How to Start Running
If you have never run before and want to try, all you need to do is combine walking with jogging. Get a pair of supportive shoes that fit properly and tie them tightly. After a 5 minute walk to warm up, try jogging for 15 seconds, then walk for one minute. After 3 cycles of that, try jogging for 30 seconds, then walk for one minute. Keep that up for as long as you feel comfortable (no burning in the chest and no instability in the legs), then walk for 5 minutes to bring your heart rate down. Stretch afterwards to prevent soreness the next day. When you feel ready (maybe the next day, maybe not for two weeks depending on your starting fitness level), increase the jogging time from 30 to 45 seconds, then eventually to one minute. The idea is to be challenged and work up a good sweat to exercise your lungs and your muscles. You should feel tired afterwards, but not be so exhausted that you have to lay down for half an hour. Eventually, you will be ready to run 2 minutes and walk 2 minutes, then run 2 minutes and walk 1 minute, etc. Pretty soon, with consistent effort, you'll start jogging and not feel the need to stop and walk. It is a thrill and is extremely rewarding. Your body will release endorphins which make you feel good after a run, and you will start noticing firmer abs, firmer legs, increased energy, and the ability to run somewhere when you need to.
Why Do Intervals?
Once you have been running for a while and can comfortably jog a couple of miles, you may want to add intervals to your workouts in order to challenge yourself, continue to see strength gains, and not get bored of running the same path the same way. Intervals are important because they teach you that you can remain calm while running faster than your normal comfortable pace. By running intervals (a short distance that you run at a faster pace than the rest of your run), you train your body to get used to working at 90-95% of your maximum without getting nervous or listening to the voice in your head that says “you can't keep this up.” Running faster than you are used to is hard because it burns your lungs and legs and requires more mental toughness than trucking along at a comfortable pace. Interval training teaches your body to run in oxygen debt for short little bursts. It calms you down and teaches you that it is okay to get your heart rate elevated, get your blood moving quickly, and pump your legs in a much more aggressive fashion than you are used to. Intervals have physical and cardiovascular advantages, but the training really pays off on race day when you may try to PR (run a personal record/personal best) and need to be in that “uncomfortable” phase for an extended period of time. If you have been doing interval training, your mind will be able to tell your body that it can handle that pace for just a little longer, and all of a sudden you will be at the finish line having run faster than you ever had before.
Running Your First Race
Look up the date of the race you want to do well in advance so that you can clear your calendar (including the night before so that you are not tempted to go out and get too little sleep) and look forward to it. Having a race a couple of months down the road gives you incentive to get out and train on days where you don't really feel like it, or when the weather is imperfect. The race is coming whether you did your training or not, so you may as well do it! You'll have a better experience if you are prepared for it. The night before, eat adequate carbohydrate and protein for dinner (2:1 ratio) with a small salad. Also, set out your race outfit and attach your bib number and ChampionChip (timing device) if provided. Set your alarm for at least 7 hours of sleep, and set a back up battery-powered alarm if you can just in case the power goes out. Leave twice as much time to get to the race as you think you will need. Lots of people will be arriving at once, all trying to park at the same place, and all trying to get their gear bag checked and the port-a-potty visited before it is time to line up at the start line. If you have plenty of time to do everything, you won't waste energy being nervous about being late and can instead focus your thoughts and efforts on staying calm during a tough workout.
Cross-Training For Runners
Cross training is essential to prevent injury and maximize your potential as a runner. Non-impact exercise like swimming is terrific for runners; try doing kickboard drills with your face in the water to improve your lung strength and strengthen your legs with no impact. Weight training is beneficial to runners because they tend to overuse certain muscles and underuse other muscles. Focus on your inner thighs, triceps, and chest. Every muscle gets used when running, but these tend to be stressed less. Stretching is essential for runners; give extra attention to your hips, outer thighs, quads, and calves. Foam rollers, a self-massage and myofascial release tool, offer the best stretch for your outer thigh/iliotibial bands. You should use them at least 3 times a week, or more often if you find discomfort when using them. If you find no discomfort, you probably don't have any severely tight areas. A strong core is important for runners to prevent back injury. Incorporate the plank, supine leg raises, bicycles (elbow to opposite knee) and torso twists to work the abdominals and obliques.