By Kelsey Casselbury 2015-12-23 20:23:52
Are you ready to go the distance? Lace up your running (or walking!) shoes and hit the trail or the treadmill. At first glance, running—or even power walking—may seem like the easiest form of exercise to conquer. After all, you simply need to put on your shoes, head outside and move your feet. Right? Cue the eye-rolls from every person who’s ever tried to implement a running routine, whether they’ve succeeded or not. Sure, there are a small subset of people out there who are simply made to be runners—they have the motivation, the desire and, let’s face it, the body type to glide through the streets with ease. For so many others, though, getting started is a monumental task—but it doesn’t have to be. When you start slow, create a plan and track your progress, you can quickly glean the benefits of running—including weight loss, reduced appetite, increased confidence, stress relief, stronger lungs and increased bone density, joint strength and stability. As with so many activities, arming yourself with knowledge is half the battle. If you’re raring to become a runner (or a solid fitness walker) in 2016, School Nutrition, with the help of a number of fitness and running experts, has a primer for you on how to get started, stay motivated and continue to progress. Walk This Way When it comes to exercise, “walk” is not a four-letter word. If you’re not ready to start a full-fledged running plan, begin your path to fitness with a walking regimen. Walking puts your arms and legs through the same range of motion that running does; however, it doesn’t impact your bones and joints as much as running—perfect for someone new to exercise or with joint problems. STEP 1 - Let’s not complicate things at first. Put on your shoes and take a 15-minute walk. If you feel OK with that, do it again the next day. If it’s a breeze, up the duration to a 20-or even 30-minute walk the following day. The point, as recommended by experts, is to start with what feels comfortable and manageable and make that a habit. Then gradually push yourself in increments. A good goal for many new walkers is to aim for 30 to 45 minutes a day. As your workouts (yes, walking is a workout!) progress, keep a log of how long you walked, how far you went and how you felt. It’s amazing how confidence-boosting it is to see all that progress! STEP 2 - Once you’re in the habit of walking, create an actual plan for the week. You might vary the distance, location or grade (that means hills!) of your walk to keep things interesting. Log each day’s workout as you complete it and enjoy that sense of accomplishment. STEP 3 - You’ve laid the foundation of fitness with your new walking program. If and when you feel ready to add some light jogging to your routine, begin walk/run intervals that consist of 1 minute of running and 2 minutes of walking. Olympian Jeff Galloway popularized the run/walk method, which fends off fatigue and targets a variety of muscle groups. Don’t be concerned if you never make it to the running stage—a regular walking routine provides many of the same benefits and is a stellar way to boost your daily movement. If The Shoe Fits When it comes to acquiring running gear, you can buy all the moisture-wicking, hi-tech clothing you want (it really does make your workout more enjoyable!) However, nothing is as important as what goes on your feet. If you start your running routine by lacing up the sneakers you’ve had for a decade or more, your runs are simply a ticking clock until you start experiencing aches and pains (or a serious injury). This isn’t to say that you should put off any movement until you’ve shelled out the cash for a new pair of shoes—no excuses!—but you should make visiting a running store a priority. Why visit a running-specific store rather than a standard big-box department store? The employees there are trained in determining which shoe is right for your foot—this isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. They will look at how you walk and run, as well as the way your foot moves, and pick out a pair or two that suits your needs, whether it’s a shoe that’s meant for cushioning, stability, mobility or otherwise. Make sure you ask about the return policy no matter where you are purchasing your shoes. Typically, a reputable running store will allow you two weeks to try out the shoes and return them if they don’t feel right. It can be hard to stomach the price tag of these shoes, but keep in mind that it’s an investment in your health (and an insurance policy against pain from the get-go). If you don’t have a specialty running store near you, you can buy running shoes online. However, do some research first on fit to find the brand that’s right for you (and be prepared to pay return shipping costs if the shoes are not quite right). Try on shoes closer to the end of the day. In the morning, your feet are smaller; through the day, they’ll begin to swell. If you buy a pair of shoes that fit in the morning, they’ll likely feel too tight when you go for a post-work run. When you put the shoes on, what else should you look for? FLEX - Before you put the shoe on, check where it flexes by pressing the tip of the shoe into the floor. It should bend at the same place your foot does; if it doesn’t, you risk arch pain or plantar fasciitis, which is pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. LENGTH - Your feet swell (even more!) when you run, so there should be a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of your shoe. Your toes should be able to wiggle freely up and down. The heels should be snug, but not tight. If you’re able to move your heel too much, you’ll feel some irritation when you begin to run. INSTEP - The shoe should feel snug around your instep on the top side of your foot, but if