New to Running? Try These 10 Steps and Get Going!

1) Have a goal!  Whether you want to run a mile or a 5k, having a goal helps to create a routine, a sense of purpose and accountability. This marks your first point to success. Instead of setting large, potentially unattainable goals, just start with daily or weekly ones that prevent discouragement and your motivation to wane. Write down your goal for each day or week, post it somewhere visible and tell others about what your goals are. This creates accountability and helps break intimidating aspirations into smaller, more achievable ones.

2) The Right Shoe  Do I pronate or supinate and what does that mean? If you are a pronator, then you have a tendency to drop you ankle inwards with each step. If you are a supinator, then you are probably running on the outside of your feet. With pronation, your best bet would be a ‘stability’ running shoe. This type of shoe has posting built into the inside area of the sole of the shoe and can help keep you from rolling your foot too far inward. If you are a supinator or a neutral runner, you need a ‘neutral’ shoe. This type of running shoe has no posting and the sole is all one material. Most people have a tendency towards pronation, but a gait analysis can help you determine which shoe is the best for you. Overall, comfort is number one.

3) Essential Gear  Whether you are running at night or in the early morning, gear that has reflective accents is the safest bet. When running in the dark, be sure to wear a headlamp to alert cars and to help prevent falls. If you are running during daylight hours, wear sun protective gear like long sleeves and a hat. At higher altitudes, we are more prone to harsh sun exposure, so remember your sunscreen! You also want to find materials that are moisture wicking for comfort. These materials dry faster than cotton and can also prevent uncomfortable chaffing.

4) Know Your Runner’s Lingo  There are many terms and phrases that you will hear when discussing running. Here are just some to help jump-start your vocabulary:

  • Repetitions/Intervals: these are often used interchangeably in running jargon. This type of training refers to workouts in which you run several short segments at a given pace, separated by recovery periods during which you jog or walk.
  • Split: this generally refers to the pace you run at evenly spaced junctures. It takes your total time and divides it into smaller parts (i.e., miles, half miles, etc.)
  • Tempo Run: this is a sustained running effort lasting from 10 to 40 minutes at a pace that you can sustain for at least an hour. This is your ‘threshold pace’ meaning that it is the effort level just below the body’s ability to clear lactate.
  • Fartlek: the Swedish work for ‘speed-play’ and it is an unstructured run that combines different paces aimed at challenging both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Besides being a funny term, it can help defeat boredom on some runs.

5) Warm-up/Cool-down  Running can be tough on your joints if proper preparation guidelines are not followed. Be sure to warm up before each run. Walk for 5 minutes and/or do a series of active-isolated stretches. This gives your joints the chance to build up their synovial fluid for cushioning during impact, gets your heart rate up for the activity ahead, and helps you psychologically prepare for your run. Cooling down after a run is equally as important. Spending at least 5 minutes walking afterwards helps to prevent venous pooling and allows your heart rate and breathing to return to normal.

6) When/how do I increase my mileage?  The 10-percent rule is an important principle with running and it states that you should only increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent each week. If you are a new runner, try to keep your mileage consistent for the first 3 weeks; this allows your body time to adjust to your new sport. Once you feel comfortable and are running without pain, you can safely add mileage to your weekly runs to help meet your running goals.

7) How fast should I be running?  Basically, you should be running at a pace that matches your comfort level, and works in relation to your goals and preferences. If just getting out the door and jogging is your goal, then stay at a pace that you feel you can maintain without causing injury. If your goal is to run a faster mile, then try speed work at a track or fartlekking. It’s only a competition with yourself, so stay within your comfort zone and just have fun with it.

8) How often should I run?  The bottom line is that you can run three to four days per week with rest days and cross-training in between. At least one rest day should be incorporated into your schedule to allow your body to recover. Cross-training can be resistance training or cycling; basically anything that helps keep your cardiovascular and muscular strength maintained.

9) Hydration and Fuel  If you are running/jogging for 30 minutes, you usually only need water (be sure to have plenty at higher altitudes). Running over half an hour generally requires carbohydrate replenishment. You can replenish your energy stores through gels, sports drinks or anything that can quickly digest. If you choose gels, remember to drink plenty of water (preferably 16 ounces of water to each gel pack). Finding the right amount of replenishment for your body is something you can play with on your runs, but generally you should have something for every 30 to 40 minutes of activity. Electrolyte replacement after a run is also essential. We lose a lot of our electrolytes through our sweat when we run and these are essential for maintaining our body’s water balance. You can buy tablets for your water or you can replenish these through a well-balanced meal afterwards.

10) Have fun!  Last, but definitely not least, is to remember to have fun! Running is not only a great all over body workout, but it also can be incredibly therapeutic. Whether you are running with a group, a friend, or enjoying some needed alone time, remember that you are running because you want to, not because you have to. You made the decision to run for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, take ownership of it and know that you are doing something that is great for your body, mind and spirit!