Running can be the most exhilarating activity, but it can also feel tough or almost impossible when you're just starting out (either as a beginning or returning runner). But with a few smart tips, you'll be up and running in no time!
I recently shared a training schedule to get you in great shape for a 5K. Here are 12 more things to keep in mind when you're ready to get running!
1. Invest in a good pair of running shoes.
This is the biggest investment (other than your time!). There’s no one shoe that works for everyone so head to a specialty running store and shop for a pair that provides the support and fits your foot needs.
2. Warm-up and cool down.
Easing into any activity is always prudent and helps prevent injury and burnout. Warm-up and cool down by walking for at least ten minutes. This helps to ease tired muscles and speeds recovery.
3. Maintain good form.
Keep your head up, eyes forward and arms bent at the waist. Shake it out if you need to. Stay light on your feet and keep relaxed. Have fun!
There's some debate about the best way to stretch for a run. I personally prefer warming up before I run and stretching areas of my body that “feel” the need after a run. The main thing is to start slow and listen to your body's cues.
5. Cross-train and be sure to get rest and recovery days.
The repetitiveness of running results in pounding the ankle, knee and hip joints and puts you at a higher risk for shin splints, stress fractures and over use injuries. Rest days allows these joints to heal, plus if your only activity is running it can get boring both mentally and physically. However, it’s still important to remain active on those days. You can also look at these as cross-training days, or light workout days (you're taking a "rest" from running). Do some swimming, stretching or yoga. If you’re really feeling sore or tired, just go for a 20 minute walk and by all means, take a day off here and there if you really need it.
6. Make sure to fuel and hydrate properly.
You don’t want to feel over-stuffed or starving before a run. Eat a light meal or snack one-two hours in advance. You want healthy carbs, fat and protein.
My favorite pre-run meal is a small bowl of granola with almond milk and half a sliced banana.Try things like scrambled eggs with veggies and a piece of whole grain toast, a whole grain toast or bagel with peanut or almond butter, whole grain cereal with berries or bananas, lean proteins like chicken and salmon or tempeh and tofu, steamed veggies, quinoa, whole grain pastas with broccoli, leafy green salads with tomatoes and lean protein.
After running, you want to replenish energy stores as quickly as possible to help minimize muscle stiffness and soreness. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before you get some water. Hydrate with water before, during and after your training.
7. Run outside.
The treadmill is great for training but it’s important to get outside as much as possible. Mix up your terrain, try some hills, and even train on your upcoming race course, if possible.
8. Push yourself past your comfort zone.
Running is a mental, as much as a physical, sport. It’s easy to “think” yourself out of the zone. A little trick I use is the “counting game." When I feel like slowing down or stopping, I set a number of steps to count as I keep running, usually around 50. I start counting every other step in my head and cheer myself on to help reach my goal.
This allows me to push through, and before I know it the 50 steps are up and I’m on my next set of 50! Be mindful to not “push through” if you’re experiencing any pain. Always take a break if you need it.
9. Sign up for a local race.
Shop around online for a race in your area and give yourself at least six weeks to train for it. The date of a future race will keep you motivated and on track.
10. Make it a group effort and run for a cause.
Ask friends, family members, coworkers or your partner to join you for accountability, camaraderie and support. Find a local or national charity to represent, or create your own.
11. Join a running club.
Being part of a group, casual or competitive, can help push you to go harder and dig deeper than you may on your own.
12. Walk if you need to, and remember to pamper yourself!
There’s nothing wrong with taking a “walking” break. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion before taking a walking break if you need it, whether during training or during a race.
Take a long soak, hit the steam room, climb in a hot tub or get a massage. Make sure you’re eating healthy, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.
Photo credit: Adhat Campos