Hello! My name is Carolyn and I blog about weight loss, health, fitness and life in general over at Lovin’ Losing. I was already working on a Running 101 series when Rebecca sent out her call for guest posts so I pitched her the idea of condensing the series into one post and luckily it worked out! This was originally a four part series, so I will try my best to shorten it, but it could still be a long one…bear with me while we talk about training programs, apparel and shoes, technology, hydration, and injury prevention.
[Disclaimer: I am not a running expert or a medical professional. The information in this post is from my own experience, the experience of other people/bloggers I’ve heard from, as well as research.]
Let’s be honest. All you really need in order to start running is a pair of running shoes and to get your butt out the door. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of helpful training programs and fun gadgets out there to motivate you.
By far, the Couch to 5K (C25K) program is the most popular beginning runner program out there. Developed by the people at CoolRunning.com, this program is designed to take an inactive person and have them able to run a 5k (or 3.1 miles) in 9 weeks.
C25K eases runners in by starting with intervals of walking and jogging. Week 1 alternates 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down. The program ends at Week 9 with 30 minutes of straight running.
For my first race, I had a goal of running the entire race and I am proud to say that I did so and since have run five more 5ks, an 8K, two 10Ks, and a sprint triathlon. Of course, C25K isn’t the ONLY beginner running program out there. So here are a few more, but I can’t vouch for them personally.
If you’re wondering why so many of these training programs are focused on running a 5K, I can tell you that’s because there’s no better motivation than running a race if you follow these steps:
1) Register early, at the beginning of your training. Partly because the race could sell out (it happens!) and partly because you’re more likely to stick with it if you’ve paid for it. An added bonus is that the fees are often discounted if you register early.
2) Tell people you’re running the race. Tweet it, blog it, send out an e-mail, post it to your Facebook status…whatever. It will keep you motivated if people know you’re doing it and check in on your training.
3) Choose a race associated with a charity and volunteer to raise money. If you’ve gone around raising money and getting pledges/sponsors for yourself in the race, you’re much more likely to keep up with training. I mean, how can you let down people who believed in you enough to donate their hard-earned money?
This is going to be totally subjective based on your preferences. The only real rule I’ve heard when it comes to running apparel is this: synthetic fabrics.
The fancier term is “technical apparel.” These fabrics are made to be “moisture wicking” meaning they pull moisture away from your body and are fast drying, while clothing made of cotton will soak up the sweat and can make you chilly and feel weighted down, plus harbor perfect conditions for chafing.
Any of the major sporting brands carry this type of apparel, i.e. Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Fila, etc., as well as generic brands at places like Target and Wal-Mart. My favorite place for name brands is TJ Maxx.
During the winter I wear long synthetic fabric pants, a top, and a sweat shirt that can be easily removed. For me, I find that even on the coldest days after getting warmed up I want to take off the sweatshirt and be in short sleeves, so I don’t like wearing long-sleeved shirts.
I learned within a few weeks of starting the Couch to 5K program that there was a big difference between buying running shoes at the local department store versus buying from your local running store.
I started running in a pair of New Balance shoes from Kohl’s and almost immediately had sharp pains in the top of my feet. So…I decided to suck it up and go to the running store.
A running store is going to watch you run/walk and recommend a type of shoe (neutral, mild stability, stability, etc.). They’ll measure your foot and bring out different brands and models and watch you run/walk in each of them. They’ll then recommend one based on how you look in them when you run and, of course, based on how comfortable you find them.
Buying from a running store can be a bit pricey, though, so my suggestion is to buy your running shoes the first time at a running store because they are more likely to have a good return policy if the shoes don’t work for you. Once you’ve ran with a pair of shoes and know you like them, then the next time you need shoes you can search out a good deal online (Amazon!). Shoes, like cars, come out in different models each year. My ProGrid Guide 2’s are now Guide 3’s. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may be able to catch a good deal on the old model as it is phased out.
