For me personally, running has been an activity I have had to learn to like. The feeling after, however, is a natural high that I immediately loved. Make no mistake, I don’t run marathons…or even half marathons. I run until it hurts because for me, pain is not fun. I find the more often I run, the longer I can go before it hurts. You may be realizing by now, that the pain I refer to is not an old athletic injury…it is plain and simple diagnosis of “out of shape.” I questioned a local expert and he responded to my need with answers to questions many of us may have about running.
1. Be Realistic. If you haven’t been running, even if you have been lifting, riding the bike, elliptical, etc… you need to remember that running can and will put some stresses on your body that you haven’t dealt with in a while. Don’t go crazy on your first day, or you could be paying for it for the next few days or even longer if you get injured. If you have done other cardio work, then I would recommend you cut your time that you were doing non-weight-bearing exercise (bike, swimming…) by 60% and weight bearing (elliptical, stairmaster…) by 80%. So if I had ridden the bike for 30 minutes a day and I want to start running, I would go 18 minutes (.60 x 30). Your body will thank you for introducing things gently.
2. Make a Plan, Set Goals. Even though I love the idea of being spontaneous in your weekly/daily runs, you should have a plan and goals for your running. Are they health or fitness oriented? Looking to get ready for that local 5K or half-marathon? Whatever the goal may be, have a plan about how you are going to meet that goal and map it out.
3. Have the Right Equipment. Even though running doesn’t require other than a pair of shoes and comfortable clothing, you do want to be sure your gear is ready to go. Be sure your shoes aren’t worn down. I would avoid running in shoes that you walk in regularly as the wear and cushioning pattern are very different. If in doubt, see a professional or good website for shoe recommendations.
4. Get a Partner. There is nothing like motivation to get out the door for a run knowing someone is counting on you to go…even if it is the 4-legged kind of friend. People who exercise together have a greater success rate of sticking to their exercise plans.
5. Reward Yourself. As you achieve your goals, acknowledge that you have accomplished something special. Although I would hesitate rewarding yourself for losing 10 pounds by going out for pizza and beer, it is a great stabilizing motivator to recognize your good work as you go.
If you haven’t been running and/or exercising at all, then a few things I would strongly recommend before taking that first step.
6. Talk to a professional and potentially do some initial testing to be sure that you don’t have any issues that could crop up and hamstring your plans before you really get going. Start off with a walk/run routine. This can be really simple. Set a goal of 20 minutes per set. Start off by walking for 2,3,4 minutes then jog for 30 seconds, then walk for your time frame again. As you increase the number of days a week you are training (start with 2 -3 days a week) and/or are increasing your overall time, you slowly transition your walk/ run times so that you progressively run more and more and walk less and less. Your ultimate goal for running for general fitness and health should be 3-5 days a week for 20-40 minutes.
7. Cross Train. As you get into the running, give your body days off where the impact of running is lessened. Ride the bike, stairmaster or something else.
It takes a good 6-8 weeks for your joints, muscles, bones to really begin adaptation to the running. It takes 12 weeks for a good cardiovascular system adaptation. Be patient, set goals and have fun.