If you’re new to running, or checking back in after a layoff, you likely have a few questions. Like what to think about, where to look, or what to do with your arms. You’ll find those answers and more in this guide for newbies (and running returnees). Put it all together and get ready to run!
Think walk, not just run
Frequent walk breaks improve your fitness by extending your exercise time, says John Loftus, running coach of runyourpotential.com. Time on your feet builds muscle strength and cardiovascular capacity.
Know that you’re designed to run
Humans can run further than most animals, thanks in part to our long legs, big glutes, and ability to dissipate heat, says Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard.
Run what you can
Any amount of exercise is better than zero. You’ll avoid the negative mindset that comes from doing nothing.
Don’t be rule-bound by a rigid schedule. Instead, make a weekly plan that works for you. And if you miss a day, don’t freak out. Just run the next day.
Running can be hard, but don’t call it pain, says Loftus. “Pain is getting burned by a stove,” he says. Some discomfort can lead to improvements in fitness. What’s hard today will get easier tomorrow.
Allow for no excuses
Runners claim a minor mishap as a reason to stop running, but usually something else in your life is going on. If you falter, recommit by revisiting your original motivations.
Take the long view
Face it: your 40-year-old body won’t respond like it did in your 20s. If you’re coming back from a layoff, you can regain your form – in time. Push too hard and you risk injury.
Sharing information online can keep you motivated and improve your running, says coach Brian Hand, Ph.D. Build your confidence – and get instant feedback – by posting your latest times and/or distances.
“Get your torso to relax by focusing your gaze on the horizon,” says Hand. Raising your eyes naturally straightens your posture, making you run taller and engaging stability muscles from your core to your hips.
According to a 2007 study in Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, listening to music during low and moderate exercise diverts your attention from fatigue. Put your faves at the end of your playlist to finish your run on a high note.
Prevent hearing loss and increase awareness of your surroundings: set the volume under 85 decibels – below 70 per cent on a typical iPod. If you can’t hear a person next to you talking at a normal level, your music is too loud.
There’s nothing like hanging out with other runners. Make plans to run together, and it’ll be harder to choose the couch over your running shoes.
To increase your pace, speed up your arm swing. “Set your cadence with your arms – slowing down or speeding up the tempo like a metronome – and your legs will follow their lead,” says Loftus.
Keep them bent
Relax shoulders and arms by keeping hands at waist level, not pumping around your chest, says Hand. Bend arms at a 90-degree angle, swing them straight forward and backward, and relax hands.
For more tips, purchase Runner’s World April 2013. Available in Australia in newsstands, Coles and Woolworths. Available in New Zealand in dairies, bookstores and Countdown supermarkets.
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