Running for beginners

Temperatures are on the rise, days are growing longer, snow is melting, mud everywhere, Lent has started, Selection Sunday for college basketball March Madness is six days away, and commercials for the Masters Golf Tournament are on TV. Spring has sprung in my world.

I know, I know, I have probably just locked us into an 18-inch snow storm. But if that happens, it will melt within a few days. Yes it’s time to come out of our caves and get active outside.

Many individuals are now ready to make that commitment to start running outdoors. After all, it doesn’t take much ability to run. It’s just walking, only faster, right? Not quite so fast, my fast-footed friends.

While running seems to be a very simple skill, some thought and preparation should be adhered to which could make the experience fun and prevent some painful injuries. Running is a great activity and many individuals get a lot of enjoyment out it. With all the research out there on running, it is good advice to prepare.

The first step (pardon the pun) is to start with the feet. The most important part of running is to invest in a quality pair of shoes. The right shoes can make all the difference in the world.


Much like our fingerprint, our feet are unique to us. When running, some have a neutral foot strike while others tend to pronate (run on the inside of the foot), supinate (run on the outside of the foot), have high arches, or are "flat" footed. The technology of shoes has evolved to the point where there are shoes designed to account for all of the aforementioned.

The key is to have a professional identify what kind of foot strike you have. To get evaluated, the best method would be to be evaluated by a podiatrist (foot doctor). The initial investment in having a doctor evaluate your feet could save you pain and future injuries. Specialty running stores "should" have professionals with experience identifying feet.

Once you have gotten your shoes, clothing is the next step. Again, the technology has gotten to the point that they now call it "performance" wear. The performance wear is light and will "wick" away sweat, keeping you cool on warm days. Conversely, heavy cotton shirts and shorts will become saturated with body sweat and could cause chafing, which is not comfortable. At this time, I am only addressing running in warm spring/summer weather. Extreme weather running is a whole different animal and space does not allow me to address it. We are beyond extreme weather running anyway.

The next step is putting on the shoes, shorts, shirt and hitting the bricks. The best strategy as a neophyte runner is to start with the walk/run training strategy. Do not go out and attempt a multiple-mile run on Day One. You will really not have a pleasant experience when you wake up the following day.

Walk/run training is walking to full recovery and then running for a short bout. You can measure your walk/run one of two methods: time or distance. You can walk for two minutes and then run for one minute (or less), repeat for 20 to 30 minutes max for the first week. The distance method would be to walk the distance of five to six telephone poles and then run two to three telephone poles. Repeat this sequence for 20 to 30 minutes.

The key to this strategy for beginner runners is to ease into running. Gradually increase the running and decrease the walking segments to the point where you have transitioned to running the entire distance or time.

Other tips for beginners include:

• Running a different route each time. This provides you with some variety. Some routes may be hillier than others.


• Try to avoid running on the same side of the road on consecutive days. There is a "crown" to the roadbed and when running on the right side, your right side is on the down slope side and your left side is on the up slope side. If you run every one of your sessions this way, it could result in overuse issues. It is best to run with traffic and against traffic on consecutive days. That being said...

• Safety is your first consideration. It is much safer to run on sidewalks and bike paths rather than busy thoroughfares. If your schedule necessitates running at night; run with a friend or group on well lighted routes. Wear reflective clothing. Remember, you will see a car before they see you.

Running is a great activity and with a proper progression will provide you an inexpensive and effective way to improve your health. There are many opportunities to run in road races over the spring and summer in the surrounding communities. Many 5K and 10K events are posted on public bulletin boards around town. I also recommend giving these organized events a try. They are really fun, the proceeds usually go to a worthwhile cause, and you will see your intensity go to a new level by simply putting on a number and running with a group of other runners.

With the warmer weather, now is a great time to get out there and put your best foot forward and enjoy a relaxing run. Have a great week.

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