Grueling winter blues can have your couch keeping you warm and cozy! Although, knowing spring is right around the corner may motivate you to get off that seat and on to your feet by starting a running program. Beginning such a program can be challenging especially if you are not a regular runner, not in your best condition, or have extra body weight to lose. Regardless of your current condition or body shape, there is always a way to change and make a difference for yourself.
From the Couch to 2k and Beyond! How to Start a Running Routine
Running is a widely popular sport that is inexpensive and not limited by age or gender. It can be a great activity to do with a friend, a spouse, your family, or a team of athletes. There are also running clubs that are available (for all levels), to help keep you consistent with your running routine. Regardless of how you plan to run, the most important factor to getting started is motivation! And of course a good comfortable pair of shoes!
Why Should You Start Running?
Here are some benefits of beginning a running program to help hurdle all those excuses and motivate you to start moving:
• improve how you look and feel
• set and achieve goal(s) for sustained or improved health
• run inside or outside to enjoy the scenery
• social activity if running with others
• can set your own pace
• increases your overall energy and stamina
• it’s a whole body exercise
• improves lung and heart functions
• reduces excess fat and body weight
• builds bone density
• relieves stress
• boosts confidence levels
How to Start a Running Plan
When starting a new program such as running, let’s keep it simple, safe, fun, and repeatable. There are some basic aspects that are key for your routine: hydration, diet, pre- and post- stretching, running, and resting and recovery.
There is a common misconception to just hydrate during and after a physical activity. It is actually just as important to hydrate well before you start your workout. When you are hydrated, you will benefit by performing and recovering better. To get you started, make sure you have at least a glass of water about 20 minutes before you run. Take some water with you, and be sure to have at least another glass after you finish. How much you need to hydrate will depend on how much you exert yourself when you run.
Tips on Eating Before & After Running
It is important to eat light before running. Try not to eat just before you run. Give at least an hour to digest any larger meals, or if you must eat just before your run, a small piece of fruit or vegetables will digest well and should not slow you down! Try to save heavier meals for after your post-run stretch and keep your meals in line with a healthy diet to help boost your metabolism and achieve your running goals.
Pre/ Post Stretching for Runners
Your muscles are continuously working hard to carry you through a tough workout. To improve your performance and prevent injury, be sure to include pre warm up and post cool down stretching which are essential to keeping your muscles ready for the next workout.
There are numerous dynamic stretches that you can perform before your run to loosen up your hip joints, knees, core, and surrounding muscles. This will help activate your muscles and get them prepared for the actual run. I suggest a 10 minute dynamic warm up consisting of multipoint movements in all ranges of motion. Dynamic Warm Up Example:
Pin wheel lunges – front, lat, reverse
Standing hip circles
Leg swings laterally
Leg swings f/ bk
Straight Leg kicks
Rest and Recovery
Every workout program or strenuous activity should be followed with proper rest to promote recovery and prevent injury from occurring. Resting helps repair your muscles that get burned while you run and will prepare your body for the next workout. So when you run you burn muscle fibers and when you rest you allow these muscle fibers to properly repair which builds muscle. Continuing to burn, rest, nurture and recover your muscles will allow your body to perform stronger, burn more fat, and be more efficient as you run. Everyone’s body adapts differently to exercise and resting may need to occur more or less for each individual. It is an amazing feeling to feel light, strong, and rested in your muscles from a full recovery time period.
The first steps to beginning a running program are to have a plan and a goal in place. Having a plan will give you something to follow so that you can ease into the spirit of running and not burnout or give up before you start! It takes time to adjust your body and will take some knowledge of how to prepare for the changes your body will go through!
Setting a goal will help keep your motivation high and will ensure your routine is sustainable. An ideal running program for beginners would be to establish a blend of normal walking, brisk walking, jogging, running, and possibly sprinting intervals. Initially start with three days of running with one day of rest in-between. As you progress and improve your running and your body becomes adapted, the runs will gradually increase to improve your running ability! This adaption can happen in a few weeks time!
Steps to Long Term Running
Begin your workout with a dynamic warm-up to loosen your joints and muscles for 8-10 minutes. Then start your route with a warm up brisk walk for about 5 minutes. Start to add 30-60 seconds of light jogging and alternate it with walking. As you progress, keep increasing the minutes you are running until you reach 30 minutes of non stop movement! Time, milage, speed, and different challenging terrains can always be added to mix it up. The initial goal is to get the muscles adapted to running for as long as possible without rest.
Take it one step at a time. Try choosing a number of steps to run and count these steps as you run, then follow the number of steps ran by a recovery walk. Picking a point to run to is also a great goal to develop stamina. Lamp posts, trees, street signs, or stationary objects are great points to run to then walk to another point to recover. This helps accomplish short goals to achieve the big goal of learning to be a runner for distance!
Trying a new activity such as running can be challenging and can bring a certain level of anxiety. Some may find excuses to decline this type of exercise, but if you go about training the right way, it could become life-long passion!