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Running 101

For many multisport athletes, their adventure into triathlon or duathlon racing began with exposure to a single endurance sport. I was no exception – I began running at a young age and still share a special love/hate bond with the sport. At times, I credit triathlon for saving my relationship with running. THAT is a story for a different day.

Beyond my work individually with athletes, I have the pleasure of coaching high school track and field. The varying ability levels of athlete, range of events, and large room to grow and improve make seeing these teams through very rewarding. And with that, in most cases, you are introducing running to these athletes.

In these times, LOTS of people are taking to running for the first time. And it’s a good thing to do! Here are some things that I suggest to my athletes and other first-time runners to get started, see improvement, and stay healthy.

  1. Start (physically) from the ground up.

Running shoes! They do matter. Everyone fits into a shoe differently, and while you COULD find any athletic-style shoe to use, it’s beneficial to let the professionals help you find one. And by professionals, I mean running store pros, not pro athletes. Don’t be swayed because you saw someone win a marathon in a name-brand shoe, so you HAVE to get that style – you DON’T. Head to your local retailer, who will fit you to the shoe that will optimize your run gait, limit injury, and get the best bang for your buck.

  1. Easy does it!

Now that you have your new kicks, it may be tempting to sprint right out the front door and hammer out some miles. Slow down there, champ! Lace those shoes up and start your first few runs (maybe even the first few weeks of runs) going easy. It may be hard to gauge what “easy” means to you, but a good rule of thumb would be, particularly early on, to have some energy left in the tank by the end. A pace you could hold a conversation at, or possibly sing a song! 

  1. Short and Sweet

Along the same lines as the easy pace, keep those runs short! Everyone will be a little different – if you’ve never run before, “short” may mean 10-15 minutes every other day. Some folks may adopt the “Run-Walk” method – run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute – and build from there! You can check out our Walk to Run Program HERE!  If you have experience with other sports or workout routines, you might start at 20-30 minutes 5 or 6 days a week. But keep it short and add in SMALL increments. A common mistake is someone new to running starting with a few short and easy runs, and then knocking out a 10-miler shortly after. You want to avoid this, because your body is NOT ready for that load of training, which can lead to longer recovery for you OR injury. Additionally, by building up to the longer distance, you give yourself a chance to go faster and feel better during the session.

  1. Build a routine

If you have the means, it’s great to create a schedule that is consistent. You are able to plan your meals and nutrition, plan your off days, and incorporate other workouts that are beneficial to runners. Starting this early helps build the habit, so you know you’ll have time for proper dynamics, stretching, and fueling. Which, while we are at it…

  1. STRETCHING

Great segue! Stretch, please (I asked nicely). The body will operate optimally with muscles that are warm or loosened, so incorporate some dynamic stretches (high knees, butt kicks, skips, to name a few) either early into a run, or before you start running. Then after your run, perform a static (non-moving) stretch routine. Stretching post-run can not only help aid your recovery, but it’s a great opportunity to improve flexibility, while your muscles are still warm and loosened.

  1. Strength

As you build your routine and get more into running, it’s a smart idea to incorporate some basic strength work. Some basic core with planks, push-ups, and sit ups are a good start, while also considering lower body strengthening (think hip flexors, IT band) to decrease the risk of injury and possibly improve running strength. This is not 100% necessary to start your running career, but something to consider as you look to improve or extend the distances you are running.

  1. Nutrition

Similar to strength, fueling while running won’t be necessary to start, especially early on if your runs stay below 30-45 minutes for the first several weeks. But what you eat/drink before and after you run are important things to focus on. Your body needs energy, through nutrition, to execute a run. Every runner’s stomach will be different too – some folks can have a light snack 30 minutes before, while others need an hour and a half of no eating for their stomach to be settled for runs. After a run, your body also needs fuel to help aid recovery. As you get further into running, you’ll focus on sport specific fueling (electrolyte-based sports drink, gels, carb/protein recovery drink), but to start, recognize that your body needs SOMETHING to train!

  1. Set a target event

Whether it be an event to participate in, a goal time to run, or a goal distance to complete, give yourself a carrot to achieve. A routine built upon a purpose will help keep you motivated to continue training and, conversely, allow you to set obtainable and realistic goals. Sign up for a 5K (check out our FREE couch to 5K training program HERE), run without walking for one hour straight, or set a pace per mile goal at a certain distance. Then when you reach those goals, set new ones!

A lot of these tips are intertwined in order to stay motivated, healthy, and getting your running journey off the ground. The main point: be smart, stay safe, and find what works for you.

~Joe Rich - Run Formula and OutRival Racing coach



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