This time of year, so many people have made up their mind that 2017 is their year for wellness. It will be the year they get in the best shape of their life. OK, a little dramatic but so often true, many of us start out our new year with glorious intentions of weight loss, checking a few big adventures off the bucket list and moving toward better health.
One of the many activities on the list is running a few 5K, 10K or even a half marathon as a challenge and a goal to work toward being fit. Amateur runners and pros will tell you there are many key points to follow with a right way and wrong way to get started running. I will tell you it is best to develop a mind-set that it will take consistency and a few months to be truly prepared. I can say this because I have been there, done that and got the T-shirt, so to speak. So many T-shirts in fact it looks like I have done every race between Seattle and Western Montana in the last nine years.
OK, you have decided to either return to running, improve your running or start running for the first time in your life. Now what?
Here’s what I have learned across what will be my ninth year of taking part in fun runs, races and other competitions:
1. Start slow, learn how to run properly. I know everyone thinks they run just fine, just not so fast. Running coaches exist for a reason. How you run can make or break your fun run racing career. Now you may not need to hire a coach, but watch a few YouTube videos or ask more seasoned runners for advice, but get an idea of form and proper movement.
2. Get fitted with proper running shoes. This is the No. 1 mistake that many runners make. They use poorly fitted shoes or cheap shoes that actually hurt your feet in a number of ways. I had a coworker tell me he got a deal at the discount store on some really low cost running shoes and they are brand name so they must be great, right? Not so much; get fitted by the pros at a reputable shoe or sporting goods store that specializes in running shoes.
3. Remember the “start slow” part of getting started? Pace yourself, there is no shame in taking your time working toward foundational endurance. Zero to 60 is great in motor sports, but people need to build on a foundation of a strengthened cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular system. The human body needs time to build those foundational support systems that can make running amazing, but can also make running one of the most tortuous things you can do. Also if you do not have an annual physical, you should tell your doctor that you plan to start a running program so your health care professional can make sure you’re healthy enough to get started.
4. There is no shame in walking. In fact walking and running in combination is the best way to get the full benefit of exercise. Your body has evolved to optimize the most from walk, run and short sprint mechanisms that burn more fat, build overall muscle and specifically works the heart muscle without over-stressing your body. Keep in mind that even elite runners slow down to take walking breaks along the way from time to time.
5. Manage your heart rate during your run. Not all fitness professionals agree with this, but I can tell you from experience it makes a difference even when you’re just doing a light jog in a fun run. Once I learned to manage my heart rate, my running became much easier. Many smartphones and watches have apps that tie to heart rate monitors which makes it easy to know where your heart is at any given time. How fit you are and how hard your heart has to work is directly related to each other. If you are out of shape, your resting heart rate can have a wide range from 60 beats a minute up to 100 beats a minute. Someone in good physical condition that works their cardiovascular system on a regular basis will have a much narrower range such has 50 beats a minute to 70 beats a minute. Everyone’s primal heart rate threshold is different and will change as you get into better shape.
6. Enjoy yourself and keep moving once you get the hang of running, light jogging or even brisk walks. The whole experience can become a life-changer. If you are tired or feeling out of sorts, a run, jog or brisk walk can turn all that around. If you are doing moderate to aggressive running on a regular basis, be sure to cool down by walking for a few minutes, stay well hydrated and do a few post run stretches which is, in my opinion, more effective then pre-run stretching. Stretching after a run will help reduce post exercise muscle cramping and also help avoid delayed onset muscle soreness.
Next week, I will be posting my late winter/early spring event schedule which will include a number of running events that are great for first time fun runners and/or folks just getting back into the swing of running.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation in Coeur d’Alene.