Friday, January 06, 2006

Running Tips for Beginners

One of the things I do as a way to try to get people to read my crap is write nutrition articles for magazines. I'm all out of quality (ok, so if it's so great, why is this blog the only audience I have?) fiction so you're gonna get a taste of my nutritional knowledge. I'm somewhat of a nutrition junkie--loaded with information that I'm unable to use for myself. But if someone wants health tips, I've got my share!

I tried to become a runner. It did not last five minutes. My lungs were about to burst, so I abandoned running for the familiar eliptical trainer, where I still workout for an hour each morning (except Sunday, when I rest). But, nevertheless, I wrote an article on running for beginners in hopes that it would help. Mabye someone can use it.



It looks so easy—you just go—just run. One foot after the other. That’s simple, right? You give it a try. Lacing up your shoes, you head off down the street. After a few seconds, it seems, you can barely keep going. Your lungs are heaving, you have a stitch in your side and your legs feel like they’re about to crumble beneath you. This is impossible. No one can do this for long, you think, just as an experienced runner easily passes you by. So much for that. You toss your running shoes into your closet along with your elliptical trainer, your exercise bike, and your thigh master. How is a person supposed to get into shape when it’s so hard?
Running is one of the least expensive methods of cardiovascular exercise. All you need is a pair of shoes and an open road. The problem with running is that beginners don’t always know the right way to run. Sure, we all know how to run, but we may not all know how to run properly and effectively. There are pitfalls that beginning runners often fall into and end up giving up before they’ve given running an honest effort. They’re simple to avoid and combat if you know what to look for.
Warm Up! Warming up is more important than most beginners might think. Your muscles, heart and lungs are not accustomed to running. Your body may used to walking or sitting for most of the day. You wouldn’t suddenly expect sports car performance out of a mini van. You need to get into shape first. Some of us are so far into a sedentary lifestyle that our muscles complain when we exert even a little pressure on them. We certainly can’t expect them to adjust to the vigorous workout that running entails on day one. Warming up gets your muscles started. It relaxes them and loosens them up.
A simple warm up begins with stretching. Lunge forward on each knee, one at a time, making sure to keep your knee at a 90-degree angle, not going past your toe. It’s ok to rest your hand on your knee to help keep your balance. Next, stand up and touch your toes, being careful not to lock you knees. Abdominal muscles need to be stretched for a good run too. Start with a side bend. Rest your hands on your hips and lean to one side slowly, raising one arm over your head, helping you lean into the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Hold each stretch for about 10-15 seconds. Never bounce a stretch. Finish your warm up with a five minute brisk walk to get you going!
Keep it short and slow. Starting too fast will only tire you out. It’s hard for beginning runners to know how fast to go, and it’s different for each person. You may have to give it a few days to work out exactly how to pace yourself. Try running for one minute and then walking for two. If a full minute is too difficult, you might be running too fast. Keep it at a slow jog until you build your endurance. Running is more than just legwork. It exercises your lungs and heart as well. If you have breathing problems or heart problems, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you’ve mastered the one-minute run, try increasing it to two minutes, with one minute of walking in between. Slowly build your endurance one minute at a time.
Set realistic goals. You’re probably not going to be ready for a 5K marathon after a few weeks of short runs. Marathon training can take months, even for experienced runners. It is important to listen to your body. Don’t try to keep going for two minutes if you’re ready to pass out at ninety seconds. Unrealistic goals will only attack your motivation and increase the likelihood that you will give up with little or no results. Instead of starting with distance goals or speed goals, try frequency goals. Make it your goal to run three times a week for a month. Once you reach that goal, evaluate your progress. If you can easily run for ten minutes or a mile at a time, try making time or distance your goal. If not, increase your short runs. Maybe you’re running for three minutes and walking for one, for six repetitions. Try increasing it to seven or eight. The goal itself if less important that reaching it. Reward yourself when you reach a goal. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things and short runs are easy for you, work on speed or distance goals.
A good pair of shoes goes a long way. Walking into an athletic shoe store can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. As you’ll notice after your first few runs, running and walking are very different. It’s reasonable to assume that the same shoe won’t be optimal for both. You’d wear hiking boots for hiking and ballet shoes for dancing, right? You need running shoes for running. They offer different support than walking shoes. An experienced sales person can probably explain the dynamics of shoe construction and how each shoe is different. You don’t need to know all of that. Wearing the shoes while you run will convince you. Your shoes should fit snugly (not tight!) and be well ventilated. Your feet are going to sweat as you run and poorly ventilated shoes can contribute to athletes’ foot and foot odor. You should replace your shoes after about 500 miles. If you tend to wear athletic shoes for activities other than running, you might want to buy a separate pair.
These are just a few things to keep in mind. There are a wide variety of running websites, magazines, and books that offer advice for the novice runner. Runners World Magazine is a widely recognized source for beginners and seasoned runners. Visit their website at www.runnersworld.com. For more information on cardiovascular fitness and heart health, visit the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org.

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