Perhaps the hardest thing about starting a new exercise routine is actually following through with it. Once you have committed to starting this new workout regime, you are half way there. Running is great for both mental and physical health for a variety of reasons and in order to reap the benefits, it pays to be properly prepared.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind as a new runner:
1. Get the Proper Equipment
Since running can put added strain on your joints, the most important thing you can do it purchase appropriate footwear. If you are wearing the wrong kind of shoe for your foot you can end up causing more harm than good. Getting a great running shoe doesn’t mean that you have to choose the most expensive option. Many athletic store employees can help steer you towards the appropriate shoe. Some will even have you run on a treadmill to track your specific running pattern before recommending a shoe. It’s also important to take into account what surface you will most commonly be running on since certain shoes are more appropriate for running on city streets, tracks or dirt.
2. Remember to Hydrate and Eat Properly
When you begin exercising your body needs the proper nourishment to recover, build muscle and keep you healthy and strong. As a new runner you will begin to rely on complex carbohydrates as fuel. These whole grain and unrefined foods will give you the energy to power through your run without dealing with any sugar highs or lows. You can get these from veggies, whole breads and certain pastas. As far as hydration goes, now is as important of a time as any to make sure you are staying fully hydrated. When you are losing water in the form of sweat it is essential for you to replenish your water. Stick to the 8 cups (2 liters) of water a day but after you run, you may want to increase this amount.
3. Pace Yourself
No matter how motivated you are, you can’t simply expect your body to jump into your running schedule without a little protesting. Deciding to start running and then headed out for 5 miles on your first trip will not only lead to discouragement, but massive soreness and discomfort later on. You need to start off slowly and work up to longer distances. Make sure you are listening to your body. Typically in the beginning you should be running no more than 3 times a week since your body will need a rest. As the weeks roll on you will begin to notice clues from your body that it is time to increase the distance. Once this happens, increase your mileage slowly and you will see great results and avoid muscle strain and other injuries.
4. Allow for Recovery and Rest Time
Though you don’t want to lose your momentum in the beginning, taking a well deserved rest when your muscles are overly sore is necessary. Of course, there will be some normal aches and pains, but many of your muscles may have not had this type of exercise in years and they will need time to heal. Don’t push it. Overworking muscles will only keep you from running in the future.
5. Don’t Forget the Importance of Stretching
Along these same lines, muscles will not experience the same amount of strain if your properly stretch before and after running. There are always conflicting reports about which types of stretches are best, but the main key is just to get the blood flowing through the muscles prior to running. After cooling out and catching your breath, once again return to these stretches to prevent muscle tightness and injury.
Running can be extremely beneficial and rewarding, just be sure to listen to your body and care for yourself each step of the way.