Running has often been portrayed as a sport that anyone can participate in from any location. For many, that’s the joy of running. However, this simplistic view doesn’t address some of the basics that a new starry-eyed runner may encounter.
When beginning to “date” the sport of running, many people often don’t instantly experience love at first sight—the sought-after “runners high.” Because running is a weight-bearing activity, it’s very cardiovascular and muscularly challenging on the body.
When you begin running, it’s important to finish a workout with the feeling of wanting more—just like a hot date. The key is to start small: think a coffee date before surprising them with tickets to the ballet.
Structuring your workout to include walking is a great way to safely increase the volume and load on your body. Try 3 minutes of running, followed by 2 minutes of walking, for a total of 4 sets (20 minutes). The following week you can progress to 4 minutes of running, followed by 1 minute of walking, for a total of 4 sets (20 minutes). The next week, progress to 9 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking, for a total of 2 sets (20 minutes).
Once your body can handle 20 minutes of straight running you can safely increase your run volume by 10 to 15 minutes per week. Eventually, this run will progress to your ‘long run’ of the week, and as you gain fitness you may start to include different types of runs into your week, such as intervals, tempo runs, fartleks, trail runs, track sessions, and more.
Another important part of running is shoe selection. There are so many options in the market today that it can be overwhelming to know which ones to purchase. Don’t let that deter you, however, from getting the right shoes for you. Running in shoes that are too small can lead to toe and skin injuries while also causing muscle imbalances in the feet and legs. Running in shoes that are too big can cause just as many problems such as tripping and foot instability, leading to a myriad of injuries.
Shoes also come in a variety of different support options. Getting fitted for the correct amount and type of support can save you a lot of pain and money long-term. Most running specific shoe stores have knowledgeable staff and are equipped to perform gait analysis. Take the time to visit them in person and skip the random purchase of running shoes online if you don’t already know what works for you.
Pick a better path
One further aspect to consider is the type of terrain you’re running on. Running is a sport that puts a lot of pressure on the joints, particularly the knees and hips. Running constantly on pavement can increase the risk of injury, especially if your body isn’t used to the consistent pounding. Finding and using gravel or trail pathways is a smart alternative to running solely on roads. Even the treadmill does a nice job of lessening the impact to the joints that running on pavement can cause.
If you want to complete a half marathon or longer distance race, you should put as much thought into recovery as you do into training. Familiarize yourself with a solid warm up routine and basic pre-and post-run stretches to keep injury at bay. Follow solid nutrition habits like fueling your runs with enough carbohydrate and following them up with sufficient protein. Make sure to get enough sleep.
Lastly, consider finding a custom training plan or hiring a coach to hold you accountable and offer support. Be clear about your goals and don’t fall into the trap of thinking more is always better.
Lance Watson is a coach based in Victoria, Canada, who has trained many Olympic and age-group champions over the past 30 years. He enjoys coaching runners of all levels. For more training tips, visit LifeSport Coaching on Facebook or on Twitter at #LifeSportCoach.