So You Want To Be “A Runner”

With the Buffalo marathon a few days behind us and summer race season kicking off, now is the time of year when many people start considering the addition of running goals to their lives or fitness routines.

Whether you’re a lifetime athlete looking to add running to your regiment, a lapsed runner looking to get back into it, or a brand-new runner with no idea where or how to start, getting into the running game is a health step that your future self will thank you for.

For now, we’re going to take to that last category of burgeoning runners – the ones who are brand new to the game and not sure where to start.

In this case, getting started is as simple as literally taking one step at a time.

GEAR

Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s what you need to take your first jog:

  • Decent running shoes. You don’t need to go out and spend $300 on your first pair, but make sure you have athletic sneakers that are comfortable and offer adequate support and cushion – and not 10 years old.
  • Breathable running clothes. You don’t have to get fancy. WNY gets pretty humid in the summer, so a wicking fabric will be your new best friend, but chances are you already have something in your closet to get you started.
  • Accountability. This comes in many forms. A running buddy is great motivation, or consider joining a group. Sometimes, just telling someone your goals makes you more likely to keep them. Or creating a plan, and tracking your progress. Figure out what will keep you motivated.
  • A goal. Concrete goals are often easier to reach than abstract goals, but not always. Maybe you want to be able to run a 5k without taking any walking breaks. Maybe you want to lower your risk of diabetes. Or you need a healthy way to relieve stress and clear your mind. Think about why you want to start running, and what you hope to achieve.

That’s it! Running is a very inexpensive, low-gear way to exercise. While heart-rate monitors, fitness trackers and fancy gadgets can be very cool and can contribute to a more enjoyable and beneficial routine, they aren’t necessary to get started – don’t look for excuses. Just start with what’s essential, and what you already have.

PREPARATION

Once you have the things you need to get started, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking off on your first run:

  • Prep your body a little first. If you’re already active, you’re good to go. If you aren’t, take a few weeks to start walking every day or engaging in some sort of light aerobic activity.
  • Set reasonable expectations. The first few weeks will be challenging. Maybe very challenging. Expect it, embrace it, remember your goals and push through.
  • Soreness is expected. Muscle fatigue is part of the game, and you’ll probably start to ache in places you didn’t know could ache. Those are all OK. But sharp pains, persistent pains or something that just feels wrong shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Form is important, and you want to develop good habits. Take short strides, keep your elbows at 90 degrees, don’t swing your arms in front of your body, keep your shoulders back and your head high, and relax!
  • Start off slow. It’s perfectly OK, and often recommended, to start with run/walks. Run for 1 minute. Walk for 2. Alternate for the duration of your run (hey, now that really doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?). Gradually (over weeks or months) increase the time spent running and decrease the time spent walking. If you don’t have a watch or timing device, trust the cues your body will give you.
  • It’s not necessary to stretch before you run. Start slow, try some dynamic stretches, and make sure to stretch and cool down for a few minutes after your run.

NUTRITION

OK, last step. What should you put into your body when you start a running routine?

  • Drink Water. People tend to be over-concerned with hydration during a run. It’s more important to make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sports drinks are probably unnecessary until you start running for more than an hour at a time. Don’t overhydrate right before a run! Drink when you’re thirsty, and rehydrate after.
  • Eat an hour before you run. Ideally, you’ll have a snack before you run and a snack after you run, without drastically altering your standard breakfast/lunch/dinner schedule. Eat within 15 minutes of the end of your run to allow your body to recover better. Of course, healthy snacks of lean protein and whole grains make a big difference in performance.
  • Be aware that running may change your appetite. Any change in physical activity will. Make sure you’re nourishing your body by eating a healthy diet. If weight loss is a goal, speak with your doctor about caloric intake so you don’t overeat, but also so you don’t under-eat.

There you go! You’re ready to start running and take the first step toward whatever your health goal includes. Good luck, stick with it, and we’ll see you at the finish line!

And if you’re looking for a local race to sign up for, check out the Running in the USA website, that lists races by date and location.