you feel pressure or tightness, you need more space in that area. FEEL - Don’t just stand there! You can’t tell if the shoes work if you don’t go for a quick jog (many stores have treadmills or mini-running tracks.) If your foot’s arch cramps, the shoe is too supportive. The Game Plan Some runners just get up and run. However, if you’re the type that’s going to find an excuse to avoid exercise, you simply must make a plan—then you can’t say that you don’t have time! “Use a written plan; don’t just wing it,” recommends Karen Kovacs, PT, OCS, USA Triathlon coach. When you start, this plan might just be running for 30 minutes every other day—but write it down and post it on your fridge or use a tracking app on your phone. For a sense of achievement, cross off each running session as you complete it. As you continue to improve your running skills, you can alter your written plan by penciling in advanced running techniques, such as hill runs, tempo runs and fartleks. (Check out the Runner’s Dictionary below for a little bit more on these running terms! ) If you are planning to primarily use a treadmill, much of the data you need to track will be available on the machine. But if you seek to run outdoors, map out your chosen running route in advance using a website such as www.mapmyrun.com. This allows you to predetermine how far you’re going to go, rather than running aimlessly through your neighborhood. (MapMyRun has an accompanying free smart phone app that tracks your route and distance via GPS, a nifty tool for the tech-inclined.) If you prefer following someone else’s training plan, try out running coach Hal Higdon’s plans at www.halhigdon.com or simply type “running training plan” into Google. The Runner’s Dictionary If you want to sound like a running pro, throw these terms into conversation every once in a while! 5K A road race that’s 3.1 miles. It’s the most popular distance for road races in the United States. 10K A road race that’s 6.2 miles long. Cross-Training Doing more than one physical activity with the intent to improve overall fitness. Fartlek Swedish for “speed play,” which means you intermix periods of faster running with slower running Half Marathon A road race that’s 13.1 miles long; these races have been growing the most in popularity in the last few years in the United States. Heart Rate The number of times your heart beats per minute. Knowing this number helps you monitor how hard you’re working and allows you to set goals for improvement. Hill Runs Just what it sounds like—running up a hill, walking back down to catch your breath and repeating. Interval Training Similar to fartleks, alternating periods of faster and slower running or walking. Overtraining Spending too much time running (or any other exercise) without letting your body rest. It can lead to fatigue, poor performance, irritability and other detrimental health effects. Pace The speed you’re running or walking, typically expressed in terms of minutes per mile. Personal Record (PR) Describes a runner’s farthest or fastest time for a specific distance, such as a 5K. Plantar Fasciitis Pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. It is one of the most common forms of heel pain, especially among runners, those who are overweight and those with inadequate footwear support. Recovery Slowing down to walk or jog during faster-paced runs. Recovery allows your heart rate to return to normal and your body to regain energy. Tempo Runs The practice of starting a run slowly and building up to running a “comfortably hard” pace for the remainder of the workout. Proper Running Form Head up and forward looking to the horizon Torso straight, very slight forward lean Hands in a loose fist. No clenching! Knee slightly bent upon impact Foot lands under your body not in front of it Keep arms close to the body when swinging Ebow bent to 90° True to Form Take a look at the runners above for an introduction to proper running form; that is, the way your body should look when you’re on a run. Good running form can help you avoid common running injuries, notes USA Track & Field coach Marty Beene. “The most common running form issue among new runners is that they tend to land on their heels (heel-striking), because most of us view running as an extension of walking, where we normally (and safely) contact the ground on our heels.” The problem, he continues, is that landing on your heels sends an impact directly through your joints, and it’s absorbed by cartilage. “Heel-striking is also like putting the brakes on with every step, [making] the run more difficult than it needs to be,” he adds. Instead, aim to strike the ground with the middle of your foot. Additionally: • Keep your shoulders and head up and looking toward the horizon. • Position your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle with your arms close to your waist and your fists loose. • Finally, avoid bouncing, tensing your shoulders or taking extra-long steps (known as overstriding). Finding (And Keeping) Your Motivation You know you want to start a running program, but actually doing it is another thing entirely. The motivation to start—or keep going—can be one of the hardest things to find. If you put off Day One over and over again, figure out why you’re not ready to run. You might need to pick a smaller goal. If you’ve planned to run a 5K next month, consider if that’s a bit ambitious. Aim to run three days a week instead for the next month, and then you can reconsider the road race. However, don’t forget to write down your workouts, so you can see how far you’ve come. It might not feel like you’re making any progress, but as time passes, you might notice that you’re going a little bit farther, a little bit faster. Eventually, picking a road race, such as a 5K, that’s scheduled far enough