How to Get Started Running
I have been excited to see so many people from our church begin running and training for a race. Myself and others have recently run a marathon and it seems like the running “fever” is catching. So, I thought in this blog post I would talk about how to get started running and why run in the first place?
I must admit most of my life I thought running was dumb. I am a goal-oriented person and doing something that really had no beginning or ending seemed crazy. I definitely subscribed to the notion that if you saw me running it would only be due to the fact I was being chased or trying to catch food. However, about five years ago I had a routine medical check-up that revealed my triglyceride levels were too high and good cholesterol was too low. My doctor told me the best way to fix a high triglyceride problem was to start exercising (and lay off a cheese enchilada or two).
At the time I was 37 and hadn’t really been active in exercise since I was in college. So, I started to run. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed running. I discovered three things that I would share with you are good reasons to start running if you are considering it.
One, running made me feel physically better. It’s hard to describe, but for me (and it seems this is true for most people as well) exercising regularly just makes you “feel” better. I started losing weight, had more energy during the day, and started sleeping better.
Two, running was a mental boost for me. There’s just something about setting a goal for yourself and then being able to accomplish it that does something positive for you. I started tracking my runs through the Nike+ app on my phone/computer and set mileage and time goals to achieve with my runs. It always felt good to accomplish those goals, particularly finishing the marathon.
Three, I was surprised to discover what a tremendous stress reliever running was for me. As the pastor of a large church, things are often hectic and stressful for me. My mind is always going 100 mph! When I run, I put in the headphones and am able to turn my mind “off.” I also wonder if there is some catharsis in pounding the pavement when you run. My wife has noticed a significant change in my mood and perspective since I started running. I think accomplishing goals that I just mentioned above has something to do with this as well.
Four, running takes discipline and I discovered that the discipline of physical exercise carried over into spiritual disciplines for me. There will be plenty of days when you simply don’t feel like running, or your schedule will hinder it, or the weather will be bad. You have to get out there and make yourself do it! The same is true with spiritual disciplines like studying the Bible, praying, serving, etc. Training myself physically to run helped me train myself spiritually in my walk with Christ.
So, that’s why I run and why I would encourage you to start running if you are so inclined. Here are some pointers I would give to those who want to start running for the first time:
Make sure you are physically OK to run. Most of what I have read says that if you are over 40 and/or 20 pounds overweight or more, you need to talk to your doctor before you start running. Make sure past injuries or health problems will not be problematic for you if you start running.
Get a good pair of shoes at a running store. Don’t settle for buying a pair of name brand running shoes at a department store and think you’ll be squared away. You need to find a running store that can analyze your running stride (usually with video). Everyone runs differently and most people have some form of pronation (where your foot turns). Also, you need to know if you are a heel striker or mid-foot striker. Experts at the store will fit you with certain types of shoes/brands that complement your particular running stride. This makes a HUGE difference in reducing pain and enhancing performance when you run. Shoes at stores like this are usually more expensive than a department store, but you are paying for their expertise and it’s very worth it. Remember that running shoes, in general, need to be replaced approximately every 350 miles.
Find a good training plan and stick to it. There are many different plans you can follow depending on what you are hoping to accomplish- anything from a 5k to a marathon. You can find these on the Internet and on the app store. These plans tell you what days of the week to run as well as how far and fast to run. Modify the schedule to fit your schedule (as in what days you run and rest), but stick to it. You’ll have to figure out what the best time of the day is for you to run- and many times the weather will dictate this for you. Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Couch Potato to 5K (smart phone app), and the runner magazines have good plans.
A good 8 week plan to start running can be found here: Runner’s World
Here is a helpful website called http://www.startrunningforbeginners.com/
Know about warm up/cool down and technique. I have read opposing opinions on whether you should stretch before a run, but most agree you should stretch after running. Remember, that warming up and cooling down with a walk are important aspects to running. Also, you will read quite a bit about running technique. Your stride, how you land your feet, how you move your arms, etc. are things you probably want to work on once you get going with running.
Find a good route and pace. To start running, I got in my car, reset the odometer, and drove out a one-mile lap in our neighborhood that was fairly flat. If you have a smartphone, you can run with your phone in an armband using a GPS app (I use the Nike+ app) to tell you exactly how far and fast you are running while allowing you to listen to music. If you get serious about running, you can look into purchasing a GPS watch. If you have none of these, figure out the distance of your lap and use a watch to time yourself and figure out your pace. For beginners, start out at a slow pace. For most people, a slow steady jog is anywhere from a 12 to 15 minute a mile pace. If you want to train for a race, the baseline you are shooting for is to be able to run 30 minutes without stopping. Depending on your pace, this will be running 2 to 3 miles. Once you have this established, you start building up from there. Please note: running that first mile or two is the hardest thing you’ll do. Don’t give up! Be patient! You add distance and speed to your runs in small, gradual increments. You will be amazed at how far you will be able to run in a relatively short amount of time.
“Listen to your body.” An axiom I hear from many runners is, “Listen to your body.” If you start running and experience pain then you need to stop and check it out. Yes, training for a race will mean you must push yourself and keep going even though you want to stop, but be careful not to overdo it. Typically pain in your feet, knees, and hips is most common. I have been surprised at how easy you can become injured while running. I have torn a calf muscle, hurt my back, strained a hamstring, and aggravated an old ankle injury in the course of my running the past 5 years. If you get hurt, make sure you know what is going on and then rest so that you can heal up.
Read and talk to other runners. One of the best things you can do to start running is get online and start studying. There is a ton of good stuff out there about running. Also, talk to other runners. You will learn valuable tips on everything from technique to equipment.
Well, these are just some of my initial thoughts about getting started on running. I hope if you are a runner you will share your insights and tips for beginners in the comment section of this post. I know I have forgotten some things!