June 4 is National Running Day, a day to celebrate the sport of running. As a coach and physiotherapist, I work with runners on a regular basis. Contrary to popular belief, running injuries don't occur because of mal-alignments or muscle imbalances. They are typically a function of some common training mistakes. Running injuries will, however, be counter to the full enjoyment and appreciation of running, the sport.
If you are already a runner, today is a great day to spread the word and to get out and enjoy the sport. If you are thinking about starting a running program, then there is no better time than the present! As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In order to make that first step just that much safer and more enjoyable, I present to you seven tips for new runners.
1. Set a SMART goal. Having a goal will give you a guide, even if it seems modest at first. Goals should be SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound. I strongly urge people to not set a goal of something like a marathon in the early stages of your running adventure. Get some success under your belt, be it via consistency, increasing your running pace, or even a few 5Ks for starters. Small incremental successes will breed the internal motivation to go longer and/or faster.
2. Develop a training plan. It's not just for experienced runners! Runners of all paces, skill and experience levels will benefit from having a training plan. Running injuries start with training, so establish a training plan early to provide a methodical progression to your running. I have presented many thoughts on this in "RunSmart".
3. Start with walking and running. If you are new to running, I think there is a value to starting with a walk/run program. I advocate alternating 1:00 walk with 1:00 run for no more than 20 to 30 minutes to start. Run at a pace that allows you to recover within the minute of walking. It will probably be faster than you think!
4. Focus on the quality of training, not the quantity. You don't get a badge of honor based on the number of miles you run in any given week. You are better having some shorter, good quality runs that feel good than to have a bunch of longer, slower runs that feel like you are slogging through mud just to complete the task.
5. Add interval training. Short, faster-paced efforts - even if only 10 seconds long - increase your overall capacity and help to develop your running mechanics. Building your capacity in this way helps to improve your capacity to run longer as well.
6. Get a comfortable pair of running shoes. Avoid the fads and the flashy colors. Every manufacturer builds their shoes on a slightly different shaped "last". Some will fit you better than others. Find a shoe that fits well, first and foremost.
7. Enjoy it and have fun. Running should be fun. It shouldn't be the activity that you dread, slowly slogging through the miles because you feel like you need to do so. Running can be playful. Add some impromptu sprints to the next street light, or try a hill or two for a new challenge. Keep it fun!
These seven tips will give you a great start to a lifelong running adventure. Experienced runners will also benefit from many of the same tips.
Enjoy National Running Day – and Run Smart!
Photo credits: abesselink