The Beginner’s Guide to Running
Welcome to the Healthversed beginner’s guide to running and congratulations on taking the first step on your lifelong journey to better health. You’re probably thinking “Wait! I didn’t commit to running every day for the rest of my life by clicking a link on some website, did I?” Of course, you didn’t. You did, however, began an educational journey that (hopefully) inspires you to follow through with your overall goal of being healthier! So, congratulations!
Today, we’ll be going over a few hard and fast running rules that should help ease you into this incredibly healthy hobby. We’re going to explore the benefits of running, a list of recommended gear, tips and tricks on how you can get the most out of every mile, and more.
Remember, this is a guide for beginners. If you already run on a regular basis or you used to run track in high-school, then this article may not be for you. However, if you’re new to the hobby or looking for a refresher course than you’ve come to the right place.
It’s time to lace up the sneakers, crank up the tunes and lift those knees. This is the Healthversed Beginner’s Guide to Running. Let’s go!
Before we get started on the how, let’s dive in to the why! Running is great on multiple levels. For starters, it’s relatively inexpensive. All you’ll need is a sturdy pair of running shoes, some comfortable running clothes, and water. Most of these things you probably already have.
As far as health benefits go, the benefits are staggering. Running on a regular basis can improve your cardio, increase your lung capacity, lowers your risk of heart disease, help you lose weight, relieves stress, stave off mental health problems, boost your confidence, and so much more. Running is great. And, if you are physically able, then you should certainly incorporate running in to your every day life. Which brings us to our next point.
Consult Your Doctor
I don’t mean to go all mom and dad on you, but you really should consult a doctor before incorporating any exercise routine into your daily life. Running is only healthy if your body is up to the task. So, make sure your body is equipped to run by visiting your family MD.
Just like any form of exercise, running on a regular basis can present a few risks. Things like inflammation, heart problems, osteoarthritis, and other injuries can all be exacerbated if you’re not careful. Your body is your temple, sure. And that temple can benefit from regular exercise, but only if your temple’s foundation is sound. That was a terrible analogy, but you get the picture. Talk to your doctor!
What You’ll Need
Running is an incredibly accessible activity in large part, because it’s relatively cheap. You don’t need $1000 worth of gear, a gym membership, or even shoes (though we certainly recommend them). But, before you hit the pavement, let’s run down a few useful accessories that may help you reach your goals.
I know that earlier I mentioned that you don’t need shoes, but that was just me being facetious. You need shoes. More specifically, running shoes. While running shoes don’t just look super sweet, they protect your foot from impact and foreign objects, and they provide your foot with structure. You may also want a water bottle and headphones to keep your mind from wandering. But, and this one is important, don’t shut out the world around you with loud music. It’s dangerous, especially when running in areas with heavy traffic.
Good form is essential. It keeps you from getting injured and it helps you run longer distances. So, what does proper running form look like? You’ll want to aim for short, quick strides. You’ll want to make sure that your foot lands on the ground under your knee and not in front of it. You’ll also want to keep your head and chest up, your shoulders back, and your back straight. For the visual learners, here’s a helpful instructional video that should make things clearer. Following that, you should visit a local running store or consult a personal trainer to work on your form.
Make a Plan
Successful workout routines require planning. Although planning may take the fun and spontaneity out of it, devising, sticking to, and adjusting a flexible running routine is critical. So, what does a running plan look like?
A beginner’s running routine shouldn’t be about performance or lofty weight loss goals. For a beginner, the most important thing is the routine itself. It’s about setting a reasonable goal and sticking to it.
Let’s say, at the beginning of the week, you set out to run for three times per week at 20 minutes a shot. And hey, if that’s too much for your schedule, try once per week. Whatever gets you running more. Remember, it’s all about urging yourself to the starting line. That’s always the hardest part.
Take it Slow
Just to piggyback off of the last point: take it slow. As with all new exercise routines, it’s important to pace yourself, lower your personal expectations, and try to have fun. Running is a lifelong hobby that, when done well, can improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your heart, and give you more energy.
On the flip side, setting unreasonable goals or pushing yourself too hard can sink your ship long before you ever leave the port. So, you can’t sustain 20 minutes of city jogging? No sweat! Walk a few, run a few. Focus on one step at a time, be kind to yourself and smile. You will get through this!
You’re tired and sweaty. Congratulations! You just got through your first run. Now what? Well … it’s recovery time!
Just like all forms of exercise, your body requires some post-run maintenance and recovery. Recovering from a lengthy run has three steps. First, stretch out those ache-y muscles with a basic post-run stretching routine. A few light stretches will help you cool down, improve your flexibility, and help prepare you for your next run. Next, you’ll want to drink water. Proper hydration is an essential part of the muscle recovery process. Plus, after all of that running, you’re probably thirsty!
Then, rest! Just because you can run every day doesn’t mean that you should. For the best results, it’s recommended that you take at least one or two days off between runs to help your body recover and prepare for the next one!
Water, vegetables, et al. You’re already a Healthversed reader, so you probably understand the basic principles of nutrition. And though I wish there was a special supplement, fruit, or vegetable that can shave time off of your mile, it’s really not the case.
If you’re looking to clean up your diet and boost your performance, you’ll want to focus on balanced meals that incorporate vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. As far as carbs are concerned, you’ll want to stick to the complex carbohydrates contained in whole grains, unrefined pastas, and vegetables.
Also, don’t be afraid to scarf down protein of any kind after you cross the finish line. A protein shake, a chicken breast, or even a post-run chocolate milk will help your body repair your muscles. It all makes a difference!
It may take the meek a little bit of coaxing, but local running groups are cheap, fun, and super-educational. It’s a fantastic way to meet up with runners just like you. You can learn from those that run regularly. You can meet new people in the community. Better yet, it’s a great way to stay motivated. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.
Full disclosure, I have no idea where you live. But, if you’re on the hunt for a local running group, check out Kijiji, Craigslist, Meet Up, or visit your local running shoe store and ask around.
Though it may sound counterintuitive to end an article about running with a page about cross training, I don’t care! That’s because variety is an important part to most exercise routines. Swimming, cycling, hiking, or playing sports in conjunction with a regular running routine will help you achieve your goals and it will prevent you from burning out.
If you feel yourself with a lack of motivation, the solution might be to find something new to try. Remember, every step, every crunch, and every drop of sweat should be celebrated as a personal victory. So don’t be afraid to mix it up when things start getting stale!