With running season upon us, and the latest Shamrock Run having been a huge success, you no doubt feel highly motivated to dust off your running shoes and start training for the next year’s race.
Running is, after all, great exercise. It boosts circulation and is excellent for cardiovascular health as well. But, if you have been something of a couch potato up until this point, you need to learn to walk before you can run, so to speak.
The level of training that you start off with would depend on how fit you are at the moment. It is better to start off more slowly and build the distance and speed slowly than to risk injury and potentially set back your training for a few months.
Start out by walking around the block, for example. If that is easy enough, walk a little further. You want to walk fast enough to get your heart beating but not so fast that you cannot hold a conversation.
As you get fitter, you can increase the speed until you are jogging and also look at increasing the distance.
If you want to get results faster, interval training might be a good bet for you. Again, start out slowly so that you don’t overtax yourself. Walk for two minutes, and then jog for a minute. Repeat this until you have covered the entire distance.
As you progress, you can shorten the walking time and increase the jogging time. When you are able to jog the whole distance, change things up by jogging for two minutes and sprinting for one.
When starting out, consider exercising on alternate days instead of every day. You can increase the frequency of exercise when you are fitter. Always, however, give yourself one day off a week so that your body does have some real recovery time.
Before heading out, it can be useful to do stretching exercises just to warm up the muscles a little. When you are done, repeat the stretching exercises to help your muscles cool off again.
It is also important to keep properly hydrated while training. Do keep a water bottle with you at all times and take regular sips to make sure that you don’t get dehydrated. Plain water is all you need unless you are working out for an hour or more at a time.
If the session is an hour or longer, you should also add an electrolyte solution to your water.
When it comes to what to wear, choose an outfit that is comfortable but that also has moisture wicking properties. Choose something that is bright in color so that you are more noticeable to motorists.
And finally, I can’t stress how important it is to get a good pair of running shoes. Most running injuries are caused by inadequate footwear that can’t support your joints correctly. These days you can easily get your hands on a pair of high-quality sneakers for not a lot of money if you find the right deal (currently there’s a Walking company promo code that you can take advantage of), and believe me that it’s an investment that you’ll be glad you made.
Finally, set yourself a goal to motivate you. You don’t have to train for a full marathon, you can start out with a shorter run. However, do consider training for specific event – it can really provide the motivation you need when your goals are clearly defined.
And last, have fun with it – running can be exhilarating – it gives you a chance to get out and can be a very social activity. Take full advantage and enjoy the experience.
By Alice Holland, DPT.
Alice’s Google + page.
Doctor of Physical Therapy, Director at Stride Strong Physical Therapy