Running for Noobs
It may sound counter-intuitive, but I did not know how to run for years. Growing up, I played sports like most other boys. I played baseball and basketball here and there, but my passion was football. There is a problem with running in all these activities, though – everything is a sprint. From the conditioning to the actual gameplay, it’s about getting from point A to point Z the fastest way possible.
Fast-forward 15 years or so, and I continually encounter frustration with my inability to sustain a run for more than half a mile. I would see others around me (of all fitness levels – some much lower than mine) keeping a pace for one, two, five, and even ten miles or more. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, and the harder I tried, the less I could do. I thought that something was wrong with me. My heart would feel like it was about to explode, and my lungs were on the verge of collapse, not 5 minutes into a run. Why? I was sprinting… and even when I wasn’t sprinting, I was still running too fast. I couldn’t pace myself because I hadn’t found a pace.
I had almost concluded that I needed to see a doctor, but I decided to research my situation more in-depth and from the position as though I had never run a step in my life. The idea was like anything else scientific, when you come to a dead-end, start back over from the beginning and try it again. It was then I discovered that I never really knew how to run, which was fine with me because I never really enjoyed it.
But after doing my research and then trying it out, I can report back that I enjoy it and do it all the time now. Multiple times a week, even. It’s not only enjoyable, but it’s a great escape, a great time to think, and it has done wonders for my health. So, I would like to share some of this valuable information because I know many others have or perhaps are experiencing something similar.
First of all, understand that running is something we are designed to do. That being said, it is relatively easy to do it wrong, and as a result, you could get injured. I have discovered that it is a skill, and having a body used to the practice will reward you in many ways – including being prepared for danger if it were ever to arise and fantastic health benefits.
Before I give you my ten tips to start running, the first thing to consider is your current state of health. Are you overweight? Is your diet terrible? If you said yes to either of these, then understand that every time you take a step, you put the pressure of your entire body weight on the muscles, joints, and even tendons, in your legs, knees, ankles, feet, and toes. You will probably need to ease into running and clean up that diet. If you are not overweight and your diet is relatively healthy, you may have less up-front work, but you still need to follow the process.
First: You need to get a pair of comfortable running shoes. Ensure they fit your feet correctly and that you feel confident in your stride.
Second: Select the place you will want to start running. If it is in your neighborhood, plot it mentally or on paper. It could also be the gym, the park, or the local school track.
Third: Walk. Simple enough, right? Strap on your shoes and walk for a certain distance. You’ll want to clear it with your doctor, of course, but if your distance of choice is a mile, then walk a mile. If it’s two or three, then make it so.
Fourth: When you feel comfortable enough, speed up that walking pace. Keep walking, though; speed it up. When you can hold a fast walking pace for a while, then you’ll be ready to start running. And by “running,” I mean jogging.
Fifth: So you are ready to start jogging? Well, keep walking. You’ll want to start by adding short bouts of running to your regular walks and gradually increasing the time you spend running. Listen to your body and take it easy. Also, be sure to walk and shake it out before running. Remember, stretching BEFORE running can increase your risk of injury. A simple warm-up will do just fine.
The best way I have found to achieve this is as follows: start off walking, shake out your legs, walk on your heels to stretch your calves, walk on your tip-toes, kick your butt with your feet, and so on. Then start walking at a nice pace. Then pick up that pace until you are forced to switch to a jog. Then hold that pace (which is relatively slow at first) and let your body take over from there. You will not win any races with this pace, but that doesn’t matter; enjoy the ride and walk when you need to.
Sixth: Don’t push yourself. That sounds weird. At least not yet. Seriously, unless you are training for the Olympics, now is not the time to “push yourself” to the next level. Now is the time to learn what your body is telling you and how to enjoy running. Allow any “gains” to be gradual and natural. Once you have passed these ten steps, you’ll be able to fly, but keep it slow for now, turbo!
Seventh: Form shmorm! You are also probably not going to go “pro” immediately. So don’t be so critical of yourself. That being said, there are a couple of things you should probably at least be aware of and attempt to do as you figure out what is suitable for you. Start by taking short strides. Once again, keeping it at a slow jog at first. Keep your hands slightly higher than the waist, swinging nicely but keeping your elbows flexed at about 90 degrees. Keep your hands relaxed, and don’t make a fist. I put my middle fingers on my palms. Stand/walk tall, look straight ahead or at the horizon, and try to avoid looking at your feet.
Eighth: Breath!!! In and out… in and out. You’ll find what works for you but remember that oxygen is necessary to keep that body moving! I like deep breaths in stride.
Ninth: Cooldown. Take the time to walk again after you just put in the work. Also, follow the same routine as your warm-up to get a little loose.
Tenth: NOW you can stretch. And I wouldn’t recommend passing up the opportunity to do so, either. If you pass it up, you’ll soon discover the glory of the almighty cramp!
Seems simple right? Hard to imagine that hitting the pavement as fast as I could somehow would not allow me to run any longer than five minutes.
Here are a few other tips: Run/walk about three times a week. Get a schedule and stick to it. Add time and distance to your plan if you can (and when you feel ready). Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and allow yourself time to recover.
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Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.