When I first started running regularly in February of last year, it was really tough. 2010 marked my first time really trying to live a more active lifestyle and prior to this, I haven’t worked out in years (despite having a gym membership that I paid for). One of my fitness goals was to take up running and incorporate it into my daily life.
I was excited, scared and anxious to get started. I didn’t do any research because, “Hey, running seems like it’s common sense, right?”. … I could not run for a whole minute straight! I was left frustrated, out of breath, extremely tired, and feeling like shit at the end of my first run. I made the mistake that most beginners make: run too fast. After that first week of frustration, I did some research and started to relax more. I ran slower (jogged) and slowed down to a fast walk when I had to and before I knew it, I was running 5k’s 4-5 times a week. Though I set up my own running program, the Couch to 5k program by Cool Running is a great program to follow if you’re just starting.
And don’t worry if you’re really slow when you first start. It’s all about consistency; just keep working at it! When I first started, it took me anywhere from 32-38 minutes to finish 5 kilometers. I never thought I could get my 5k under 30 minutes! But now, at my regular pace, I can finish a 5k in 23-25 minutes and even faster with bursts of sprinting.
Now, I know I’m no expert, nor do I work in this field, but I have grown such a passion for running (and fitness in general), so here are a few of my tips to get you through your first few runs. Remember to see your doctor and let them know that you’ll be starting to run if you’ve been inactive for a really long time.
I hope they help you fall in love with running the same way I did:
- Hydrate. Water, water, water. Drink water throughout the day, not just during your run. I also drink lots of water before, (getting cramps by doing this is a myth), have a bottle with me during, and then I drink another bottle right after my run (while I cool down). Not drinking water will make you feel hotter and more tired than if you were hydrated.
- Eat right before and after your run. You don’t want to feel full during your run, but you shouldn’t feel hungry either. Time your meals properly so that you’re not in this position. When I feel hungry (but not really) before a run, I eat a banana about an hour before. The sugars and carbs are perfect for this because they’re absorbed in the body quite quickly and bananas are usually small enough that one won’t make you feel too full. (Check out this great article on bananas & running from The Running Times).
- Breathe. Breathing properly while you run is very important. I took a whole month to focus strictly on my breathing last year until I perfected it. Breathe through your belly or diaphragm, not your chest. “Try lying on your back and watching your stomach as you breath. If you are breathing correctly, it should rise and fall with each breath, while your chest remains relatively motionless. Keep this feeling with you as you run.” (Check out these other breathing techniques).
- Music is your best friend. Having the right songs come on your iPod during a run is everything. Set up a few running playlists on your iPod (or other mp3 player) with songs that will motivate you. I have a general running playlist with about 300 songs and then 4 separate playlists that are more specific to my runs (Ex. a slow-paced, long run has mid-tempo songs and my sprint playlist is very high-tempo with high energy songs). Take a look at my Top 10 running songs for Fall 2010 to give you an idea. There’s also a “Celebrity playlist” area on iTunes to check out your fave artists’ workout playlists.
- Warm-up, Cooldown & Stretch. I don’t usually do too much of a “Warm-up” before a run, I’ll be honest. I usually start with a walk, then a brisk walk, to a slow jog and then I speed up to a run. But I cannot express how important a cool down stage is! Do not just stop after you hit your “finish line”. Keep running down to a slow jog, then a brisk walk and then walk until your heart rate is normal. If you’re on a treadmill, hit the “Cool Down” button and it’ll slow down your run for you. Stretching is also important because it improves flexibility and recovery of your muscles. Try not to “bounce” while you stretch. Most people suggest 15-30 seconds for each stretch, but I usually do it for 5 deep breaths (however long that takes). Found this video on a few helpful stretches after running.
I’m always looking to connect with other runners or folks who want to get into running, so if you have a running blog or have a favourite running site or if you want to add to these tips, please let me know! You can do this by commenting below or @ me if you have any questions. Thanks for reading! – XXXO.