Since posting the Podophile Shoe Mod for the Nike+iPod Sport Kit the other day, Iâ€™ve come to realize just how much interest there is out there in this new iPod nano add-on. Many comments indicate that people who have never run before are inspired to give it a try. If youâ€™re thinking about â€˜running your way to fitness,â€™ hereâ€™s my list of essential tips to help you get off on the right foot.
A little background.
Iâ€™ve been running regularly for just over two years now, but I canâ€™t count the number of times I previously tried to start running, only to give up after a week or two. I finally convinced myself that I just wasnâ€™t cut out for it; my legs just couldnâ€™t take the strain. Then I came across an article by a woman in her 40â€™s who had just finished her first marathon (sorry, I canâ€™t remember the source). She trained for just a few months, and prior to that, had never run a day in her life. I was inspired. I began reading every running book and magazine I could find (this had never occurred to me before), and soon I was ready to hit the street. My goal wasnâ€™t to finish a marathon â€“ though I may get the itch someday â€“ but rather, just to improve my overall fitness by running a few miles a day, safely and easily. Iâ€™m happy to say Iâ€™ve reached that goal without a single running-related injury. You can, too! (Remember to consult your physician before starting any new exercise program.)
Tip #1: Get the right shoes.
Good shoes are the foundation of any safe runnerâ€™s training program. Balance and support problems can lead to pain, injury, and frustration. The key to finding the right shoe is to shop at a store that specializes in running shoes. (Hint: The salespeople wonâ€™t be wearing black and white striped referee shirts.) If you donâ€™t know of one, check a phone directory, or call a neighborhood gym or local running club for recommendations.
Your experience at this store should be different than at the local mall shoe stores. They will measure your feet, instead of asking you for a size. They will analyze your foot, and the way you walk, to help determine what type of structure and arch support you require. And once they find a shoe that fits you well, they should let you jog up and down the block to make sure itâ€™s comfortable for you. Donâ€™t be afraid to speak up if something doesnâ€™t feel rightâ€¦ good shoes arenâ€™t cheap, and you don’t want them gathering dust in your closet because they pinch your toe. Focus on fit and â€œfeelâ€, and try to avoid being influenced by styling or brand name. Lastly, ask how often the shoes should be replaced. After a certain number of miles, the cushioning can start to break down. The store that I go to will even analyze my old shoes if I bring them in, and let me know if they need to be replaced (sometimes the answer is â€œNoâ€).
Tip #2: Start slowly.
This is another big one. I realize now that in all of my previous attempts to start running, I was doing too much, too soon. Even though I had enough stamina to finish my runs, my bones and joints had not been properly conditioned. The result was always escalating aches and pains after each runâ€¦ and giving up after about a week. Hereâ€™s what eventually worked for me:
I did a combination run/walk workout four times per week (M, W, F, Sa), doing the same workout for the entire week (whether it seemed way too easy or not).
- Week 1 (30 minute workout) â€“ Run 2 minutes, walk 4 minutes. Repeat four more times. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 10 minutes and walked for 20 minutes total.
- Week 2 (30 minute workout) — Run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, Repeat two more times. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 15 minutes and walked for 15 minutes total.
- Week 3 (30 minute workout) â€“ Run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes. Repeat one more time. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 20 minutes and walked for 10 minutes total.
- Week 4 (40 minute workout) â€“ Run 15 minutes, walk 5 minutes. Repeat one more time. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 30 minutes and walked for 10 minutes total.
- Week 5 (40 minute workout) â€“ Run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 30 minutes and walked for 10 minutes total.
- Week 6 (45 minute workout) — Run 25 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes. When you’re done, you’ll have run for 35 minutes and walked for 10 minutes total.
- Week 7 (30 minute workout) — Run 30 minutes.
After you can comfortably run for 30 minutes, youâ€™re probably ready to think about ramping up to a specific distance or time goal.
Tip 3: Streeeeetch.
Stretching your muscles before and after each run helps to keep them in good condition. Donâ€™t just focus on your legs; you use your entire body when running. Make sure to do a combination of stretches that cover you from head to toe. Use slow, controlled stretches for a minimum of twenty seconds each. Never jerk your body around, or make sharp, forceful movements while stretching. A big bonus for me is that stretching feels really good after a run. Sometimes, I look forward less to the run than to my stretching time afterward.
Tip 4: Hydrate.
We all know the old rule about drinking six glasses of water per day (or is it eight?) for good health. I never paid too much attention to itâ€¦ until I started to run. You can lose a lot of water during a run, and if dehydration kicks in while youâ€™re out on the course, youâ€™ll start feeling really bad, really quick. There are several methods for checking and maintaining a good hydration level, which are especially useful for long-distance runners, but I found that adding about six glasses of water to my current fluid intake was sufficient for my beginning training.
Tip 5: Educate yourself.
Iâ€™m not a doctor, physiologist, sports trainer, or fitness guru. The tips above are just an overview of what worked for me, presented here to help people avoid the pitfalls of jumping in unprepared, or â€œoverdoing it.â€ There are a lot of good running books and websites out there that cover everything from heart rate, to nutrition, to motivation, to dealing with injuries. If you want to be a runner, you owe it to your body to know what you are doing. My favorite book on the subject is The Non-Runnerâ€™s Marathon Trainer by Whitsett, Dolgener, and Kole. Even if you donâ€™t want to run a marathon, itâ€™s a really good place to start.
Now plug in those iPods and get moving!