So, you’ve finally decided to start running for the first time. That’s great news!
We like to encourage people to have running be a part of a holistic fitness plan, but if you want to just get out there and run, that’s cool too.
The following is a guideline to start running for the first time while avoiding injuries and making as much progress as possible, as efficiently as possible.
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The Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Start Running — And How to Avoid Them
When starting a running routine, people may make several mistakes that can impact their progress and increase the risk of injury. Here are some of the biggest ones:
- Starting out too fast and too far: Starting out with too much intensity or distance can lead to burnout and injury. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and distance over time.
- Skipping warm-up and cool-down: A proper warm-up and cool-down are crucial to injury prevention and improved performance. Skipping these steps can increase the risk of injury and lead to a less efficient workout.
- Running with poor form: Poor running form can lead to injury and inefficiency. It’s important to pay attention to proper form and make adjustments as needed.
- Focusing on speed rather than distance: Focusing too much on speed can lead to burnout and injury. It’s important to focus on increasing distance before increasing speed.
- Neglecting strength training: Many people believe that running is enough for overall fitness, but strength training is important for injury prevention, improved performance, and overall health.
- Not listening to your body: Overtraining or pushing through pain can lead to injury. It’s important to listen to your body and take rest days or cut back on mileage when needed.
- Not having the proper equipment: Wearing improper shoes or clothing can increase the risk of injury. Make sure to invest in good running shoes that are best suited for you, your foot, and the way you run. We suggest going to a specialty running store and getting fitted.
It’s important to keep in mind that starting a running routine is a process and progress takes time. Be consistent and persistent, and be patient with yourself. Remember, the key is to start slow and gradually increase the intensity, distance and speed.
The Best Pre-Run Warm-Up Workout
A dynamic warm-up before running is a series of movements that helps prepare your body for the workout by increasing blood flow, raising muscle and core temperature and activating key muscle groups. A good dynamic warm-up may include the following exercises:
- Walking: Start with a walk to gradually raise your heart rate and get your blood flowing.
- Leg swings: Stand next to a wall or a pole, holding onto it for support. Swing one leg back and forth, across the front of your body, to loosen up your hips and legs. Repeat with the other leg.
- Lunges: Step forward with one leg, keeping your front knee aligned over your ankle. Drop your back knee towards the ground, then push back up to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
- High knees: Stand tall and drive one knee up towards your chest as high as you can. Alternate legs as you perform this movement.
- Butt kicks: Jog in place and kick your heels up towards your butt with each step, as you lift your legs as high as possible.
- Arm circles: Stand tall and make big circles with your arms. Do forward circles, then reverse them.
It’s important to complete a proper warm-up before running, to prevent injury and increase performance. A dynamic warm-up should last around 5-10 minutes, it’s enough time to get the body ready for the workout.
The Best Post-Run Stretch for First-Time Runners
A good post-run stretching routine can help to reduce muscle soreness, improve flexibility, and prevent injury. A good post-run stretching routine may include the following exercises:
- Hamstring stretch: Sitting on the ground, extend one leg out in front of you and reach forward to touch your toes. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
- Quad stretch: Stand with your feet together, and bend one knee to bring your heel towards your butt. Reach back and hold onto your ankle, and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
- Calves stretch: Stand facing a wall and place both hands on the wall. Step one foot forward and bend the front knee, keeping the back leg straight. Lean forward and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
- Hip flexors stretch: Kneel on the ground with one foot forward and the opposite knee on the ground. Push your hips forward and hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
- Lower back stretch: Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly bring one knee towards your chest, and gently press the small of your back into the floor. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
It’s important to hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds, to allow the muscle to relax and lengthen. It’s also important to breathe deeply and release any tension in the muscles.
How to Start Running with Good Form
The best way to get your running form evaluated is to see a coach in-person or get a virtual assessment, but if you’re on your own, here are some basic tips to help you improve your running form:
- Keep your head up: Keep your gaze forward and your head in a neutral position. Avoid looking down or craning your neck forward.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed: Keep your shoulders low and relaxed, don’t clench them or raise them towards your ears.
