Spring is in the air and so is the pitter pat of beginning runners hitting the roads and trails across the country. Similar to the hoards of new gym goers in January excited by New Year's resolutions to become fitter, beginning runners often hit the road at the first sign of warmer weather with similar aspirations.
According to Running USA's State of the Sport 2010 report, an estimated 43 million total runners nationwide enjoyed the sport in 2009. That's up 6.7 percent from 2008. Actually in the last nine years, total running/jogging participation is up 40 percent, running/walking on the treadmill is up 38 percent, walking for fitness is up 21 percent, and trail running is up 16 percent.
Many new runners head out with good intentions and admiral goals, but often find themselves overwhelmed or unenthused with the progress of their new activity. Why is that? Running is often the first choice of new fitness enthusiasts because of the low start-up costs, the fact that you can do it just about anywhere, and there are no long term dues or fees associated with running. One sport that hasn't been hurt by the bad economy is running. Buy some shorts and a T-shirt and a good pair of running shoes and you're good to go. How hard can it be, right?
Because of the low cost and ease of access, many new runners aren't prepared mentally or physically for the new demands they're about to put on their bodies and well as the time investment needed. All good things come in time and running is definitely one of those "good things." Here are 10 tips to help ensure success with your new adventure into running.
1. Get Fitted: Pay a visit to your local independent running store. Often these smaller stores have more knowledgeable staff than the big box retails stores. Many provide gait analysis which reveals your foot strike pattern. Knowing this will determine whether you overpronate, underpronate or have a neutral gait which will help in selecting the best shoe for your foot type. Don't skimp on your shoes. Be prepared to pay $80 to $100 for a good pair of running shoes.
2. Get Technical: Invest a little in some technical fabric running shorts, tops, and socks. Technical fabric can be made of a variety of fibers including natural (bamboo, smartwool) and synthetic (polyester, nylon, Lyrca) materials. Avoid 100 percent cotton. It tends to retain sweat causing chaffing, irritation, and even blisters. Technical fabrics allow the moisture to rise to the surface where it can evaporate. They still get damp, but not nearly as much as 100 percent cotton.
3. Get a Group: Motivation, inspiration, accountability, and commitment increase dramatically when you're a part of a running group or at least have a running buddy. Everyone experiences times when they don't want to run, but if you know you have buddies counting on you, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to rolling over and getting out of bed. Check with your local running store. Many provide beginning running groups or know of running coaches in the area that work with beginning runners.
4. Get a Plan: Just getting out the door and running often does not work for many people, especially if you've been sedentary or away from exercise for any period of time. Find a beginning running plan to follow. There are beginning running programs online or you can contact your local running store, running club, or running coaches in the area to inquire about beginning running plans. One of the most effective ways to begin is with a run/walk method. With my new runners, I often begin with a 1-minute run/ 5-minute walk interval. We repeat the run/walk interval five times for a great 30-minute workout. Over the next 11 weeks, we gradually increase the running and decrease the walking portions of the intervals until the group is running 30 minutes with no walking.
5. Get Acclimated: Whenever you begin new exercise your body's fitness level will actually dip a little while you acclimate to the new demands you're putting on your body. This is when most new runners give up. I've heard many a new runner say, "If I feel this tired, drained, and wiped out, what's the point in running?" Understand before you take up running that it takes your body about four to six weeks to acclimate to the new demands. Anticipating that "wiped out feeling" can actually make it less of a shock. Just know that you're going to feel the effects of your new activity. Hang in there and before you know it, you'll pull out of that dip and begin to feel stronger than before you started. Also, start slowly. Many new runners experience shin splints, pulled calf muscles, cramping quads, or sore hips from going out too fast or from doing too much too soon. Take it slow and ease into your new activity.