More and more people are choosing to run as part of their daily fitness routine, and the statistics show significant and constant growth in running event participation. Running is hard to beat. It can be done anywhere, is inexpensive, makes you lean and fit, and provides that euphoric runner’s high.
While running is a great way to get in shape, relieve stress, and get some solitude, it can also be a little intimidating when you first start out. You’ll meet people who live to run. They have multiple marathons under their belt and bust out a daily 10 miles like it’s nothing. You can watch and learn from them, but don’t let them discourage you. Start out slow and be prepared by ensuring you have everything you’ll need to become a runner.
1. A beginner’s training plan
Resist the urge to throw on your gym shoes and hit the trails right away. You may be in great shape from other activities, but running uses different muscles, and if you start out abusing your body you’ll pay for it down the road with injury. Competitor.com recommends new runners start with an 8-week training program of run-walk workouts, cross training, and strength sessions to prepare your body for consistent running with increasing mileage and pace. Once your body is adjusted to running, you can start a complete training plan to prepare for a race or simply continue increasing your pace and mileage as you feel comfortable. The most important thing is to listen to your body, especially in the early stages of running.
2. Made for you shoes
You may be tempted to select the most stylish or latest trend in running shoes. Maybe you’ve worn Nike your whole life so you want to stick with a brand you know. Resist the urge. Running shoes are one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a runner. They’ll be your partner on the trails and if you find the right pair will keep you blister and injury-free. Spend the time and money to find a shoe that was practically made for your feet. This means going to a running specialty store and having them determine your foot type and running shoe size. They may evaluate your running style and running goals before recommending some different styles and brands.
Before you purchase, do a test run or walk and maybe even run in them for a week before you fully commit. Once you’ve found your perfect running shoes make sure that you replace them every 300 to 500 miles to keep your feet, knees, hips, and back happy.
3. Fueling foods
Running is a high-intensity form of exercise that burns an average of over 100 calories a mile. This means you need to ensure your body has the proper fuel to keep you running, especially if you’re interested in endurance running. According to Lauren Antonucci, R.D. and a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition, eating the right foods at the right time will ensure your body is able to perform better, recover fully, and help avoid injury.
According to Men’s Fitness for runs that last no longer than 45 minutes at a relaxed pace you should be good to go with a glass of water. If you feel you have low blood sugar, grab a glass of OJ or a banana. After a short, low-key run, eat a snack or meal within the next hour or two. For speed or interval training, it’s important to have a pre-workout snack of 200 to 400 calories of easy-to-digest carbs. After the run, it is crucial to eat something within 30 minutes to give your muscles some much needed fluid, carbs, and protein. Chocolate milk is an easy post-run fix. For longer runs, make sure you eat a full meal three to four hours before you hit the trails and bring along gels, gummies, or energy shots for a boost of energy when you’re feeling low. After a long run, make sure to eat a 200 to 300 calorie snack within 30 minutes.
4. Stretch it out
One of the easiest ways to avoid injury, cool down the body, and improve flexibility is to stretch after every run. It’s good to do these stretches right after you finish your run when your muscles are still warm and more elastic. You can feel into your body to see where you are tight or are prone to injury, but typically you’ll want to focus on stretching your hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, and IT band. For a full runner-focused explanation of each stretch, check out this article by NHS. Make sure to stretch out each area, as a neglected calf can throw off your stride and lead to other injuries in the body.
5. Get the gear
You may be tempted to hit the trails in drawstring waist shorts and your favorite cotton T-shirt, but when you start running regularly you’ll want to take your running gear to the next level. Arch supporting socks, sweat-wicking gear tops, and rash resistant pants make all the difference, as do quality earbuds. Not only will your body thank you, but there is nothing more motivating than a new running jacket to get you out on that early morning run. Invest in a quality running jacket that works with your climate (rain, winter cold, or wind), sweat-wicking tops, and lined running shorts. Necessary runner’s accessories include a pair of secure earbuds, runner’s socks, and either a GPS app or watch to keep track of distance, pace, calories burned, and heart rate.