Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tips for learning to run

I'm no running (or exercise) expert, but after trying to run last summer (and failing) and successfully learning to run this summer I feel like I have a few tips to share. Especially for those of us that are carrying the extra pounds (read: overweight or obese). This is just what worked for me, your mileage may vary.

I wasn't comfortable running until I lost a considerable amount of weight at the recommendation of my doctor. At 330 and after a back injury, she told me not to run until I lost some weight. She didn't give me a number so I had to figure that one out on my own. For me, I conditioned myself by training to walk and completing a half-marathon. At that time, I knew my body was in better shape then it had been 6 months earlier (and I had lost 50 lbs), so I started by running a few 1 minute intervals during my walks on the treadmill. Here are some things that got me from walking to running a 5K:
  • Get fitted for good running shoes. I KNOW going to a running store to buy a pair of shoes is EXPENSIVE. But it is worth every single penny of your initial investment to have someone who knows what they are doing look at the way you walk/run and decide which shoes would work best for you. Once you purchase your first pair from the running store and you are sure they are what work for you, you can typically find the same or updated model/style of your shoe online for less. I've had 4 pairs of the SAME shoe. (But don't go to the running store, waste their time getting fitted and NOT buy from them the first time. What I'm saying is you can REBUY online for cheaper.)
  • Buy wicking socks. These will help prevent blisters and make your feet happy. Who cares if they are $10 a pair? Two words: WORTH IT.
  • Find an interval program. I used 5Kin100days and I high recommend this program and the instruction of Brad Gansberg. There are plenty of other programs out there (like Couch to 5K). Find what one works for you.
  • Warm up/Cool down each time, every time. Walk at a moderate pace for 5 minutes before/after you each workout.
  • Stretch after each workout. Pay special attention to any "trouble" spots. For me, this is making sure I do plenty of low back and hip opening stretches.
  • Rest. When you are learning to run, build a day of rest in between each run workout so you don't run two days in a row. Do low impact activities on these days if you wish - beginner's yoga, swimming/pool workouts and strength training are all great workouts to keep your body strong, flexible and stretched.
  • Start on a treadmill. I know the treadmill gets a bad rap, but it's great for learning to run because frankly it's easier to run on a moving object, plus it absorbs some of the shock running puts on your body (knees, back). I did my runs primarily on the treadmill for the first several months. Typically, I would do 2x a week at the gym on the treadmill and 1x a week outside.
  • Listen to your body. Don't worry about your speed. Just worry about covering the distance or completing the time of the intervals as prescribed by your learn to run program. If you aren't able to complete a run interval, slow down. I've found for me running between 4.0-4.3 mph, which puts me around 14:30-15:00 per mile, works.
  • Treat injuries. In the same vain of listening to your body, make sure you are in tune with any pain you are feeling in your legs, knees, back, etc. Be familiar with the R.I.C.E technique - Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Knock on wood I haven't had any problems this summer. Last summer? Well that was a different story...
Most importantly, everyone is different so trial and error is your best friend. You may find the things above may or may not work best for you. If you try something and it doesn't work, try other things until you find what works for you.

Again, these are things that I found worked for me. Please consult a doctor before beginning a workout regimen or self-treating any injuries.

Okay runners - your turn - what are your best tips for beginning a running regimen?


marisol said...

I am so saving this for future reference. I don't think I am close to running yet. Heck, I barely jogged this past weekend for the first time in probably a decade, but it's something that I am aiming for.

Bek Davis said...

Running is one of my future goals as well. Keep up the great work girl!

Sasha said...

Great tips! I didn't know that about treadmills, all I had heard was the negative comments. But I'm very glad to know it now: I've been off with an injury, my physio has told me not to run for now, but I'll have to see if a treadmill is ok.

Melanie said...

Thanks for this post!! I am a beginner (I repeat BEGINNER) runner myself. I love the tips and reading about your journey to enjoy running!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say WELL DONE. Looking at your photographs you have achieved so much and must feel fabulous. I have just started running myself and am now up to 2km on day three but Ive been doing a lot of 10km walking events too

Anonymous said...

i have been running for 8 weeks i was unable to run more than a minute.
I am now running2/3 miles a time with no problems have lost weight and developing a 6 pack at 40 i also cycle
so please if your just starting dont give up it gets easier and becomes fun.

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