: With the leg being stretched, keep the foot flat on the ground and pointed straight ahead.
Motion: Your leg bends slowly towards your foot.
Standing Inner Thigh Stretch:
Start: Stand a few feet from a counter (tabletop or fence). With your feet two and a half to four feet apart, bend over from your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your upper legs. Shift your hips to one side.
Focus: Feel a stretch in the groin and inner thigh of the leg being stretched.
Motion: You’ll feel your hips shift farther to one side or the other.
Shift your hips to the other side.
Outer Hip Stretch:
Start: Stand up straight, reach straight up with your arms. Lean to one side.
Focus: Don’t twist your torso as you lean, but keep it facing straight ahead.
Motion: You lean farther to the side as you relax.
Lean to the other side.
Most runners know that amazing feeling when you become so completely absorbed in your run that it feels effortless. Itss those times when an hour feels like 10 minutes, you don’t have a single worry and you have a stupid grin on your face. This is flow – the state originally identified by researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a state of complete absorption in one’s activity, in which “every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one.”
Flow has been shown to boost not only creativity and productivity, but also athletic performance. It has also been found to increase overall quality of life – people who experience flow more frequently have been shown to be happier overall and exhibit higher concentration, higher self-esteem and even better health.
In order to get into flow, you must be “intrinsically motivated” to be running (i.e. not feel that you are required to do it by anyone or anything); it must be challenging but not too difficult, you should feel as though you are in control and you must receive immediate feedback throughout the activity.
Here are some tips for switching on and prolonging flow during your workouts:
- Train consistently: Potentially the most important factor in achieving flow is having your task be challenging enough for your skill level (but not too challenging). The more consistently you train, the easier it will be for you to identify your strengths and challenges are as a runner, and thus to know how to adjust your training appropriately. It will also be easier for you to know what kinds of tasks are enjoyable for you so that you can go out for the run without feeling like you have to. This will contribute to that ‘intrinsic motivation’ factor.
- Set your goals wisely: Having clear goals is another important factor that helps to get into the flow state. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every time you go for a run, you have to be training for your next race PR. But it does mean that you should leave the house with a concrete goal for your training session – whether that goal is to run a certain tempo or simply to capture a beautiful sunset photo.
- Stay present. The best way to get into flow and stay there longer is to pay attention to clear and immediate feedback and adjust accordingly. This means listening to your body carefully and keeping focus on how you feel. If you feel stressed, winded, or strained in any way, then the challenge of your workout is exceeding your current ability, and you should dial it back. If, on the other hand, you feel bored, your mind is wandering to thoughts of work or day-to-day minutia, or you don’t feel like you’re working out at all, that’s an indication that your skill level exceeds the challenge of this workout, and you should kick things up a notch. The best way to train this body focus is by practicing regular meditation, whether seated or running.
- Stay positive. If you get ‘kicked out’ of flow, the best way to restore it is through relaxation and positive thinking. That means silencing the inner critic in your head and focusing on what you’re enjoying in your workout.
- Do something new, different, or scary. Another potential contributor to flow state is one often seen in extreme sports: the element of risk. This doesn’t mean you have to go running along the side of a cliff; simply doing a task differently from the way you normally do it can help increase your level of focus, interest, and attention on the task, which can help you to get into flow faster. This is an instance where it can be helpful to set goals that scare you.
- Listen to music. A final ‘hack’ that is frequently used by athletes is one you likely already employ – listen to music that makes you happy, and that helps you set your favorite pace. Music has been shown to enhance flow and boost performance in athletes. In fact, music and performance researcher Dr. Costas Karageorghis has said that “music can be thought of as a type of legal performance-enhancing drug” precisely because it helps athletes to get into flow, reduce unpleasant thoughts, boost concentration and increase positive emotions.
The best thing about flow is that absolutely anyone and everyone can experience it, and it’s even easier for regular runners than for non-athletes. Do you have any favorite tricks for getting into, and staying in, “the zone”?
This is for people who may have failed at making the transition from walking to jogging previously. If jogging has always been difficult for you, it’s not necessarily that it must be that way. You may be simply out of shape.
