What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

28 February 2011

The Lazy Post

I'm still trying to keep my head above water with my homework (seriously, how did this semester get away from me so badly?), so today's post is quick and lazy and another answer to an FAQ: How do you start running?

I'll start with the easy answer: Slowly. Seriously, don't try to be Usain Bolt or Kara Goucher right out of the gate. You'll end up injured and/or discouraged. Be willing to make haste slowly, as they say, and the rewards will come when they come. (I know; it sounds depressing. But if you want to run, that's the way it's going to be.)

All the experts will recommend that you get fitted out for running shoes before you start. And if you have any kind of joint issues or other nasties that require special footwear, then I echo that recommendation very strongly. Otherwise... and here's a guilty secret... you can probably wear what you have for the first few weeks. I've stopped running & re-started about half-a-dozen times in the past 20 years, and not once have I bought new running shoes at the beginning. You'll want to go ahead and get some running shoes once you get into in and decide you want to stick with it, probably about a month down the road, but for now, don't saddle yourself with the expense & guilt of having these shiny new shoes. (Conversely, if having the new shoes motivates you to keep at it, then you're better off buying them.)
Also on this note: You don't have to get fancy-schmancy gait analysis, but do go to a store where they will at least watch you run in your shoes and give you recommendations. Your salespeople need to know what they are talking about to keep you from a shoe-related injury.

Other gear:
You can run in whatever you have. If you have chafing issues, get some Body Glide (or Vaseline). If you sweat a lot, drop by a sports store and get a wicking t-shirt. If blisters are a problem, you might want some wicking socks as well. But I went years without buying anything fancy to run in.

Don't worry about it. As a beginner, your goal is to get out on the road regularly: Three times a week, four times-- whatever works for you. You can get to distance later. (In other words, don't announce to your family on day 1 that you are training for a marathon. A better option, if you must have a distance goal, is to Google Couch to 5K and choose your favourite programme.)

Start slow. Use the "talk test": For running, you should be able to chit-chat lightly, but not give an extended discourse. If you can't talk at all, you're working too hard and need to slow down. If you can recite the Declaration of Independence backwards, you can afford to speed up. You should be using your watch at this point just to get the total amount of time that you are out, not to see how fast you are running. Do check your heart rate from time to time, just to be sure you aren't over- or under-doing it. (I'm no expert on heart rate ranges; Google that, too.)

This will be based on a couple of things: 1. How much time you have available, and 2. How you feel after the first week. Twenty to thirty minutes per session is plenty for the first few weeks. If you get home and don't have the energy to talk to your family, shorten it up. You should finish feeling like you could have gone farther.

Doing it:
On my most recent restart (four years ago now-- geez), I used a cycle of run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute. I did 2/1 for three weeks. Then I upped it to 3/1, then 4/1, and so on, doing two weeks at each cycle. I strongly recommend that beginners do something similar. You don't have to start with 2/1; the Galloway method (or maybe it's the Higdon method? IDK) has beginners start by running 15 seconds, then walking a minute. Basically, use your good judgement here and do what works for you.

I'd suggest going out on Day 1 and doing this:
Walk 5 minutes to warm up (think speed walk, not Sunday stroll)
Do some light stretching after your warmup.
Run 1 minute, Walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times (10 minutes total)
Walk 5 minutes to cool down (this time think Sunday stroll, not speed walk)
Do some light stretching after you're finished. Do not use your workout as an excuse to eat more dinner. (Trust me-- you'll have to up your caloric intake eventually, of course, but do add too much food too soon is to invite aggravation into your life.)

You will be sore the next day, so don't try to run two days in a row. Rest on Day 2 and think it over-- was 1 minute of running too much? Too little? Tweak as needed and then go out again on Day 3.

Maybe you need a race to train for to keep going-- look for a local charity 5K or 10K. Maybe the aforementioned new shoes will do it for you. Maybe you need to recruit a spouse or a kid or a friend to do it with you. Whatever it takes to keep going out every day, find it & do it.
When you do decide that you're ready to start training for a race, do a Google search for free training plans or try Runner's World Smart Coach. I usually use RW, but I've been known to try the odd other plan, too.

Congratulations! You're a runner!


Heather Hellmann said...

I'd like to start running at some point. Maybe not a 5k, but at least run around my neighborhood a couple times a week. Great advice!

Grandpa said...

Good tips there Su. Do as much running as you can now because later (much later in your case) all you can do is like what I'm doing - walk, sometimes slowly.

I think it is worth investing in a good pair of running shoes too.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Good tips though sadly my days of running are long over. Good luck on the homework front.

Su said...

@Heather: Doesn't matter how far you go; running makes you a runner!

@Grandpa: Very true! To both! Although I've seen some aged & seemingly-fragile people zoom past me at races, so I do have hopes.

@Petty: Such a shame. :( And thanks!

Colene Murphy said...

Great tips! I tried running but am not a runner...good luck with all the HW!

Su said...

It's not for everybody, which is kind of a bummer. And the homework outlook is getting better; one test tomorrow & everything should be fine & dandy after that. Kinda.

Michelle in a shell said...

I'm in the same boat as you re: midterms. How did this happen? I'll be spending spring break catching up on readings :(

a runners' life said...

Great tips Su :)
Good luck with the homework. I know what you mean with time getting away from us sometimes especially when it comes to studying.

Su said...

@Michelle: Yep, me too. :( Maybe I'll get lucky & it will be bad weather so I won't want to go outside.

@Runner: I'm just amazed at how easily I went from "ahead" to "behind".

Hart Johnson said...

This is great advice. I have started a number of times, too--though haven't stuck with it for about 6 years now... I have been debating it. It is the most efficient way for me to stay in shape, but my knees and ankles complain. Haven't canceled it out of my options though...

Unknown said...

Hello fellow Crusader! I'm a treadmill runner -- I know, I know! I need to get my @$$ outdoors. But seriously, I love running indoors and then hitting the weights right after. Plus, I live in GA. Too much humidity and too many insects. For reals.

Looking forward to reading more from you!

Su said...

@Hart: Are you sure you have the right shoes? I found that the correct pair of shoes solves my ankle twinges. Doesn't fix everything, of course, but it may be worth looking into!

@Nicole: Hey, if you like the treadmill, on you go! But ever since I tried it and realised how much I depend on the sights and sounds of the outside to distract me from all the huffing and puffing, I've had a hard time running indoors. ;)