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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Running for Beginners

A Quick Guide to Running for Beginners

So, it's been 5 months since you listed getting started in a fitness regimen as one of your New Year's Resolutions but haven't achieved much progress? And Summer is almost over and maybe you still haven't quite gotten too far in your quest to become a "Superbod"?

Be fit.

Be slimmer.

Be more energetic.

Be in a better mood.....all day.

Be proud of your accomplishments (finishing run races).

Be part of the growing number of runners in the country (and in the world).

Become a RUNNER.

Running is probably still the least expensive and relatively easiest fitness program one can get into. However, to ensure a fun, injury-free and  sustainable "career" as a runner, it is important to get things right from the beginning. Allow me to share some tips on how to get started as a runner. And hopefully, you'll proudly be doing a 5k race within 6 to 8 weeks.

Step 1: Get a Medical Clearance

This won't cost you much. Most likely, just a consultation fee and at most, a few tests just as a precaution in case your interview/consultation raises any alarm bells. And, it certainly is much cheaper to pay the consultation fees than be hospitalized if there is indeed any problems with your health that you didn't know about.

Step 2: Get the Right Shoes

Running will put a strain on your feet, your ankles, your knees, your hip joints and your spine. Having the proper shoes will protect all these. Moreover, having the right shoes will make running more enjoyable and comfortable.

While you're at it, get nice looking running shorts and jerseys. Feeling "pogi" (good looking) or sexy in run gear helps motivate you to run. Don't get singlets. These things come for free in most runs.

Step 3:  Get Started

Stretching - Always spend a few minutes doing basic, slow stretching exercises to prevent injuries. Pay particular attention to your achilles tendon, calves, hamstrings, quads and hip joints. Also do slow stretches for your lower back. Remember not to do jerky movements as this might result in some tendon or muscle tears.

Week 1 - Everyone can jog at least 2 minutes straight. For the first week, walk 5 to 10 minutes warm up then jog 2 minutes straight followed by a 3 minute walk. Do this 2 minute jog and 3 minute walk routine 3 to 4 times per session. Ideally, you should do at least 3 to 4 sessions per week. That would mean that your workout will be 20 to 30 minutes per session.

TIP - Most people tend to run too fast when first attempting running. They tend to sprint to either impress others or because they don't know what pace to run but immediately fade soon after. Stay disciplined. Just do a slow jog that you can sustain. This will also help prevent side stitch.

Week 2 to 3 - By now, you've done around 3 to 4 run/walk sessions around 20 to 30 minutes at a time. You can now reverse the sequence and job 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes and increase the number of sets to 4 per session.

Week 4 to 5 - Extend the walk warm up to 10 to 15 minutes. Jog 5 minutes then walk 3 minutes and do this for 3 to 4 sets. Your sessions will be 30 to 45 minutes by now. Ideally, do this 3 to 4 times a week.

Week 6 to 7 - Go for the 10 to 15 minute straight runs and rest 5 minutes in between. Do at least 3 sets. Warm up will still be a 10 to 15 minute walk.

Week 8 - YOU ARE READY FOR YOUR 1ST STRAIGHT 5K RUN. Do 3 to 4 5k runs a week.

Step 4 - Right running form

From the outset, endeavor to have the right running form.

Proper form: Upright, mid foot strike, eyes to the horizon.

Posture: You should imagine a string on the top of your head pulling you to run tall, with your spine straight but relaxed. Run with a very slight tilt forward.

Foot Strike: The natural foot plant for most people is for their feet to land on their heels while running upon impact on the ground. This is especially when one is doing a slow jog. However, as you pick up pace, you will sense your feet hitting the ground at mid-foot. This is the ideal foot plant for efficiency and less injuries.

Sighting: You should look around 20 to 25 feet forward or to the horizon. Don't be looking at your feet while running as this breaks your stride and your momentum.

FINAL TIP: To determine the best pace possible, you should only run as fast as you are able to speak comfortably while running (or jogging). And, oh - make sure you are enjoying the pace. If it becomes a chore, than you know it will be unsustainable. Speed will come over time.

I've been running for over 30 years and continue to enjoy it immensely, injury free.

Photo is during the Run United 32k where I did 2:38 (or so).

See you guys in the coming 5k races!

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