- Engage your core: Keep your abs tight, which will help to maintain good posture and prevent your lower back from arching.
- Use your arms: Use your arms to help drive you forward, keeping them bent at a 90-degree angle and pumping them forward and backward, not across the body.
- Lean forward slightly: Lean your upper body slightly forward, from the ankle, not the waist. This will help you maintain a forward momentum.
- Land on the midfoot or forefoot: Rather than landing on your heel, aim to strike the ground with your midfoot or forefoot, this will make you run more quietly and efficiently.
- Keep your feet pointed forward: Point your feet forward, not out to the side, this will help you maintain proper alignment and reduce the risk of injury.
- Shorten your stride: Take shorter steps and focus on a quick cadence rather than trying to cover more ground with longer strides, this will reduce the impact on your joints.
- Relax: it’s important to stay relaxed while running, tense muscles use more energy and can lead to fatigue and injury.
Good running form can take time to develop, and it’s a process of learning and making adjustments. Try to focus on one or two tips at a time and make small changes, rather than trying to change everything at once.
Why First-Time Runners Need Strength Training
Strength training is important for runners for several reasons:
- Injury Prevention: By strengthening the muscles used in running, such as the legs, core, and upper body, runners can reduce their risk of injury. Stronger muscles can better absorb the impact of running and help maintain proper form, which can reduce the stress on joints and decrease the risk of overuse injuries.
- Improved Performance: Strength training can help improve running performance by increasing muscle power and endurance. Stronger muscles can generate more force and generate more propulsion, which can help increase speed and endurance.
- Increased Endurance: Incorporating strength training in the routine can improve the running endurance. This can be achieved by working on both muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. Doing strength training will help you improve your running economy by making your muscles more efficient. This in turn can lead to better running economy.
- Reduced Fatigue: Stronger muscles can help reduce muscle fatigue, which can help runners maintain their form and pace for longer periods of time. This is important for runners who are training for longer distance races.
- Balanced Training: Running is a high-impact sport that puts a lot of stress on the body. By adding strength training, runners can help balance out the repetitive motions of running and reduce the risk of imbalances, which can lead to injury.
It’s important to keep in mind that strength training should be done in conjunction with regular running, not instead of it. A proper balance between cardio and strength training is crucial for the overall improvement and maintenance of health.
The Strength Training Workout for First-Timer Runners
A good strength workout for runners can include exercises that target the major muscle groups used in running, including the legs, core, and upper body. Some examples of exercises that runners can include in their strength workout are:
- Squats: These exercises target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which are important muscle groups for running.
- Lunges: Lunges are similar to squats, but they also work the hip flexors and glutes.
- Deadlifts: Deadlifts are great for targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles, which are important for stability when running.
- Planks and Side Planks: These exercises target the core muscles, including the abs, obliques, and lower back. A strong core can help with running form and injury prevention.
- Push-ups: These exercises target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which can help with upper body strength.
- Pull-ups: These exercises target the back, biceps and shoulder blades which are important for maintaining posture and helping to counterbalance the constant forward motion of running.
It is important to do the strength training 2-3 times a week, for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate weight that allows you to maintain proper form.
A Week of Running for a First-Time Runner
This is what a weekly running schedule for a complete beginner could look like:
Monday: Walk for 10 minutes, jog for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes.
Tuesday: Rest day + Strength Training (see above)
Wednesday: Walk for 10 minutes, jog for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes, jog for 5 minutes.
Thursday: Rest day.
Friday: Walk for 15 minutes, jog for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes, jog for 5 minutes.
Saturday: Rest day + Strength Training (see above)
Sunday: 30-40-minute walk.
Keep in mind that as you get used to the routine, you can gradually increase the running intervals by 1-2 minutes per week, and decrease the walking intervals accordingly. It is important to increase gradually, and in a steady pace over time, so that the body can adapt to new stresses.
Also, you can take rest days in the middle of the week, like Tuesday and Thursday or move them to the weekend. You may also adjust based on your work schedule or other time constraints. The important thing is that you should stick to it, be consistent and enjoy the process.
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