Many people hate running. I used to be one of those people too, believe it or not. Back when I was in PT school, I was having a hard time getting into a routine with exercise and felt like all I was doing was studying and working. That’s when I decided to train for my first marathon. The best thing about running is you can do it anywhere, at almost any time, and with minimal equipment. However, there are right and wrong ways to go about getting started running safely. In the spirit of October, which one could argue is the start of marathon season, let’s talk about how to ease into a running routine.
The best place to start is to determine your “why” and go from there. For me, it was simply wanting to get in shape with the littlest cost and time, so running fit the bill perfectly. Determining why running is important to your overall health goal can help you stay on track when you might feel like quitting. Keep it in the back of your mind as you go through your running journey. You’re going to have good days and bad days, so having this “why” may be the very thing that keeps you on track.
The next step is to set a realistic goal within a realistic timeframe. Upwards of 65% of all people who begin an exercise program end up dropping out in three to six months. If your goal is to run a marathon, there are plenty of 4-6 month programs out there. But if you’re new to running, this timeframe is highly unrealistic. I gave myself a year of training before my first marathon, as the furthest I’d ever run was three miles at that point. So start with smaller and more attainable short-term goals, such as a 5K. Once you’ve set your goals, create a plan to reach them.
Having a formal training schedule to follow is a great way to help stick with the plan. The internet is full of training programs. I’ve found that running 3-4 times per week works best for my body. I run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, even when I’m not training for a race. Were I to run another marathon, I would add Sunday into the mix. Look at your schedule, determine the most ideal time for you to hit the road, and then make it a recurring appointment. Always have a plan B for when life or weather gets in the way. If you belong to a gym, running on a treadmill is a great substitute in a pinch. If and when setbacks happen, and they will, don’t just throw in the towel. Be compassionate with yourself and get back in the game when you’re able.
Remember to start slow. Progressive overload is a commonly utilized training method with weight training and involves gradually increasing the weight, frequency, or repetitions in a routine. It can be applied to running programs as well. Exercise is a science and should be approached as such. Your weekly routine should also include cross-training. Starting with anywhere from 10-15 minutes of running and slowly building in intensity, duration, and frequency. A general rule of thumb is to increase by no more than 10% per week. Also, choosing a run/walk method is a great way to avoid injury. On my shorter runs, I run 9 minutes and walk 1 minute throughout. On my longer runs, I run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute. It allows me to enjoy the entire run and gives my muscles and lungs a little break from start to finish.
Getting the right equipment is important too. Go to a reputable running store where they will let you try on and run in multiple different pairs of shoes. Finding the right pair for you is key. Clothes that wick the moisture away from your skin are paramount. Cotton is NOT your friend when it comes to running! Wearing layers works best for me in the fall and winter months. Having a thin windbreaker on the outside keeps you from getting chilled when sweating. If you’re going for a long run, having a belt to carry water and refueling nutrition is an absolute must. Lastly, if you know it will be dark when you run, reflective gear and headlamps can be found cheap and are important for your safety.
Finally, accountability is huge. I used to pick a fun destination for my marathons, so once I bought that plane ticket and paid the entry fee, there was no turning back! Finding a social network to run with is a game changer too. Your running partners will begin to feel like family. People will look forward to seeing each other and sweating together, even in the wee hours of the morning!
So lace up those shoes and hit the road! I just filmed a wonderful LYT Yoga class you can do on your off days called “Runner’s Recovery”, which will help you loosen up any tight areas and recover quicker after a long run. LYT Yoga is a wonderful cross-training option for running. I have a Runner’s Series of classes on LYT Daily as well. Click the links for the class or the series!