While running has always been a popular fitness routine, the surge of themed short runs, half marathons, and marathons has made it hard to ignore the fact that it seems like everyone is running. And that’s not a bad thing.
“Running is an excellent way to keep your body in shape. In addition to being an effective mode of weight loss, it can also contribute to improved cardiovascular health and lung function,” says Andrew Frankel, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Paoli Hospital.
Before you begin a running program, there are a few things to consider. Below, Dr. Frankel outlines some tips for beginners.
For most people, even those who work out regularly, it’s best to begin with a run/walk program for the first few weeks. Your legs will need to adjust to the stress of running, and pushing them too far too soon could result in an injury. Start with alternating one to two minutes of running with one minutes of walking for 20–30 minutes. Increase this amount by 30 seconds each week. Once you’ve reached 10 minutes straight of running, walking intervals usually aren’t necessary anymore.
Get the gear
One of the best things about running is that it requires little gear to get started. But one important investment to make if you’re serious about a running routine is a pair of running shoes. The same shoes you use for the elliptical or a morning walk won’t provide the same kind of support you need for running. A local running store can help you find the best fit for your feet.
Find the right program for you
As more people become interested in running, there has been an increase in the number of running programs that have become available, including those that are available via smartphone. If you’re interested, find a program that helps you begin a program or train for a goal, like a 5K or marathon. But no matter what program you pick, remember to always listen to your body and pay attention to when you’re pushing it too far.
Pay attention to your form
It’s normal to feel awkward during your first few runs—where do you put your arms? How should I hold my head? Your body will eventually fall into a normal, comfortable form, but follow these tips as a guide:
- Hold your head over your shoulders and looking forward
- Shoulders should be relaxed to allow your lungs to expand
- Keep your arms around 90 degrees and allow them to swing back and forth from your shoulders. Your elbows should be close to your body
- Relax your hands and don’t let them cross your belly button as your arms swing
Make time for cross-training
One way to improve your running form and performance is to mix in other exercises during your off-days. Weight training and core exercises can help improve your balance, which will improve your running form. Try walking, swimming and biking as other forms of cardiovascular exercise.
Remember to rest
Even for advanced runners, injury can occur when you run too often. Make sure to take days off from running each week to give your muscles time to recover. You can either take the day off completely or focus on strength training or a low-intensity workout. If you find yourself tired out in the middle of a run, don’t be embarrassed to walk for a few minutes.
If you find running to be more pain than pleasure, remember that it might not be the exercise for you. Other forms of exercise can be beneficial to your health, as well, and what’s most important is finding a fitness routine that you enjoy.