Hail my running brothers and sisters! It seems like everyone to whom I've talked has decided to take up running! I'll take some small credit for this trend as I've become a disciple of pounding your body into goo to make a better you (Hey that rhymes!). Even my lovely wife has decided to run a 5k in the near future. As such, I've been fielding questions from newcomers asking for tips to get started. Well hold on to your hats kids, because here we go.
1. Run hard and have fun. Now running 'hard' will be relative to whoever you are. If you've never laced up a pair of running shoes, then a 15 minute mile may be hard. For beginners, I suggest doing a run/walk program of running 2 mins and then walking for 2-3 minutes for 20-30 minutes every other day and increasing the time you run between walks each week. This builds your overall strength and helps your body adapt to the stresses of exercise. If you can do more, good for you; go out and do more. But as I tell my cross-country kids, if you run so hard that you're not having fun, you're running too hard and you need to slow down. A couple of caveats to this is that 1) if you're a beginner, running isn't all that fun at first and 2) if you are racing, winning is fun.
2. Get the right shoes. I suggest going to a running store and having one of their employees properly fit you for the shoe you need. Just like there are different body types, there are different running shoes to accommodate those body types. Not everyone needs a ton of cushioning and stability. You can probably get a better deal on shoes at the big box stores, but they probably won't know which shoe will be right for you. So buyer beware!
3. Run like a bird, not like a chicken. Keep your steps small and light like a bird. I also try to think "Nose over my toes." Light, short, quick steps should keep you from over-striding and risking possible injury. Another visual cue is if you see your toes extend past your knees as you step out, you're over-striding. Keep your back straight and tall, but a slight forward lean from isn't too bad. I don't want to see your arms swinging wild like a chicken running from the farmer. Instead keep your arms bent at about 90 degrees and tucked close to your sides. They should swing forward and back slightly, but your hands shouldn't cross the center-line of your chest. Women with big chests sometimes prefer to keep their hands up to help keep the girls in line. I don't have a problem with that either.
4. Rest like you mean it. When I say only run every other day, I'm not kidding. Unless you've been training for months and your body can tolerate the work, then you don't really need to run everyday. Resting helps your muscles recover enough so that you can go out and throw some more miles on your body the next day. If you feel guilty about completely laying out, then go to the gym and throw up some iron or do some push-ups and sit-ups, but just don't overdo it.
5. Eat like poor person. I didn't come up with this line. I think it may have been Coach Joe Vigil. In any case, this is a tough one, even for me. My secret? Keep your proteins/meats lean, eat lots of veggies and fruit, and cut down on enriched flours and sugars, and you should be good. But what's the use in all this running if you can't on occasion chow down on a box of Oreo's, you say? Go ahead. You have to indulge every once in awhile or you'll make yourself crazy. Just keep it reasonable. Maybe a cookie or two, every other night until you can ween yourself off of the sugar crutch. If that doesn't work for you, by all means go ahead and chow down. I'll see you at the finish line...fatty. Just kiding. Maybe.
6. Rubbing is racing. Actually it isn't, but it got your attention, didn't it? Entering a race can be a great incentive to maintain your training. Even if you're not out to take first place, a race can help set goals for you so that you don't embarrass yourself out there. There's no shame in being last, after all Last is a place (my son told me that one!) and they cheer just as loud. I just ask that if you go out there, finish strong and finish proud of what you've accomplished. And if that isn't good enough, remember you've probably finished more races than the guy sitting in front of the TV with the shameful crumbs of Oreo's covering his belly.
All right, this seems like a good time to wrapping things up. And so you're probably thinking that we've reached the part of the blog where I say to keep your goals realistic. Sorry, this ain't that part, and frankly, I have no idea what reasonable is (you heard me, Ziegler! I'm still waiting for you to trot your ass out here! Ha!). Personally I may never be happy until I've won the Boston Marathon. Will that ever happen? Puh-lease! But it doesn't stop me from trying. I just understand that this won't happen over-night. Likewise, good things will happen to you if you give yourself a chance to realize your goals and persevere through the tough times. There are always new ways running can reward you. 1 more mile. 10 seconds faster. 5 more pounds off the spare tire. You get the picture. Run hard, have fun!