Running is a great form of exercise; it improves heart health, is an effective way to create a caloric deficit for weight loss, and can help relieve stress. For some starting a running program can be a daunting task, especially for those whose experience with running is of the high school athletics variety. So the topic request for this blog was “I think I want to start running…how do I start?”
Be Patient & Set Achievable Goals
Having heard at one point or another from most of my clients how much running hurts or the belief that they can’t run “fast,” I feel that running as a sport has been misrepresented. One shouldn’t expect to start out and just be awesome. If you played intramural basketball would you expect yourself to play on an NBA level? No, because that would be ridiculous. For those who are just starting out, try to be patient with yourself. Build mileage slowly and avoid comparing yourself to other runners. I try to avoid time goals at all when I am venturing into new distances, and I feel that completion should be the only real goal. There is no minimum speed at which we kick you out of the running club, so if you are in pain do yourself a favor and slow down. If you aren’t enjoying your runs, you are unlikely to stick with them. Remember that you want consistent and reasonable progress; quick jumps in distance or pace are unlikely to net you anything except injury.
How to build mileage
Again, distance should be built slowly…very very slowly. If it’s been several years since you have run, I would start off with 3 runs a week for about 20 minutes at a time. It is safe to build weekly mileage by about 10% each week. This means that if you do a total of 60 minutes of running in a week, you should only add about 5-6 minutes to the total time running for the next week. Practically this means that one of your 20 minute runs can become a 25 minute run. The next week build another of your runs up a reasonable amount and continue in this way until you feel satisfied with the distances you are accomplishing. Bear in mind that this tactic is applicable for beginning runners, but is not useful for 10k distances or longer.
How to build endurance
Of course not everyone who is beginning a running program will be able to run for 20 minutes (or even necessarily 10 minutes) at a time. This is completely fine! There are three methods that one can use to build endurance. Time intervals are my go-to method. The theory here is to alternate intervals of walking with time running, and to slowly increase the percentage of a given workout to 100% running. I would recommend starting with 2/1 intervals with the 2 minutes being the run portion and the 1 minute the walk. If you finish the run feeling tired but not exhausted then this is the right interval for you. Based on how you feel, you can regress or progress these intervals by reducing or adding time running. After a few weeks try increasing the run portion and see how it goes.
If instead of time running, you are using distances (ie. three 1 mile runs a week) then you can split the run into distances for walking/running in a similar fashion to the time intervals. The only problem with this is that the time for a given distance for the run portion will be significantly shorter than the walking portion, and so these distances must be adjusted accordingly to keep the run somewhat challenging. An example of this would be to do .20 miles running and .05 or .1 miles walking. One would progress or regress the difficulty here in the same way as the timed intervals, by adding to the run portion or reducing the time walking.
The third method, which is my favorite, is Heart Rate Training. While I do love heart rate training, I rarely use it with clients because of the expense. A good quality heart rate monitor can run you about 50-100 dollars. The method here is very intuitive. One uses their max heart rate and resting heart rate to determine zones that they want to work in. If during your run your heart rate drops below the lower range for endurance training then you want to speed up. If your heart rate exceeds the upper limit for zone you are working in, then you want to slow down or walk. You are basically using your body’s exertion to determine when you should rest in order to keep the challenge consistent and reasonable.
Remember that fitness is a journey, so enjoy the experience! If you are in pain, slow down or walk. Keep your goals achievable and progress them accordingly so that you are always working towards something. Build your distance slowly per week and increase your time running by using intervals. I will be back soon with discussions on gear, form, pace, heart rate training and nutrition.