If you’d like to make running part of your life, here’s some sage advice for beginners.
Before you envision yourself breaking the record at the next Boston Marathon, there are a few things you need to do to get started, especially if you’ve never run before. Tish Hamilton, a member of the New York Road Runners Club and former managing editor of Fitness and Outside magazines, offers these tips for anyone who’s new to the sport and wants to turn their running dreams into reality.
Ease Into It
If you can walk consistently for a half-hour, ease your body into running by interspersing two minutes of running and two minutes of walking for 30 minutes. Then increase your running intervals by adding one minute at a time, so you’re walking for two minutes and running for three, then walking for two minutes and running for four the next time out. Keep increasing your running intervals until you’re running for the entire half-hour. Once you feel comfortable doing that, add another five minutes of running to your workout.
Don’t Run Every Day
You don’t need to run every day; run every other day. It’ll give your muscles time to recover and gain strength, and you’ll prevent common overuse injuries including shin splints, stress fractures and sore joints.
The aim is to build a long-term running workout, not to set world records. Your speed shouldn’t leave you breathless; at the proper pace you should be able to chat with someone throughout the duration of your run. Even if you’re not running with a partner, check yourself by talking out loud every few minutes to make sure you could carry on a conversation if someone was there.
Grab a Partner
Speaking of chatting, it’s not a bad idea to hit the road or trail with a partner. It’s best to hook up with someone who runs at roughly the same pace as you and who has similar fitness goals. To find the right person, visit the website for the Road Runners Club of America. On the site, you can click on the city you live in and find out about clubs you can join for runners at various levels of expertise. An alternate route: On the New York Road Runners Club site, for example, people post personal ads, which are for the most part romantically inclined, but it couldn’t hurt to send a shout-out for a running partner there (or on your local chapter’s website). Also, you can find hundreds of running groups on Facebook or other social media sites.
Running with a partner who’s well matched to your fitness level can help you stay at a pace you’re comfortable with yet still challenged by. He or she can also get you off your couch when you’re just not feeling psyched; you’ll be far more likely to go for a run if someone is counting on you. If you’re the nurturing (or conversely, the drill sergeant) type, you can help motivate your partner on those days when he or she needs a little push. Not to mention that once you’re out there together, having a companion might help take your mind off the steep hills or the interminable home stretch.
Add Mileage Gradually
Tally your weekly mileage and increase it the following week by less than 10 percent. (So if you run a total of 15 miles this week, you shouldn’t plan to run more than 16.5 miles next week.)
Outfit Yourself Properly
Buy a good pair of running shoes. Go to a specialty running store, not a generic shoe-store chain, and enjoy the benefit of having a runner (not just a salesperson) help you choose the right shoe. You may pay a few dollars more for shoes at this type of store than you would at your local discount chain, but in the long run it’s a lot cheaper than surgery for your wrecked knees and feet.
Running shoes can range from $60 to $200, but more important than the price is the design of the shoe, which should be appropriate to the mechanics of your running. Bring your old sneakers with you so that a salesperson can see where they’re worn the most. That will indicate whether you need a shoe for people who overpronate (roll their feet too far inward) or supinate (roll their feet too far outward). Your weekly mileage, your weight and your injury history are also factors that might come into play when you’re choosing a running shoe.
No matter how motivated and enthusiastic a runner you are, as a beginner it’s important to ease yourself into a running routine. “Listen to your body,” says Kenny Rosario, an exercise physiologist in New York City. Beginners tend to overtrain, the effects of which can be detrimental to both your body and your mental outlook. Too much too soon can lead to exhaustion, depression, stress and reduced immune function, says Rosario. Begin at a comfortable pace and don’t overdo it. If you try to do too much, your body will tell you so.