If you have decided to take up running, let’s begin by congratulating you on this wise decision. Running is a great way to stay fit and boost your mood. That’s apart from cutting your risk of several illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.1 If weight loss or management is on your mind, running is just the ticket, burning off around 300 calories in 30 minutes. Run 5 days a week and it clocks up the 150 minutes of aerobic exercise recommended every week by the American Heart Association.2 3 Sounds like the perfect fitness plan, doesn’t it? But before you make rookie running mistakes that may lead to injuries, follow these 11 running tips.
1. Get The Right Pair Of Running Shoes
Running requires special shoes, so don’t try and skimp on the right pair of running shoes. Your regular loafers or walking shoes won’t cut it – especially if you intend to run regularly. For safety reasons too, running shoes are important. They help cushion your body against the shock of the pounding motion when your feet hit the ground. They also make a run more comfortable and may even enable you to go further than you would with a less comfortable pair.
2. Get A New Pair Every 300–400 Miles
You also need to check your shoes for wear and tear once you get going. The American Council on Exercise recommends replacing your running shoes every time you have clocked about 300 to 400 miles. For most people, that’s the 3 to 5 month marker, if you’re doing 20 miles a week. Remember, they may look alright overall but that doesn’t mean they haven’t worn down on the inside. If you’re on the heavier side, you should replace them every 3 months or every 300 miles.4
3. Warm Up For 15 Minutes
Warming up for as little as 5 to 10 minutes can help reduce the chances of injury from exercise, though the optimum warm-up time is 15 minutes. Begin with aerobic activities such as a slow jog. You should start to perspire but shouldn’t feel fatigued. Follow this up with some flexibility/stretching exercises that work the muscles of your legs, hips, buttocks, and back – these are going to be used/engaged during the run. Thanks to the low-intensity aerobic warm-up before stretching, your muscles will be more pliable due to the boost in temperature and blood circulation.5
4. Get Your Running Posture Right
- Look ahead when you run, leaning your body forward a little. This can help improve your balance and keep the weight on the midsection of your foot rather than the heel or front.
- You shouldn’t hear a heavy thudding sound when you run – this will jolt your body.
- Keep the hips stable and don’t waste momentum by swaying them from side to side – this will only slow you down.
- Your arms can be leveraged to push you forward. Bend them at a 90-degree angle, hands relaxed.
- Aim at regular rhythmic and deep breaths rather than shallow and quick ones. Try and breathe once for every two strides you take.6
5. Take It Slow
Don’t build up speed or cover a long distance on the very first day. Slowly build up pace. That way, you can both avoid injuries and sustain your interest in the sport without feeling burnt out.
6. Stretch And Cool Down Post-Run
Reaching the end of the track or hitting your goal distance or time can be a high. But don’t skip the next phase of the workout which is as important as the run – the cool-down stretches. Be sure you stretch out your thighs, hamstring, calf, buttock, lower back, and hip muscles properly. Hold each stretch for around 15 seconds.7
7. Do Strength Exercises On Rest Days
Your running will actually benefit from a routine that incorporates strength training and other forms of aerobic exercise, building overall stamina and strength. Work two sessions of muscle strengthening activities in every week on days when you don’t run.8
8. Eat The Right Foods Before And After The Run
What goes into your body is an important part of your running routine. You need to stick to a healthy meal plan that fuels you up for a run without weighing you down. Before a run, have foods that are easy to digest. They shouldn’t be high in fat but must have carbs to give you the energy you need. A little protein along with this can keep you feeling full and aid in muscle repair after the run.9 Ensure you don’t eat large portions of protein or any saturated fat or overly fiber-rich foods that are slow to digest.10
Post workout, recovery snacks like fruit or yogurt or a glass of chocolate milk are a good way to replenish energy stores in the body and give it the protein and vitamins needed to repair muscle wear and tear.11
9. Drink 2.7–3.7 L Water On Days You Run
Be sure to drink adequate amounts of water to compensate for the sweat lost during a run. This amount varies from person to person, but the dietary reference intake is 2.7 to 3.7 liters. Do note, this number may be high or low depending on your activity levels, lifestyle, body type, weight, and other factors. What it comes down to is listening to your body.
10. To Lose Weight, Eat Fewer Calories Than You Burn
Because it’s an aerobic exercise, running can be a great way to lose weight. Just be sure you consume fewer calories over the course of the day than you burn. So while fueling up for a run is important, you should ensure these are healthy foods that don’t pack in too many calories.
Pick whole grain foods and fresh produce over processed snacks or sugary recovery snacks and drinks. You may not need to eat too much if you aren’t running a great distance, so avoid overdoing the “fuel.” Stick to low-fat lean protein sources like poultry or healthy fats from fish like salmon and tuna. You could even give fiber-rich vegetarian proteins like beans and legumes a try.
11. Don’t Overtrain And Injure Yourself
Don’t push yourself to do too much too soon. For instance, running a marathon isn’t something a beginner should aim at doing. Every year an estimated 65 percent of runners have an injury of some kind attributed to their running. By some estimates, the average runner has an injury every 100 hours they spend running anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.14
When you do eventually build up stamina and fitness to the levels needed for a marathon, which could take several months or a year, do remember even marathon regulars need to train for months leading up to the big day. It isn’t something you can do after just a week or two’s worth of running.
12. Set Goals, Starting With A 5K
Take small steps, beginning with a 5K run, work your way up to half marathons, and eventually gear up for a full marathon. The American Council on Exercise estimates a 5-week routine can set you up for that very first 5K – if you stick to a regular running routine and are otherwise healthy.
Here’s how you can get started.15
- Start out by running for 20 to 25 minutes about 4 days a week.
- Incorporate some aerobic cross training on some days to help build cardiovascular fitness.
- Try running 1 to 1.5 miles and build up the distance by about 10 to 15 percent every week.
13. Join A Runners’ Group
If you need external motivation to keep you going with your running routine, find a running group in your area.16 Besides making running a more social experience, this group will act as a support group and keep you motivated. Plus, you can pick up handy tips and pointers from more experienced runners in the group. You may even end up running a 5K or a half marathon a few months down the line with folks from this group – and that’s an experience to look forward to!