Coach Paul Greer of the San Diego Track Club has been helping runners train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & 1/2 for 20 years running! In this series, we’ll feature tips, workouts and programs, courtesy of Coach, that will help you conquer your first or 100th marathon!

Throughout the years I have been asked specific questions on how to get started in a running program. Provided are five of the more common questions that I address with beginners in regard to running:

How do I start running?

My suggestion is you start walking for a period of time that feels comfortable, which can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, proceed and add one to two minute running sessions into your walking. As time goes on, make the running sessions longer, until you’re running for a solid 30 minutes.

Should I breathe through my nose or my mouth?

I suggest you do both. It’s normal and natural to breathe through your nose and mouth at the same time. It’s good to keep your mouth slightly open and relax your jaw muscles.

I always feel out of breath when I run. Is something wrong?

Yes, you’re probably trying to run too fast so relax and slow down. One of the fundamental mistakes beginners can make is to run too fast. Concentrate on breathing from deep down in your abdomen and when necessary, take walking breaks.

I often suffer from a side cramp when I run. How does it go away?

Unfortunately, side stitches are more common among beginners because your abdomen is not used to the movement that running causes. In my experience most runners find that stitches go away as fitness increases. I also suggest you try not to eat any solid foods during the hour before you run. When you get a stitch, breathe deeply, concentrating on pushing all of the air out of your abdomen. By doing this it will stretch out your diaphragm muscle which is usually where a cramp occurs.

Is it normal to feel pain during running?

I believe some discomfort is normal as you add distance and intensity to your training. However, real pain is not normal. If some part of your body feels so bad that you run with a limp or otherwise alter your stride, you have a problem. Immediately stop running and take a few days off. If you are unsure about the pain, try walking for a minute or two to see if the discomfort disappears.

Remember to give yourself time to improve. Be patient, grow stronger, get faster and run like the wind!

About Coach Paul Greer

Coach Paul Greer is Professor in Health and Exercise Science at San Diego City College and has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and 32 years coaching experience. Greer ran the mile in under four minutes (3:59.79) and was a 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier at 1500 meters with a 3:39.05. In addition to teaching at San Diego City, Greer also coaches for the San Diego Track Club; the largest running club in San Diego. He works with over 500 runners and is the Director for the Rockin N Runnin full and half marathon training program preparing athletes every year for San Diego’s Rock N Roll marathon/half marathon in June. Greer’s workouts cater for runners of all ages and abilities and he provides training schedules to his athletes on an individual basis.

Coach Paul Greer was featured in The Game Changer, the debut episode of Milestones, a video series that celebrates and commemorate the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series history.