Beginning A Basic Running Program

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

Most of my posts relate to preparing for the marathon.  However I realize that many followers of this blog are more interested in beginning and sustaining a running program than completing a marathon.  Having a long-term goal of completing a marathon should be preceeded by a strategic plan to establish an effective running program.  Much like the first mile of a training run or a marathon, simply getting started can be the biggest challenge.

Many aspiring runners don’t know where to begin and feel overwhelmed by the amount of available information and resources.  Adopting an approach that’s steeped in simplicity provides the greatest opportunity for success.  Consistency and moderation are two key components to every running program.

The adage, ‘walk before you run’ is the perfect approach to embarking on a running program.  I recommend visiting a reputable running store to have your foot analyzed so you’re placed in the proper running shoe for your needs.  Despite all the colors and styles of most running shoes offered today, there are only a few categories of shoes for every foot type (i.e., cushioned, stability, neutral and minimalist).  Wearing proper clothing is equally important to being comfortable during your runs.  Running stores can also be helpful in selecting clothing to wick perspiration and protect you from the elements.  Wearing sunglasses and sunscreen and reducing exposure to the sun should be near the top of your priority list.

The perfect venue for starting to run is a local track because you don’t have to worry about traffic or hills and you’ll likely meet like-minded people.  Walk for 4 laps and start running just the straightaways.  Walk through the turns and place your hands about your head, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and prepare to run the next straight away…always having a positive attitude.

Having proper and efficient running form will provide a greater degree of enjoyment to your runs.  Landing with your feet directly beneath your body and more on your mid-foot is the ideal technique.  It may seem counterintuitive but taking smaller steps is far more efficient than taking long strides.  The amount of energy it takes to propel your body forward and what happens upon impact by taking too long of a stride is far too high a price to pay.  The ideal stride rate is 180 steps per minute…this is best calculated by counting the steps on one foot for a minute.  You should be at 90 steps…if you are less than 90 you should reduce the length of your stride and attempt to take more steps.

Beginning runners will experience far greater success by only running for a total of 15-20 minutes (including the walking time through the turns of the track).  Concluding each run by walking 5-10 minutes before doing some mild stretching will allow you to properly cool-down and your heart rate to gradually return to a normal rate.  Chocolate milk is the perfect post-run drink as it provides the ideal ratio of carbohydrates and protein to repair microscopic tears in your muscles and to prepare for your next run.  Eating within 30 minutes of completing a run is one of the best habits you can form.  A whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, a banana or whole wheat pretzels with salt are some of my typical choices after a run to replace carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes.

Muscle soreness can be a constant companion to a new runner in the beginning so cross-training and rest days should be incorporated into your plan.  Bicycling, swimming, yoga and the elliptical trainer are all good choices.  Avoiding hills and faster running will reduce the chances for an injury.  You body will soon acclimate to the rigors of starting a new running program and you’ll be able to gradually increase your running time and distance.  Here are several guidelines to follow to increase success and avoid injuries:

  • Never increase your weekly training time or distance by more than 10%
  • Never increase your longest run in the last 7-10 days by more than 2 miles

Your goal should be to run/walk for 15-20 minutes for 3-4 days per week in the beginning and gradually extend your distance and time.  You will soon begin to feel better and more confident…two important benefits of being a runner.  Running can be the basis for a new beginning in your life…transforming yourself into a more fit, enlightened and appreciative person.

I wish you well in your pursuit of health, wellness and fitness!

  1. Lindsey says:

    Rick, its like you wrote this especially for me…!

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