A Beginner’s Guide to Running
Running seems like a sport that almost anyone can do. It doesn’t require learning specific skills. You don’t need fancy equipment. You also don’t need to join a team or be in a specific environment. All you need is a good pair of running shoes, some comfortable clothes and the motivation to want to run. Right? Well, not exactly.
Although it’s true that there’s a low barrier to entry into the sport of running, there are still things you need to know when you start running so you don’t get injured. Starting off on the right foot also makes it more likely that you’ll want to stick to running over the long-term rather than quickly giving up on the activity.
Here are some tips to help you hit the ground running (so to speak!):
- Start where you are, not where you think you should be. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they start running is that they try to do more than they’re physically ready to do. If you go further or faster than your body is ready for, you risk getting injured.
- Take it slowly. If you have never run before, give yourself some time to work up to running. Start by walking and increase your speed over time. As you feel ready, add intervals of running during your walk. “If you start slowly and build up gradually, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking to any exercise program,” says Chiao Yen MD, a family medicine physician for PIH Health. Over time, your body will be ready to spend more time running instead of walking but, as Dr. Yen emphasizes, “be sure to still give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking and gentle stretching.”
- Don’t overdo it. Your running workouts may be challenging in the beginning but they shouldn’t be so hard that you never want to run again. To gauge if you’re going too hard, talk out loud. You should be able to speak at a conversational pace. If you can’t get out more than a few words at a time, slow down.
- Focus on form. Keep your posture upright. To do this, keep your head lifted and your back tall. Keep your eyes on the ground about 10 to 20 feet in front of you. Keep shoulders level but relaxed with arms bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Swing arms back and forth from the shoulder joint, not the elbow, and avoid clenching your hands into fists.
- Wear the right gear. Select well-fitting shoes that are appropriate for your arch and the type of running you will be doing (road, trail, etc.). Wearing clothing made of fabrics that wick away moisture will keep you more comfortable.
- Eat and hydrate properly. Before you run, eat something light that’s high in carbs but low in fat, protein and fiber. Also make sure you are well hydrated. During your run, drink when you feel thirsty. If you are working out more than 90 minutes, you may need a sports drink to replace electrolytes or an energy source, such as sports bars or energy gels.
- Get medical clearance. If you have been sedentary, have a medical condition, have recently been injured or take medication, talk to your doctor before starting any new activity. Although your doctor will likely support you exercising, there may be certain precautions they’ll recommend.
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