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Approximately two years ago I inherited a treadmill, which is basically good for three things: storing in your garage until you finally give in and sell it, walking or (gulp!) running. Being a fairly active person, I knew that I couldn’t just let my gift take up space, but I was in a quandary.
Walking bores me to tears, and I was hooked on the elliptical trainers at my local health club. I had been struggling with the notion of letting go of my gym membership, so with the downturn in the economy and the arrival of my treadmill, I decided to bite the bullet, give up the gym and take up running.
I had attempted running three or four time previously in my life and have to admit that all tries were unsuccessful. Basically, with each attempt I went in blind. I didn’t have proper equipment, and I had no knowledge of what I was doing. I just went out and ran until I was tired, which regretfully was not very far. I ended each venture feeling discouraged and out of shape and determined that running was just “not my thing.”
This time I was determined to succeed, and I can report happily that nearly two years later I am still running and enjoying it. I run mostly outside now, but dearly appreciate my treadmill in inclement weather. I am also in better shape now than I ever was with my health club membership.
I attribute my success this time to one thing, education! I made an effort to learn a little something about running and how to begin doing it the right way, and it really paid off. Making the choice to start running can be daunting, so here are ten tips for following through with your decision and staying motivated.
It’s All in the Shoes (and Socks)
Spend a little extra, and get a good quality shoe. Visit your local running store, and explain that you are just starting out. They will determine your foot type and recommend a shoe that is just right for you. Make sure the shoe is very comfortable and fairly roomy, as feet can swell up to a full ½ size during a single run. Purchase some micro fibre socks that wick moisture away from the feet for added comfort.
Warm Up, Cool Down
Start and finish your run with five to ten minutes of walking or slow jogging. This minimizes stress on your heart and warms up/cools down your muscles for a healthy, successful run. Make sure to stretch fully AFTER your run, when your muscles are still warm. Find some good stretch exercises for your back, all of your leg muscles and your groin, and hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Set a comfortable running pace, and achieve small goals to begin with! Try this test developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance out loud during your run. If you can get through it fairly comfortably, then your pace is perfect. If you are breathing too hard and having trouble, slow down. Try a one mile run to start with and adjust your distance accordingly. If this is easy, go for a little more next time. If it is very difficult, try a little less. Ideally, your beginning distance should be a bit difficult, but not so taxing that you lose motivation. When you find your ideal starting distance, stick with that for a few weeks and then try more in small increments.
Use Good Posture
Proper running posture requires using your core to keep your body in a relaxed, upright position with a slight forward lean. This centers you over the front or “springy” part of the foot, propels you forward and helps prevent injury.
Breathe Through your Mouth
Otherwise, you will not take in enough oxygen to keep moving. Breathe steadily, and if you find yourself getting a side ache, slow your pace. Then take several deep breaths and focus on a complete exhale, as this rids the body of toxins.
Hydration is important
Make sure to keep your body properly hydrated before, during and after running. Adequate hydration helps to preserve energy and prevents muscle cramping and heat-related illnesses. You should be taking in about 8 ounces (1/2 cup) of water for every 30 minutes of running. There are many products out there like belts and hydration packs that make it easier to hydrate on the run.
Sleep and Eat Well
An adequate amount of sleep is essential in beginning a running program. Sleep not only provides the energy to run, but helps with muscle recovery. Good nutrition is another running essential. Be sure to pack your diet with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables to fuel your runs and lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery after running. Throw in some healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to reduce cravings and keep your cholesterol in check.
Run with Others, or Not
If you feel it will help to keep you motivated, join a running club or run with friends. But if you prefer a more solitary experience, by all means, run alone, or take your dog as a companion. You will have to push yourself at first, but once a routine is established, it gets easier.
Stay Motivated with Music
Load your IPod or other mp3 with lively music to help steady your pace and keep you moving throughout your run. Be careful with the volume however, you need to be able to hear other runners or bikers and approaching cars.
Go Easy on Yourself
If you are just not meeting a particular goal, be patient, you will get there! Remember that there will always be those who are faster and those who run further than you. Be proud of being out there and making the choice to be healthy, and celebrate every small accomplishment.