Don’t Dream for winning, train for it!
– Mo Farah
Most of us begin our journey of running as a fitness approach. Least investment in terms of money and run anywhere. You do not need a gym, you do not need specific clothes, nor any particular equipment to begin this journey. Probably, that is the reason most of us choose running as our prime fitness regime. I began running, because I wanted to loose weight and I was under the impression that cardio is the only way to loose weight. A myth that was crushed by my friends and coaches in my fitness journey.
However, do you know that in the first 1 month I was completely demotivated and decided to discontinue my journey? Yes it is true! I made terrible errors and mistakes that discouraged me completely from running. Fortunately, I had lovely friends and guides who helped me understand the real problems. When I corrected these problems, I kind of fell in love with running. So through this post, I am going share a few tips for you to begin your running journey.
Running Short Intervals is the Key
If you have been on the couch for a long time you are leading an inactive lifestyle. Some may say that they play cricket or football with their friends over the weekend. Breaking News! They will still be considered as leading an inactive lifestyle. An active lifestyle is when someone does a workout at least 30 mins a day for 4-5 days a week. This workout can either be brisk walking or running. Doing housework, or walking distances due to work are not counted as active lifestyle.
Most of us get inspired by some triathlete, or a celibrity runner like Milind Soman, or some office friend who is a marathon runner and decide to take that plunge. On the first day itself we run a long distance and then end up with either an injury or completely demotivating ourselves. Please understand that the athletes undergo a lot of training to run insane distances. And let me remind you, if you need to run long distances, you first need to work on your fitness.
So all said and done, the first tip is that run short distances and begin with short intervals. Typically try 1 min of walking and 1 min of running for at least 20-30 mins to begin with. If you are a “couch potato”, walk more and run less. If you have a slightly active lifestyle then try sticking to the 1-min strategy and it will help you in the long term.
Every week, increase the 1-min interval by adding 1 more min. As you cross the half way mark (like 15 mins for a 30 minute workout) walk the first 5 mins, run 20 mins and then walk again for the last 5 mins. Do not change this pattern till you can actually run for 20 mins at a stretch. Gradually, reduce the 5 min walk interval and increase the 20 min interval by 1 or 2 mins. This way you should be able to run a stretch of 30 mins straight.
Don’t Run Too Fast
Running is a whole body workout and your body goes into stress whenever you run. To run for a longer time, your body needs to adapt to this stress level. So, when you run fast, the stress levels increase fast as well and thus, your body may give up. To enjoy your running journey, you need to start slow.
Ease your breathing to the level that even while running you can have a conversation. Some coaches and guides say that while running you should be able to sing as well :). Try to breathe through your nose consistently and if required open your mouth to exhale once in a while.
Run easy and with short steps. The running form is very important. In the first few days concentrate on how you run. Head upright, back straighter, hands loose (no fisting), shoulders relaxed. These are the muscles that begin aching more if you are not running right. Also, if you lean too much, the legs will take all the weight and the muscles begin to wear and tear more than usual. These are all the reasons that cause injury when you start your journey.
The best way to correct your form is to ask someone to click a video while you are running. This will actually help you understand your form well. But again this is just a suggestion and completely optional.
Choosing the Route or the Place to Run
The place and the surface on which you run is very important. It is a myth that treadmill running is not beneficial. A majority of the athletes train on the treadmill. They correct their form, improve their endurance and test a lot of parameters using the treadmill. However, it is true that running without any equipment, on the floor, or on the road is much effective and beneficial if your are starting your running journey.
So, the next option is running within your society premises or within corridoors or in your home. Within most society premises, there are either pavements or cemented roads. These type of routes can cause harm to the knees, ankles and tendons in the long run. While pavements are still okay for a run, cemented roads should be avoided as much as possible. Running inside the home/ indoors have a lot of curves and turns, which can again cause a lot of pressure on the muscles. But, these are good options if you cannot step out of the society / home on a particular day. Once in a while is fine, but not for a longer period of time. Instead try running in the park, or a garden which has muddy surfaces, that cushion well.
Running on the road and discovering newer routes and places, is actually exciting. It can really motivate you to run more. So try and step out of your apartment and discover newer routes and places with every workout.
Eat, Hydrate and Recover
A lot of new runners head out on an empty stomach. It is a big NO-NO! Your body needs energy for every workout. People tend to workout in the mornings when you have already starved for the night. Try consuming a pre-workout meal at least an hour before a run is necessary. A fruit, or some dry fruits with black coffee, is a good option to have. Post the run, have a protein rich meal. It will help your body recover and grow stronger.
Drinking water during the run is also an important factor. While running, we loose a lot of water and we dehydrate faster. It is necessary to restore the lost water and so we need to keep sipping as and when possible. Also, do not drink a lot of water before the run. In addition to this, during the course of the day, also keep sipping water. On an ideal day, 2-3 bottles of water is sufficient. But it is not blanket rule as it all depends on the climate & workout intensity.
While eating a balanced diet and drinking water is part of the recovery, the most important factor is resting. When you begin the journey try to run alternate days instead of everyday. This will give your body time to recover and regain the energy for the next run. Sleep is also an important factor. Incorrect sleep patterns lead to stress, physically and mentally. Sleeping enough and sleeping on time is an important factor for recovery.
Listen to Your Body! Take Care of It!
Running is more or less a fully body workout. Injuries and pains are signals of the body to tell you that either you are doing something wrong or overdoing it. Learn to listen to your body. With every injury or pain, try to correct the problem and take adequate rest.
Those stomach or side pains that you get; are an indication that your nutrition is not right. Correct it! Diet, Nutrition & Hydration is an important part of every workout regime. Especially, when your intensity is a little high.
Knee pains, back pains and shoulder pains indicate that your fitness is not up to the mark. So Cross Train! Strenght Training, Flexibility Training, Yoga are other forms of training to improve your fitness levels so that you can run. But BEWARE, such pains may also indicate that you are overtraining.
As you begin this wonderful journey of running, it is important to take it one step at a time. Slowly, listening to your body, correcting form and nutrition, and planning and implementing. Remember at every stage that this is a fitness journey that you need to enjoy and not punish yourself with it.
Stay Fit! Stay Healthy!