Running isn’t much fun in the beginning. Lots of would-be runners give up because of aches, pains, cramps, side stitches, and a general lack of endurance. However, you can become a runner if you employ a few easy training principles to help your body and mind adjust to the demands of running.
Walk before you run. Build up your fitness and prepare your muscles and ligaments for running by walking. You can start with 5 or 10 minutes of power walking at a brisk pace. After you feel comfortable walking for 30 minutes or more, five times per week, you’re ready to begin running.
U.S. Olympian and running coach Jeff Galloway is the founder of the Run Walk Run method. He advocates walk breaks for even experienced runners because walking allows the body to adapt with lesser risk of injury than running. According to Galloway, it also enhances the runner’s high and make the experience more enjoyable.
Rest days, or days without running, are very important for beginners. Your body is doing all kinds of terrific things to adapt to your new running lifestyle. Capillaries are expanding, muscles are growing, ligaments and tendons are becoming stronger.
Each time you workout, you cause microscopic damage to your muscles and tissues. Your body responds by becoming stronger so that you can handle the increased demands of training. But, too much training and not enough rest leads to injury and fatigue.
Beginning runners should take 2-3 days off from running each week. Walking can be a good substitute for running on rest days, if you’re feeling the need to stay active. Most importantly, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. For most people, this means eight hours.
Now that you’re a runner, you’ll want to fuel your body with healthy foods. That means plenty of vegetables and healthy food choices. If you can cut out junk foods, soda, and processed foods, your body will respond with energy and vitality.
Try to eat a healthy snack that’s high in protein after your workouts. After a workout, your muscles will be looking for ready-made fuel to boost growth and begin repairing damaged tissues. Nutritious smoothies, sports drinks, and protein bars are all good options.
Walking is the gateway to running. With a practical training approach, adequate rest days, and a nutritious diet, you’ll be running within a few short weeks. Soon, you’ll be ready to run your first 5K. Enjoy the miles!
Jason is a competitive marathon runner and RRCA distance running coach. He's the senior editor at SaltmarshRunning.com, and writes for several online health and fitness publications. When he's not running on the roads and trails, Jason can be found enjoying life with his family and friends on the New Hampshire seacoast.
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