When you are out of shape, you can hear your breathing even at a painfully slow pace. The problem isn’t in your lungs, it’s in your leg muscles. They can’t supply enough energy for jogging with oxygen. As a result, your heart rate rises, you can hear your breathing and the exertion becomes uncomfortable.
A lot of women have husbands that tell them they should hear their breathing, and jogging should be uncomfortable. Usually, that’s the way they learned to run, therefore, that’s the way you should learn to run. If you are normal, however, you are not into pain. Painful exercise is a burdensome exercise. And your husband’s advice notwithstanding, you are not going to continue doing it if you are not enjoying it.
Your first goal should be to create a regimen you’ll want to continue. That means being able to enjoy the activity, or at least be satisfied with it. Mostly that means going slowly enough so that the activity feels comfortable. This may be difficult to accept at first, but if jogging is uncomfortable for you, maybe you should stick with walking. A brisk walk is a great exercise, even if it isn’t painful.
The good news is that your capacity for walking can grow quickly. Even novice walkers can prepare for a marathon in a few months. As you get in shape, you’ll be able to walk at a faster pace for a longer time. When you can walk for an hour or two without feeling greatly fatigued, or without needing a nap because you feel weary or exhausted afterward, you know you are in shape to take the next step towards being able to jog.
Most novice joggers try to jog at a running pace. This is a major mistake because slow jogging is already a level above walking. If you try to fast-jog or run, you take your effort up two levels, which is usually more than your body can handle initially.
How to transition from Walking to Jogging
You need to control your pace so you can make the initial transition from walking to jogging. Find yourself a partner who is at your level of ability. The two of you will trade off walking and jogging until you learn how to do it without hearing your breathing. Here’s how:
Whenever you are jogging, jog at your partner’s walking pace. Make sure that your partner walks while you jog. A walk is the same walking pace you have been using to get in shape. Not a sprint-walk, but a recovery walk. Here recovery means that your heart rate and breathing return to your usual walking rate. Meanwhile, if you are jogging, pay attention to your breathing. If you can carry on a conversation without hearing more than a “huff” between sentences, you are jogging at the right beginner level.
When you jog so fast that your partner can hear your breathing, your body is producing energy without oxygen. This sort of jogging is inefficient and uncomfortable. When you are out of shape for jogging, you don’t have to jog fast before you can hear your breathing. This problem of having a small capacity is made worse when you jog fast early in the workout before you have had a chance to warm up.
Therefore, if you want to make your jogging easier, you should go very slowly for the first ten minutes. It will seem like you are holding yourself way back but keep this in mind: even at your slowest jogging pace, you will have doubled your resting heart rate, which is a significant increase in your metabolic rate.
If you want to make your jogging easier, you should also consider losing weight. It takes a lot of effort to carry extra weight around. So, you don’t have to become more aerobically fit to make your jogging easier. Just lose weight and you’ll make it easier.
Nutritional Tips to help lose weight and therefore make jogging easier
Obesity is one of the major health problems in our culture. Obese people are at great risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Most obese people simply eat too much. But many also eat incorrectly. If you are tired of being over-fat you should consider, a major restructuring of your daily meal regimen.
You must commit yourself to eat three moderate meals a day starting with a nutritious breakfast, a low-fat lunch and dinner, and no in-between-meal snacking (except for a nutritious snack between lunch and dinner). The trick is to never allow yourself to become hungry or starved because you missed a meal. And always leave a meal feeling satisfied, not full or stuffed.
If you are not obese, you probably don’t have to make radical changes in your eating pattern. Just be on the look-out for ways to substitute foods you are presently eating for foods that will give you better energy and less fat. For instance, if you are eating large amounts of ice cream, meat, cheese, peanut butter, fast foods, restaurant cooking, fried or fatty foods, sweets, booze, coffee, and soda pop, then you’ve got plenty to begin substituting.
The question is what will you put in the place of the foods you want to cut back on? Breakfast is a good place to think creatively. What can you have in place of the typical breakfast of coffee and eggs, or milk and dried cereal? Think of it this way: You owe it to yourself to have one orange per day. That’s 365 per year! Oranges have Vitamin C. If you don’t get enough of it, your teeth fall out. There are lots of vitamin C sources, but an orange will give you your daily requirement in one tasty package.
