Since mankind evolved to walk on two legs, we’ve been runners. Long before the days of cars, bikes and even horseback riding, man relied on his own two feet to get from point A to point B. When we picture our ancient ancestors, we may not see clothes, language or civility, but we can imagine how physically capable they must have been to perfect the art of bipedal mammoth hunting.
This primordial history has ingrained running into each of our minds, so you might think that starting to run is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. But in this day and age, running may not be so simplistic. Though running can be a great form of exercise for anyone focused on good health with medical weight loss, alternative medicine or vitamin B12 injections, starting a running routine requires care and planning to avoid the injury and fatigue that commonly plagues first time runners.
Running is primarily reliant on your own two feet, but the shoes you put on them are crucially important. You may be thinking about pulling on those ratty old running shoes in the back of your closet, but one of the best ways to prevent injury is to get a pair of shoes that are well-cushioned, fresh, designed for running and a good fit for your feet and running style.
Your best bet is to head to a specialty running store, where you’ll (hopefully) encounter enthusiastic employees who can point you in the direction of a supportive and comfortable shoe. You don’t have to pick the most expensive option out there, but buying a decent pair that will stand the test of time and keep you from injury will be well worth it to any dedicated runner. It might also be a good idea to invest in some lightweight and breathable workout clothes, while women will need to make sure they have the support of a good sports bra.
The Art of the Slow Start
Many people quickly give up on running because they start too quickly, exhausting themselves with a strenuous run that leaves them miserable and wondering how so many people manage to do it each morning. But as the old saying goes, you need to walk before you run.
Building up to a regular running routine is critical, especially if you aren’t already accustomed to strenuous exercise. Even if you’re an experienced cyclist or eagerly take to the elliptical each week, you need to give your body a chance to ease into the unique stresses that running places on your ligaments and joints. Here’s a good way to get an easy start:
- Go for fast-paced walks two to four nights each week.
- Walk a little bit further each day until your walks last about 30 minutes apiece—you should be able to reach this point after about two weeks regardless of circumstance.
- Begin to run for five minutes and walk for one, combining running and walking into 30-minute workouts four times a week for three weeks.
- Increase the run segment to nine minutes, but keep the one-minute walking break. Many runners choose to keep their walking breaks indefinitely, but others may choose to switch to an unbroken 30-minute run soon after this point.
As the schedule above shows, working up to a full running routine takes a lot more than just lacing up your shoes and getting outside—it will take a good five to six weeks to acclimate your body to the challenge. However, moving on from this point takes finesse as well. Many runners obsess over increasing their distance and endurance, but pushing too hard can easily result in frustration or fatigue.
Your best bet is to continue to gradually increase your time. You can typically add about 10 total minutes to your weekly run time, or just add 10 percent to your total running time each week. Just don’t up the speed too quickly or you’ll put a lot of stress on your muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments.
To keep yourself interested and improving, you’ll need to focus on your form and explore some new ways and places to run. As you get better, start thinking about your posture—your feet should land under your hips with your whole body in a straight line from head to toe; your hands should be unclenched; your elbows should be tucked into your waist to prevent your arms from swinging and your footfalls should be soft and quiet. Start to explore some new routes or add hills to your path. You can also try joining a running group or finding a partner who can keep you motivated.
Running is about a lot more than just, well, running. Though we may all be inherently capable of it, you won’t be running any marathons, or half marathons, or even quarter marathons right out of the gate. Take your time and build up cautiously to keep your running routine healthy, happy and consistent.
Do you run regularly? Share any tips and experiences in the comments below to help beginners get started.