Music players are probably the most widely used technology by runners. Obviously, the most popular one would be the iPod, but there are literally hundreds of choices. I just use the music player on my phone because in general I don’t like a lot of “noise,” so I don’t need a dedicated music player. Running is the one exception where I prefer the distraction.
Luckily, I’m vindicated by science:
Again, there’s a ton of choices out there, but I’m going to make a pitch for wireless headphones. If you have a Bluetooth capable MP3 player or phone then wireless is the way to go. I LOVE not having wires flopping all around!
I got my pair of Motorola S9-HDs about a year ago for my birthday when I was training for my first 5K. I did have a problem with the first pair when the earbud broke off, but Motorola quickly replaced them for me. The back is quite heavy and they fall on the back of the neck. Since I have long hair, though, I just put my hair in a bun and let them rest on that. If I were a guy or a girl with short hair, I would probably spend a little more money for a lighter set.
One of the more recent uses of modern technology is the use of GPS to maximize training. With the advent of GPS enabled phones like the iPhone, Blackberries, and Android phones, you can do so without buying extra gear.
Since I’m an Android user, I’ll highlight the applications for those phones, but similar (if not identical) ones are also found for the iPhone.
I love having a record of my runs, but the best part is knowing my pace and distance. Both are pretty crucial to proper training.
Now, if you DON’T have a smartphone there are other GPS options, specifically the Garmin GPS watches. I coveted one of these for a long time, but with my smartphone, I couldn’t justify one. However, when I got my new fancy phone, the GPS didn’t work properly, so while I waited for the software update, I begged my husband for a Garmin Forerunner 305 for this year’s birthday and got it.
The other added plus is the heart rate monitor which helps accurately keep track of calories burned. I LOVE this thing!! It’s a bit bulky, but works seamlessly and has software for uploading your data.
This model is a few years old, but by far the most popular and is only $145 on Amazon.
It’s important to stay hydrated during runs, so as your distances get longer, you will need to carry water with you. There are generally three ways to do so:
Water bottles: They make water bottles just for running with straps on the outside to make them easier to hold.
Hydration Belts: These are worn around the waist/hips and usually carry anywhere from 2-4 water bottles. They also usually have a storage pocket for your keys or ID.
Camelbaks: These come in a variety of styles, sizes, and colors. They’re worn like a backpack and have a straw for easy access. If you’re worried about cleaning they sell cleaning tablets. I have the Charm, which is specifically made for women and I really like it. There is some danger of chafing with the straps, though. I have heard people complain about the sloshing sound, but since I usually have headphones on, it doesn’t bother me.
Don’t do too much too soon. This is a good reason to choose and follow a training plan to reach your goals. New runners commonly try to do too much too soon and find themselves injured.
- Focus on distance OR speed. Choose one goal to focus on.
- Follow the 10% rule. When increasing your distance, don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week.
Stretch. You’ve heard it a million times and there are a million different opinions on when and how to stretch. Stretch before, stretch after, don’t stretch, stretch in manner similar to your workout…whatever. Try it all and go with what works for you. Maybe even try out some beginner yoga classes to learn some basic moves and stay flexible.
Listen to your body. If something feels wrong…STOP. Follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines and give yourself some rest. If it isn’t better within a few days or a week, see a doctor.
Keep hydrated. As we already mentioned, hydration is important, even in cooler weather. It will help both with performance and recovery.
Cross training. On your non-running days you should stay active with other forms of exercise like cycling, swimming, walking, etc. Weight training is important, too. Building your leg muscles can help improve speed.
Proper footwear. We’ve covered this pretty in depth in the Apparel and Shoes post, but just to re-emphasize, it’s important to invest in quality shoes. Also, depending on the mileage you put in, they should be replaced every 4-6 months.
Well, I think we’ve pretty much covered all the basics of Running 101. Now, get out there and start running! If you have any questions, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.