Running: Getting Started

As a way to lose our “baby fat”– or so, what my doctor would call it– my friends and I joined the Soccer team. As part of training, or what really felt more like punishment, Coach would put us into two double lines. The fastest girls, our forwards, he put up front. Everyone else just had to keep up. I would barely make it half way around the track before I would come to an abrupt stop, doubling over for air. Coach would yell my last name from the middle of the field, screaming to keep going. I would lightly jog to the other side of the track where my friends had already decided to forgo the sprinting and practice kicks instead. Safe to say, running was my enemy.

What compelled me in my Senior year of college to pull my four year old pair of Nike Shox from my closet and hit the indoor track even though I clearly despised running, I don’t know. I wanted to lose weight but I had tried time and time again to cut back on carbs

Version 2
The Nike Women’s Half-Marathon DC 2014: my 3rd Half!

and hit the gym and nothing was working. I had the wrong “why” fueling my weight loss efforts back then. I always chalked it up to a lack of dedication on my part, so how I went from running quarter mile intervals to a consecutive four miles over the course of a school year I couldn’t tell you.

But I did. Somehow I became a running enthusiast. I started working at a Running store, buying running gear, and even running half-marathons. I sometimes laugh when I look back at my first days running. Back then I knew nothing about form, fuel, training, gear or recovery. Somehow I managed to stay injury free.

Fearing injury as a beginning runner can be really daunting. Or maybe you have nightmares of doing suicides during P.E. and think running will be an endless loop of suicides. It’s not! If you’re looking to start running then ease in by focusing on these 4 elements:

Form

Elite runners make running look incredibly easy and to some extent it is! As long as you’re putting one leg in front of the other and using momentum you will be running. But running is actually much more complicated than just powering one leg in front of the other. Proper running form requires engaging your core, gently swinging your arms and timing your breaths. For example: did you know you should lean slightly forward from your ankles when running? Check out this video from Howcast featuring USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach, Stephanie Coburn, to lean more about proper running form.

Fuel

Carb loading, Gu, Electrolytes: Fueling your run can look like a vocabulary exam if you’re just starting out. I experimented with a few different strategies– running on an empty stomach, eating a banana with peanut butter before a run, running 4 hours after a plate of salmon– before locking on to a pre-run and post-run strategy that works best for me. Whether running in the morning, afternoon or evening I usually try to keep my pre and post-run meals within an hour of my run. Before my run, I go for a combination of protein (chicken, protein powder, beef, etc.) and “fast” carbs (fruits such as apples, bananas, pineapples or cereals, bread, plantains, etc.). After my run, I again go for a combination of protein and “fast” carbs but aim for a more substantial meal– for example Greek Yogurt with oatmeal and berries, chicken with rice and broccoli, or pan “fried” plantains with ground turkey meatballs. Fueling your runs doesn’t have to feel like the SATs. Here are 6 great tips from Runner’s World on eating right as a runner.

Training

I ran my first 10K in Central Park, not knowing there were major hills along the course of this race. My first mistake was not looking up a race guide, any race guide, that would give me a general idea what to expect leading up to and on race day. I didn’t know elevation maps, energy gels, and training plans were important. Not knowing how hilly my Central Park run would be I continued training on an inside track. I’m telling you, I don’t know how I didn’t get injured. Since then I’ve discovered  American writer and runner Hal Higdon’s incredible training plans–his website,  Hal Higdon, includes training plans for every level from a 5K to the full 26.2. If you’re training for a race then race fuel will be very important! This article from Runners Connect runs down everything you need to know about Energy Gels.

Gear

Do you really need to spend an arm and a leg on high-tech running gear when you first start running? No, absolutely not but it is important to at least get the basics: a comfortable pair of running shoes, a good supportive sports bra, and if you want to run with water: a water bottle. My closet is now overflowing with hi-tech fabrics and racerback cuts but when I first started, I bought a pair of tights from target and grabbed a sleep shirt from my drawer. What’s essential gear and what isn’t? Kara Goucher tells Well + Good about the essentials in Katie Maguire’s article “This is The Running Gear That You Actually Need (According to an Expert).”

The fact that you can start running with only 3 simple pieces really makes it one of the cheapest and easiest activities to get into. Not only is running a great way to stay healthy but it’s also a great way to make new friends and connect with co-workers or family.

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