So You Want to Be a Runner?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It doesn’t surprise me that more people are running for cardio exercise these days. According to a recent survey by Running USA 49.4%, or more than 4.3 million of all finishers in 2007 road races held across the country were women. This represents a 25% increase from just 20 years ago and an almost 4% increase from just 6 years ago.

Compared to other forms of cardiovascular exercise, running is by far one of the best at burning calories AND it doesn’t cost a lot of money or investment in equipment. Besides a good pair of running shoes and sheer determination, one should be ready to run in no time.

Before beginning any exercise program, especially for those over the age of 40, it is best to get clearance from your doc prior to lacing up one’s shoes.

In my 2 ½ years of running, reading countless book on the subject, and talking with many running coaches, there are some common fundamental principles new runners should consider before embarking on their running career. Below are a few pointers to get you started.

  • The House that Jack Built It isn’t uncommon for new runners to want to hit the pavement with full gusto, believing the more they run the faster they will advance, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

    One needs to look at the first 6-12 months as a time for building a solid running foundation. Just like the foundation for your house, if you do not allow time for it to cure before putting up the frame, walls, and roof, your house has a greater risk of collapse the minute the first storm blows through.

    Same is true with running. If you don’t allow for proper adaptation your risk for injury rises dramatically. In addition one may experience lack of progress or burnout from doing too much too soon. One must allow time not only for their heart and lungs to adapt, but muscles, connective tissues, joints, bones, and the ever important glycogen reserves.

  • More is Not Better So if one day of running is good, then running every day must be better, right? Well not exactly. While one must run to become a runner, it is actually during the rest/recovery phase that one adapts to the sport. This is where the principle of hard/easy comes into play. You should run one day then either rest or cross train the following day to allow for the body to recover from the run. Using a running program such as Spark Your Way to a 5Khelps take much of the guesswork out of when and when not to run.

  • Be a Tortoise Not a Hare Once again discipline is key for a new runner. It is so easy to get caught up in the need to run fast; but as a newbie, running slow will actually build endurance which in part will allow for faster times in the weeks and months ahead. Only after you have a solid foundation, should you look at adding in speed drills. With speed comes a higher risk of injury--this is when listening to your body is crucial.

  • No Pain, No Gain, Not Quite Running should not cause pain. Soreness is to be expected but one should NEVER run through pain. Doing so could lead to bigger issues down the road. It is always better to take a few days off and allow the body to heal. As my running coach told me when I first started, “Your goal is to be a life-long runner, not just a once in a life-time runner.”

  • The Strength to be a Runner Strength training is a huge asset to most runners. Building upper body strength will help stabilize the shoulders while doing some really great lower body workouts will help stabilize the knees and hips. In addition, strength training helps build those all-important glycogen reserves needed for running.

  • Enjoy the Journey So many people run just to reach a a goal whether it is the 5K they signed up to do or just to finish a training schedule; but for me the challenge is being able to run which is something I never imagined myself doing before I began my journey to a healthier me 3 1/2 years ago.