“I want to start running, but I’m not sure where to begin?” I get this question frequently at work (as a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist) and from friends/family wanting advice on how they should start running. Some have never run in their life while others used to run back in the day and want to return to a consistent routine or sign up for a race. First off, CONGRATS!! I welcome you to the running community either as a newbie or a past teammate that’s found their way back to the team.
Although running is a simple activity in theory, there is quite a bit of complexity to it especially when it comes to competitive training. I’m going to help navigate these complexities to avoid injury, as well as maximize training to reach your full potential. There are common mistakes both new runners and veterans alike fall into so my goal is to help avoid those as well as foster a better understanding of how to safely start a running program that you can continue for the rest of your life.
I will discuss four basic components, which are crucial when participating in any form of physical activity to keep you healthy and progressing in the right direction. They include: 1) Proper equipment, 2) Frequency, 3) Duration and 4) Intensity. Of course, there are many more details and branches of these components, but these really are the basics you want to start with when you begin a running program. Let us begin…
#1: Proper Equipment
This is one of the top reasons why millions of people begin and continue running. It requires minimal equipment and you can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t need a fancy gym with eight thousand different machines. The beauty of running is in its simplicity. A good pair of shoes (and that’s even debatable these days) and comfortable clothing is really all you need. There are a couple other essentials I will recommend to not only make running more enjoyable, but keep you safe out on the roads or trails. Here’s my basic yet crucial equipment list to get you started:
4) ID bracelet and/or phone
5) Visibility gear if you’ll be spending time running early morning or late evening (blinking lights, neon clothes/vest, etc)
I’m not going to go into specifics with the above gear, that will be covered more extensively in future blog posts (so make sure to check back monthly for new topics and info!). However, if you gather the above basics you’ll be off to a good, safe start to your running career.
This is where I get the most questions from someone wanting to start a running program and is one of the crucial components in safe, healthy running. I recommend for both new and alum runners that fell off the running wagon to start with 2-3 days a week of running at first. Now, everyone is different so this isn’t to say a new runner couldn’t start with 4-5 days a week, but I generally don’t recommend it because it’s always easier to increase the frequency of running because you’re feeling good rather than have to drop down in days due to pain or injury. Beginning with 2-3 days is enough to improve your fitness and get you used to running while avoiding injury as long as those 2-3 days are within a reasonable duration and intensity. After at least 2-3 weeks of 2-3 days per week, you likely can either add another day or increase the duration of one or two of the runs. Again, each person is unique so while one person may be able to progress after 2-3 weeks, I work with many people that stay in that range for a month or two (or longer!). We all have unique traits and needs so don’t try to be like your neighbor or the random person on the sidewalk that tries to race you when they run next to you. You are not them and they are not you, so don’t get caught up in a routine that’s not based on your needs and current fitness level.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “So you want to be a Runner” in which we will complete the four basic components so that you are armed and ready to join the running community. Feel free to ask me questions or suggest topics for future blogs on our Facebook page or tweet me at @ivylee_DPT and let’s start 2014 off on the right (and left) foot!
“Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.” ~Charles Schulz