When the weather gets nice, the sidewalks get crowded. Here in Chicago, we are blessed to have miles of beautiful lankefront trails, bike lanes, and unique neighborhoods are parks. Taking a walk along the lake in February is a lonely experience. You could easily go for five miles and see five people. As soon as the weather gets nicer, Chicagoans come out of the woodwork and hit the pavement.
Motivated by the sunshine and warmer weather, many people start running. Running is great cardiovascular exercise and offers a lot of bennefits. Running increases the efficiency of the cardivascular system, or the function of the heart and lungs. The high-impact nature of running can also encourage good bone health. It is also realtively cheap, in that it does not require a great deal of specialized equipment, other than a good pair of shoes.
However, running is deceptively simple. Though it looks easy to do, it is also easy to hurt yourself. Luckily, there are a few things new runners can do to have a safe, fun, and beneficial running experience.
If you are brand-new to running, or coming back to the sport after taking three months off, it is important to start with a few weeks of walking. Walking can feel frustratingly slow for motivated runners, but starting with 2 – 4 weeks of regular, progressively longer walks prepares your body for the challenge of running. It is worth taking the extra time to prepare now, rather than taking three months off for shin splints later. Work yourself up to walking at brisk pace for 30 minutes without straining. Also, Runner’s World reccomends:
1. If you are over 40, not accustomed to any exercise, or more than 20 pounds overweight, consult with your physician. Unless you have a known health risk, your doctor will probably encourage you to begin a run-walk program, but it’s always wise to check.
2. Schedule your workouts. You won’t find time for them unless you make time for them. Put them in your PDA, computer, daily appointment planner, on the front of your refrigerator, or wherever else you keep your schedule.
3. Expect bad days. Everyone has them, but they pass quickly, and the next workout is often better than the previous one. So stick with the program.
4. Don’t rush. In the fitness world, rushing leads to injuries and discouragement. Be patient, and go slow.
Once you are prepared and have built up your aerobic base through regular, brisk walking, it is time to find a training plan. The internet is absolutely stuffed with walk-to-run programs that are tailored for general fitness, or some race distances (like a 5K or 10K). Take care in finding a good plan from a reputable source that is specific to your goal. Runner’s World, one of the leading running publications, provides a walk to run program on their website designed to get you to achieve 30 minutes of continuous running.
When starting your program, ensure you discuss your progress with your trainer to discuss any aches or pains that pop up along the way. If you feel sore before you even finish your runs, you are running too hard, too fast, or too much. Always start with a good warm up and finish with a solid cool-down and some stretching. Do some work on your form. Though running looks simple, it requires good technique to be healthy, enjoyable exercise. Ask you trainer about good running form and do some online research. Eating good, nutritious food and getting plenty of rest is pivetol in recovering from running workouts.
Most importantly, you may discover and you and running are simply not compatible. Some people find it boring, others think it always feels too hard. If you find yourself dreading your runs, then there is nothing wrong with simply learning from the experience and trying something else. If, on the other hand, you fall in love with running, then enjoy your healthy exercise.