in the future for you to sufficiently train for it can be a top-notch motivator. Keep in mind that running—or any exercise program—should make you feel good. If you’re not finding the joy or sense of accomplishment in your running program, move on to another physical activity that does bring these feelings. What matters most is that you’re being active, not that you’re doing a specific activity. Kelsey Casselbury is the managing editor of School Nutrition. She has completed a handful of 5Ks, one half-marathon and is signed up for her second half-marathon in April. Photography by Predrag Vuckovic/istockphoto.com and Thinkstock.com. BONUS WEB CONTENT Clothes made specifically for running can help you get in the right mindset and make your workouts more comfortable. Learn more about recommended running gear online at www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. Where To Next? If we’ve piqued your interest in becoming a runner or walker in 2016, don’t stop here! Check out some of our favorite online resources to help motivate, inform and inspire you: Couch to 5K® Running Plan www.coolrunning.com One of the most effective ways to train for a 5K as a beginner, Couch to 5K offers a nine-week training plan that has you use a run/walk method to slowly build up to 3.1 miles. Check out the Apple App Store or Google Play to find accompanying smartphone apps. Runner’s World www.runnersworld.com Whether you buy the print magazine or visit the website, Runner’s World is chock-full of advice for newbies and advanced runners alike, including race training plans. MapMyRun www.mapmyrun.com Don’t set out on a walk or run with no idea where you’re going—plan out your path on MapMyRun’s website or smartphone app. Active www.active.com If you’re ready to participate in a road race (hint: You can walk nearly any of them!), visit the Active website to find one scheduled in your area. Expert Tip Stay Slow If you star t your running habit at too high of an intensity and your runs last too long, you’ll likely burn out. Enjoy shor t runs at first. If, as you near the end of a 2-mile run, you feel the energy to sprint for a couple of minutes, then go for it. Just don’t push yourself too quickly. The last thing you want is a knee injury that sidelines you before you’ve even hit your stride as a full-fledged runner. —Karen Kovacs, PT, OCS, USA Triathlon coach Expert Tip Embrace the Two Ps: Patience and Perseverance The patience part has to do with building endurance (and speed, if desired) gradually. The perseverance is about continuing when it feels difficult, as well as continuing to work on improving running form—both of these can be challenging. —Marty Beene, USA Track & Field running coach Q&A How Often Should I Run? If you’re just get ting started, be wary of doing too much, too soon. It’s a quick path to injury and bur nout! Instead, aim to hit the pavement every other day and incorporate this into your plan. If you feel the urge to move on your days off, try cross-training (the fancy word for doing another form of exercise, such as swimming or the elliptical machine) or simply go for a walk. Q&A How Do I Get Faster? Very slowly. It’s best to follow the 10% rule, which means that, to avoid injury, you should only increase your weekly mileage or running time by 10% each week. When you’re starting out and realize that this means that you’re only increasing from 1 mile to 1.1 miles or from 30 minutes to 33 minutes, it might seem like real progress is going to take forever. “Patience is key,” Marty Beene, USA Track and Field coach, reinforces. “One thing I always add to this relatively well-known rule of thumb is that it’s a good idea to build [time or mileage] for three weeks, and then back off somewhat in the fourth week before building up more.” He suggests that a new runner can improve speed by going on “slightly hilly” runs or by doing fartleks. Huh?! These are simply intervals during which a runner changes speed. You might run 100 to 200 meters, or 1 to 2 minutes, at a “fast” pace and then slow back down to your regular pace. “The caveat about speed for new runners,” he adds, “is really to not worry about it until the endurance component has been built for at least a couple of months.” Expert Tip Sign Up for a Running Event A great event held in cities across the United States is The Color Run (TheColor-Run.com) [an event in which runners or walkers are encouraged to wear white and are splashed with color throughout the course]. There are lots of newbie runners in these 5K events (these runs aren’t timed), and the focus is on fun and simply completing the course, even if that means walking. Sign up with your spouse, children or a friend—that will make you less likely to back out. —Courtney Hughes, PhD, marathon runner Q&A How Fast Should I Run? Running coaches recommend doing the “talk test” to determine the intensity of your runs. If, while you run, you try to talk and can’t say more than a few words, you’re likely running too fast. If you can carry on a conversation—even if it’s a little stilted or halting—you’ve passed the talk test. Q&A Is It Better to Run on a Treadmill or Outside? Indoor and outdoor running or walking both have their pros and cons. The perks of running outside include gaining an ability to run on a variety of surfaces (which trains multiple muscles) and changing scenery—plus, it’s free! However, running on a treadmill offers a cushioned surface that can be better for your joints, as well as a place to exercise when the weather isn’t cooperating. Treadmills also allow you to set the time, pace and grade. If you decide to run inside on a machine, set the grade to 1% to mimic outdoor conditions—this will allow you to account for grade changes and even wind resistance.
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