Picture this, the sun is shining, birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing and you are bent over in front of a park bench coughing up a lung, wondering why you ever tried running in the first place. Sound familiar?
A lot of us have intentions of getting physically fit or trying a new sport come the spring but without a game plan that sport is not going to be running. Running is hard. There, I said it. What did those track and field t-shirts say in high school? Our sport is everyone else’s punishment? Ain’t that the truth!
This is all coming from someone who used to hate running and has come to love it, to need it. There are a few concrete things that you can do to ensure your success and love of running for the long term. I’m going to let you in on some not so closely guarded secrets from the running community. I guess they aren’t really secrets after all.
First things first, make sure to have a plan. Even if you are not going to be racing any events you should have an idea of how often you want to run and how far. Your current fitness level will determine how often you should be running but a general rule of thumb if you are new to running is to limit it to 3 days a week. This will ensure you don’t overdo it. The number one reason people quit running is because they go out too hard, too fast and get injured.
An often-recited mantra is to not increase you overall weekly mileage by more than 10%. For a seasoned runner this makes total sense. However for someone new to running it isn’t as straight forward. A 10% increase for a beginner runner is extremely conservative and may not be enough to challenge yourself. Always listen to your body when it comes to increasing your distance. If you are not recovering as well as you did before you are probably pushing too hard and increasing mileage too fast.
For those of you who are brand new to running and physical fitness in general, a walk/run approach might be a better option for you. By interspersing walking breaks into your running it will allow you to cover more distance while going faster and allowing your body to recover better. Start with 30 seconds running and 4.5 minutes walking and gradually build up until you reach 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking. Rinse and repeat until you reach the total distance you want to cover.
Running is just putting one foot in front of the other, right?! Wrong. The ideal running technique is all about efficiency. You want to make your body move through space in the most efficient way possible.
Lets break the body down into parts starting at the top and working our way down. Starting at the top, runners should try to imagine a string being attached to the top of their head. Act as if a marionette is pulling the string upwards. This forces your posture to be more upright and makes sure your head and neck aren’t tense and thrown downward. You should focus on looking roughly 15 feet in front of you, far enough that you can see what is coming but not too far so as to miss obstacles directly below you. Moving down the chain your shoulders should be loose and relaxed. If you notice during the run that your shoulders start to creep upwards towards your neck, stop and give them a shakeout.
The arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle, with your hands brushing your hips as they swing. Think of the motion like a locomotive. Moving onto the hands they should be held in a loose fist. Many runners keep excess tension in their hands as if they were in a Jackie Chan Kung Fu movie; remember to keep them loose and relaxed. Try to limit unwanted cross body swinging of your arms. The arms should stay to the sides, loosely apart from the body.
Your core should be tight and engaged. By having a strong core it allows the rest of your body to stand tall and helps minimize imbalance issues. It also allows for proper and more efficient breathing.
Moving down to your feet and your foot strike, you should try and land on the middle of your foot underneath your hips. One of the common mistakes a lot new runners make is striking on their heel while it is outstretched in front of them. This engages the “braking phase” and momentarily stops forward momentum, resulting in much higher impact forces. Adopting this type of running shortens your stride and naturally increases your cadence resulting in lower impact forces and an overall more efficient running style.
The last part of running that everyone should pay careful attention to is their footwear choice. Each runner’s biomechanics are slightly different from one another and everyone’s running stride is unique. Making sure that you get a pair of shoes that is fit to your body is important. Without getting overly technical, each runner’s body has a particular way it wants to move but it doesn’t always do that efficiently. Most of the latest research points runners towards finding a shoe that allows them to get as close to their optimal movement pattern as possible.
Going to a reputable store that specializes in running footwear is an awesome place to start. Come prepared with the socks you will be running in and any orthotic devices you may have. A good specialty store will analyze the way your body moves and recommend footwear based on a variety of factors including how often you run, how much experience you have and your injury history.
If you plan ahead a little bit your first foray into running will be a pleasant one. Remember to stick to your plan, don’t go out too hard or too fast and listen to your body. You may fall in love with it as I did.
Writen by Nolan Tudor from The Tech Shop