Whether this is to achieve weight loss, overall cardiovascular function or simply because they want to have the experience of running a marathon – the reasons vary for everyone.
Many people want to start a running program.
Whether this is to achieve weight loss, overall cardiovascular function, or simply because they want to have the experience of running a marathon – the reasons vary for everyone.
While there are some wonderful benefits to running, it can be a little challenging for most of us to get started.
Some common questions in regard to this are:
• What is considered a “good level” (how long should I be able to run for and covering what distance)?
• How often should I run, and for how long?
I’ll answer these, and then share some tips with you on how to get started on a running program in a safe, structured and intelligent way.
What is Considered a “Good level”
The answer to this question will depend on your overall goal.
For example, according to Men’s Health Magazine, if you were to complete a test to gauge your optimal levels of fitness, then being able to run 1.5 miles in 10 minutes would mean you were in some pretty fantastic shape. This is what people who were looking to become super fit would go for.
It would be about the same if you were looking to join the military.
However, if you wanted to run a 5k, then your level would depend on how long it might take for you to get to the finish line. This would differ from person to person depending on physical condition, length of training and age.
For example, a 5k run is 3.1 miles.
According to some experts, a male who crosses the finish line first would complete this in 12-15 minutes, while a female would typically do this in 16-19 minutes.
So to answer this question, it would really depend on your goals and level of dedication to your practice.
How Often Should I Run, and For How Long?
Using the marathon example, if you’re a beginner – training to run a 5k, then you’re looking at a minimum of 10 weeks of training. You’ll begin with 30 minutes a day, about 3-5 days a week, including 5 minute warm ups and cool downs while incorporating walking/jogging intervals to condition yourself to be able to run for longer periods of time.
Since the training protocols for a beginner to become conditioned enough to consider running a 5k, you’re looking at a minimum of 10 weeks. If your goals are to increase this, then you would continue on and the intensity would increase from there.
So if you’re ready to get started, check out the following tips.
20 Tips to Get You Started on a Running Program
1 – Don’t get discouraged.
It’s common for people to find themselves tired when initially starting a running program. Give it some time and start slow. Everyone learns to crawl before they walk, right?
2 – Decide What Your Goals Are
Different goals require different training protocols. You’ll want to take some time to decide what it is you’re looking to accomplish. If you want to run a 5k, then train for this specifically. As with any fitness program, specificity (training for a specific fitness goal) is the way to achieve the best results.
3 – Start Slow
Your best bet is to start with a fitness walking program and include some jogging intervals when the time is right. You might consider starting with a two minute walk and 30 second jogging intervals and increase your run time each week.
4 – Warm Up and Cool Down
Start your running program with a five minute warm up and cool down – without exception. You MUST allow your heart and the rest of your body to get ready for the stress that goes along with exercise. Cool down is necessary to avoid possible blood pooling (this is when the blood pools to the lower extremities of the body – not making its way back to the heart via skeletal muscle tissue)– which can lead to a loss of consciousness and in some cases, sudden cardiac arrest.
5 – Don’t Run on a Full Stomach
Wait about 1-2 hours after eating before going for a run, but make sure that you’ve had something light – so as not to tie up your digestive system, which can slow you down and possibly cause cramps.
6 – Invest in a Decent Pair of Running Shoes
Take some time and look for a pair of good quality running shoes and replace them after every 350-500 miles of wear and tear. Stick with top name brands and consider reading the reviews before purchasing.
7 – Dress Properly
Wear cool and comfortable clothing if it’s hot, wear layers if it’s cold. Tee shirts, tank tops and shorts work well in temperatures 50 degrees and up, while longer shirts and pants come into play for cooler temps. Start layering at temperatures below 39 degrees.
8 – Be Mindful of Pain
While we have all heard the term, “no pain, no gain” – the truth is that pain isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to exercise. If you feel any pain in your joints, bones or muscles (other than the lactic acid burn associated with working out) – stop. Give it a day or two and see how you feel. If the pain persists, get medical advice. Don’t try to work through it – as it may aggravate the situation and get worse from there.
9 – Incorporate Other Exercises Into Your Program
Swimming and other resistance training workouts are an excellent way to make sure you stay in the best shape possible to support your running program. This will help your legs, glutes and calves to stay strong and flexible – which is important. The entire body is used in a running program, so balance, flexibility and strength are necessary components to help you to do your best and to possibly prevent injury.
10 – Take Rest if You Need it
Recovery is an important part of any fitness program, regardless of what it is. Muscle tissue breaks down during exercise, and then rebuilds to become bigger and stronger. Give yourself at least one, if not two days of rest per week to allow yourself to recover from the stress of exercise.
11 – Use Proper Form
Make sure your running form is even and steady, and be mindful of the amount of jarring on your knees. Try to focus on being light on your feet and minimize the impact on your joints – which can result in injury over time.
12 – Stay Hydrated
Drink between 8-16 ounces of water about an hour before you run. If you’ve been running for a long period of time (a couple of hours), you may consider replenishing your electrolytes with a sports drink since sodium helps the body with proper utilization of carbohydrates and retainment of fluids.
13 – Use the Talk Test
Whether it’s a running program, or any other type of workout – a good way to test whether or not you’re working too hard is to use the talk test. Basically, you should be able to carry on a conversation without straining.
14 – Replenish Your Carbs
A general rule of thumb is to eat something rich in carbohydrates 30-60 minutes after running to replace glucose used to fuel your program. An excellent example would be some low fat yogurt (with no sugars added) or a banana smoothie with 2 scoops of The Power Workout protein powder.
15 – Make a Schedule
The best way to stay consistent with your program is to make a realistic schedule and stick to it. Find a time that works for you and mark it into a spreadsheet. It might help to check it off when you’re done to experience a sense of accomplishment.
16 – Keep a Communication Device On You If Possible
We all know that anything can happen at any time – from injury to accidents if you’re running along a trail. Consider keeping your phone with you in case of emergencies.
17 – Get a Physician’s Approval if Necessary
If you have been sedentary for a while, it might not hurt for you to get some clearance from your physician before engaging in a running program. This especially goes if there are any past injuries that may come into play with a running program.
18 – Know Your Medical Conditions
There are certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, that require monitoring of your blood sugar levels when it comes to exercise. If this is the case for you, then you’ll want to know what levels are appropriate for you to exercise with.
19 – Keep Your Mouth Empty
Believe it or not, this is lifesaving advice. It’s common for people to chew gum while running, or exercising in general. Your chances of choking are much higher when your level of inhalation is increased, so for the sake of your well-being, spit the gum out until you are finished and have cooled down.
20 – Listen to Your Body
Always, always, always listen to your body. If for any reason you feel faint, lightheaded or as though you cannot continue – walk it off, seek shade and give it a rest. It isn’t tough to want to stick with something out of sheer motivation – but if you’re experiencing symptoms of anything other than normal workout fatigue, respect this and stop for the time being.
As long as you follow a safe and structured program and be kind to yourself, you will be successful with your running program.
Be patient, and don’t give up.
Decide on your goal and train for it specifically. Don’t worry about what others are doing, just do the best job you can, but challenge yourself to get more efficient over time.