Have you been thinking of taking up running as a new fitness activity? Running is one of the cheapest form of fitness there is. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and you’re set to go. It gives you a chance to be with nature and gives you a break from the stress of your daily life.If you have not run long distances before and are willing to start but apprehensive on where to begin then you have come to the right place.
Before the run
Set the right expectations: If you have never run before or are returning from a long break from running, then it is important not to go overboard with your speed or distance. Starting with shorter distances and a slower pace helps reduce the risk of injuries that occur from going too far, too soon.
Buy the right shoes: Since shoes are the only equipment that you will use in running, it is important to get it right. Invest in a good pair of shoes from a major brand. The kind of shoes you need would depend on the maximum distance of your runs, the surface on which you run etc., Any of your local fitness store will be able to guide you on choosing the right model. Make sure to replace your shoes after 1000 km.
Choose the right gear: Although you can run in any workout clothing you are comfortable in, it is a good choice to wear clothing that move away the moisture from your skin. Cotton t-shirts tend to absorb sweat making you damp if you are running in hot weather. You can chose from affordable brands like Perfomax, 2GO Activewear, Kalanji etc.,when you are just beginning. Ladies, do invest in a good sports bra before you start out.
Make a plan: Set a realistic goal in mind and create a plan to reach there. Be it doing a 5K in the next one month or running your first half marathon. Having a goal helps you stay focused. If you think coming up with a running plan as an inexperienced runner is not your cup of tea, then do not fret. There are many running apps that do it for you. Personally for me, Nike+ Run Club app is the best there is. It is free and helps you train for the distance you want to run, from 5K to a Full Marathon. It also comes with a feature called Guided Runs where various running coaches guide you through your run. Feel free to explore it.
Find a running buddy: I like running by myself. It provides me with my me time; to build ideas, to plan my goals, to de-stress and unwind. But finding a running buddy has its benefits. A friend will work as your motivation on the days when you want to hit that snooze button. Or pick a playlist and run to that. Music serves as a distraction from the thoughts of fatigue and pain that you might experience while running.
Warm-up very well: I can’t stress this enough. But a good warm-up before a run is very important to avoid injuries. Get your heartbeat faster with a 5 minute warm-up session that gets your muscles and joints ready for the workout .
During the Run
Run, walk, run: Do not shy away from walking. Walking between your runs is a way to break what seems like an arduous workout to easier and doable pieces. Taking a walk break for 1 minute between your runs will help you go on for a longer distance.
Choosing where to run: Picking a place to run is important for your safety. Running in high traffic is dangerous so you need to be extra careful if that is your only option. Staying on the opposite side, facing the traffic helps you see what is zipping past you. If you can find a park nearby with a considerable loop distance then go for it. If you choose to run early morning make sure you run on well lit streets. Treadmill running is not a bad alternative on days when you missed your run in the morning and instead chose to hit your office gym.
Maintain a good form: Every runner is different in the running form he or she maintains. But following a good form helps you become an efficient runner and prevents injuries in the long run. Make sure you don’t crouch while running. Do no overreach your stride to run faster. Rather increase the number of strides taken. When running uphill, take shorter strides and use your arms to move forward. When running downhill, bend slightly forward and let gravity be your guide.
After the Run
Do not forget to stretch: I cannot stress this enough. But it is very important to stretch well after a run. A good stretch of 5 to 10 minutes help you cool down and let those muscles relax.
Strengthen your body: To maintain a good running form and to become a stronger runner it is important that you add some form of strength training in your weekly routine. Adding body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges and working your core will help you build mobility and strength.
Right nutrition and sleep: Eating right will make your running journey much easier. Eating a fruit before a run keeps you energetic throughout your run. Make sure to consume a high protein meal within 30 minutes after your run. The best way to recover from long runs is to get at 6-8 hours of quality sleep.
Hydrate well: You can carry a water bottle with you or stash it in one place in your running route so that you hydrate throughout your run. There is no hard and fast rule on when you need to hydrate since everyone’s bodies works differently. So my suggestion is sip on water when you feel thirsty or tired. Do what your body demands.
Number of days to run: Running 3-4 days a week should be a good starting point for beginners out there. Do easy and short runs on weekdays and focus on adding mileage over the weekends so that you have enough time to rest and recover.
A sample beginner training plan from couch to 5k referred from here.