Try squeezing an orange into a bowl. Then chop a banana and half of a ripe pear into the bowl with papaya, and a garnish of granola, nuts, and raisins. Notice how your body craves fruit for breakfast. It’s different from eating sweets. Your body wants fruit; it doesn’t want sweets. Fruit takes a while to digest, so it provides good energy through the morning. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast will raise your blood sugar level and keep it up naturally, without coffee, through most of the morning. If your energy begins to flag, have another banana.
Avoid the syndrome of eating little or nothing in the morning, feeling starved at noon, rapidly eating a large and fatty lunch, and feeling lethargic in the afternoon. The quick-fix coke or donut creates a surge of energy, but it runs out quickly leaving you feeling tired because your body has over-compensated to even out your blood sugar level. If you don’t have a nutritious afternoon snack, by evening, you are starved again. If you overeat in the evening–or any time when your energy demands are low–excess calories will be turned to fat. Remember, your body interprets the time between large, infrequent meals as a period of “starvation.” As a hedge against starvation, it slows down your metabolism and turns a greater proportion of your food to fat.
Being thin means eating before you are hungry or starved and stopping before you are full or stuffed. This middle area is “being satisfied.” If you can discipline yourself to feel satisfied after meals, you will lose weight if you need to, or maintain an ideal weight if you are there already.
Your body responds best to small and regularly spaced meals that give you just enough calories for the next few hours. The human body evolved on such “grazing” diets. So, if you want to be healthy and slender, eat as the prehistoric people did.
Most people have heard about the “runner’s high” but few have experienced it. That’s because it only occurs under two conditions. To get high on running you must push hard, which forces your body to secrete Adrenalin and the other hormones that cause the high. This is the first condition.
Even avid runners get high on running only occasionally, normally on longer runs or when they do a race. The rest of the time during normal training, they are fortunate to simply enjoy a run. This is because they are usually somewhat tired from heavy training, and with their energy low they can’t push themselves without increasing their risk of injury, illness and exhaustion. One of the main befits of being fit from running is having abundant energy.
The main difference between walking and running in the degree or level of output effort. As a rule you walk at a lower level of exertion than you would as a runner. And since your heart rate doesn’t get as high, you don’t feel as high. You’re like the runner who’s too tired to push hard, except that walking itself limits your level of exertion because you don’t get airborne like you would in running. Thus, you can’t expect to feel exhilarated—even by a brisk walk—but you can aim to enjoy it. Enjoyment isn’t the same as the proverbial runner’s high, but even enjoyment can be elusive, because you can’t force enjoyment when your energy is low.
Remember, your energy is the key to feeling high on exercise. So you need to pay close attention to your energy during a walk. Do you have no energy, little energy, some energy, ample energy, or abundant energy? Notice how the level of your energy changes during a workout. It usually starts off low and increases as you warm up. Meanwhile, the less energy you have the slower you must go in order to enjoy the activity. Notice when your energy is low that mild exertion (very slow and soothing) enables you to be satisfied with the effort, and as you warm up your energy increases and you can go a little faster. You may even begin to enjoy the workout, because you were wise enough to coordinate your pace with the way you felt.
The most important part of maintaining a fitness regimen is harmony. Your pace and the duration of the workout must be in harmony with your energy. If you feel burdened or oppressed by the effort of a workout, you aren’t in harmony with it. If you are tired, go short and slow and you’ll feel satisfied, which is harmonious. If you feel energetic you can walk briskly until you start to feel fatigued. If you stop at that point you will have enjoyed the workout which is also harmonious. But be ready to cut back on your walk the next day to give yourself a chance to recover from the harder effort. In other words, it’s harmonious to wait until you feel energetic again before you push yourself.
Let your attitude tell you when you’ve gone far enough for the day. In my system, we measure our attitude about the effort of a workout on the following scale: oppressed, burdened, satisfied, enjoyed, exhilarated. Remember, the potential is always there to be burdened or oppressed by a workout, depending again on your energy and your effort.
Therefore, if you feel little energy, go slow enough to be satisfied by the workout. In this way, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll stay with your walking regimen, rather than give it up because it seems so burdensome. If you aim to be satisfied, you may surprise yourself by occasionally enjoying a workout.