Photo By: Cameron Venti from Unsplash
Depending on who you talk to, running for exercise is either the worst thing to ever exist or is praised with a religious fervor as the ultimate form of cardio.
Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, there’s certainly benefits to be reaped from getting into running. Here are some basic pointers to help ease you into the world of running if you’re considering it or are new to the exercise.
Wherever you think you should start, do less than that
There is a common pitfall for first-time runners where they try to start with the amount of running they imagine themselves doing at their peak. It’s important to tackle this exercise slowly and deliberately if you don’t want to be waddling around with shin splints, runner’s knee, and all the other nasty injuries that can come from overdoing it.
Remember, running is an impact heavy movement that can easily take a toll on your body if you aren’t prepared. Whatever your goal may be, work up to it slowly. For example, let’s say your goal is to run 5 km in twenty minutes. Break that down across weeks, and break it down based on the things you think signal change. It doesn’t always have to be time that indicates progress.
There’s two main things to remember; first, the barometer for success isn’t fixed entirely to a time. Time can be a tricky thing for measuring running success sometimes, especially because you might just have a bad day or, on the flip side, you might destroy the time but only because you ate a lot of cereal prior to the run. That’s why other indicators for success are important (breathing, walking, etc.), be creative here. Secondly, the goal always shifts. It’s really easy to finally hit that goal you set and then everything falls apart because there’s no afterplan. Keep shifting it if you can, even if it’s to more particular things like breathing, form, etc. (or even increasing distance).
Breathing & Form
I don’t have much to say here from a professional point of view; I have participated in my fair share of races and have been really into recreational running at certain points in my life, but form is always tricky to talk about because it varies greatly from person to person based on their build.
There are people who swear by the practice of toe-striking as opposed to heel striking, but this debate is endless and both have their pros and cons, as both relieve and stress different joints. So, like choosing the hand you write with, just pick what feels natural to you and go from there when it comes to how you make contact with the ground in your stride.
In terms of the upper body however, there are a few things to keep in mind. Namely, that you want to try and be consistent with stacking your spine through proper bracing. If you need a refresher on how to get into a proper bracing position, you can read about how to do that here.
Breathing is another important thing to keep in mind. If you feel like you’re drowning, you probably need to slow down a smidge. The goal is to have consistent breath control throughout your runs. That means making a conscious effort to breathe at a steady rate. A positive side effect of controlling your breathing is it’s a quick way to master controlling your running pace as well. A problem beginner runners often struggle with is running at a consistent pace. When you practice breathing with a steady rhythm the pace of your stride will naturally follow suit.
A few other things to keep in mind when it comes to approach is, first and foremost, making sure you have the right pair of running shoes (maybe you need orthotics based on your feet, it’s important to find that out early). Second, give yourself time to recover, as in try to avoid back-to-back days of running. Finally, try your hardest to mix in some strength training for your legs alongside your running if you can, cardio can’t do it all afterall.
Actually Do It
Running is notorious for being something we want to do but procrastinate on. It’s easy to get lost in all the potential things you’re doing wrong or are forgetting about, from technique to geography to what should or shouldn’t be on your running playlist. At the end of the day, whatever gets you out there is most important, because the hardest part is deciding you’re going to commit to it.
So at the end of the day, just try to keep some of this advice in mind and get your shoes on.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Readers are advised to seek professional advice from a trained expert regarding any specific questions they may have about running or any related activity.