Tips for New Runners

Odds and ends from my running experience ofAdvice-For-New-Runners (1) 8000kms and 13 years (I would have reached the North Pole or London had I run this distance in a straight line! 🙂

GEAR:

1.     Clothes: In India, as we usually run in tropical weather, we require Dri-fit tops and bottoms. Most brands are comparable. Only when you try a few, will you know, what suits you the best. For tops, half sleeves or sleeveless vests work. A tank top allows free range of movement and reduces chafing in the underarm area. Short sleeves work well for running shorter distances and walking, or in cooler climate. For bottoms most runners prefer shorts or tights which are specifically designed for running. They come with pocket for keys and gels, as well as built-in underwear. They are well aerated and comfortable. Cotton t-shirts for and long runs are a no-no. They cause severe chafing and result in bleeding.

Do invest in good running attire. Once you have some sitting in your wardrobe it will ensure your regularity, especially when you think of the small fortune that you have spent on it. More importantly you will look good and feel good. And most importantly, you will be comfortable.

Application of Vaseline: For longer runs do remember to lubricate all the areas of the body which are subjected to maximum friction: the inner thighs, chest area, under the sports bra for women, and on the nipples for men, under the arms and between the toes. There are some anti-chafing gels and creams available too. Vaseline has worked well for me.

2.     Shoes: This is a big worry for most of us. How I wish our shoes could make us better runners! But yes, runners research shoes on the internet, talk to other runners and many theories affect their decision on which is the right shoe for them. Your shoe will depend on many factors: your body type, your pronation, the surface you run on. Try in several and see which one feels the best. Run a bit in the store too. Lighter runners can get away with lighter, minimal shoes. Others may need the more cushioned models. Brand loyalty is very high with shoes. Runners swear by their shoes once they are comfortable in them.

When buying a pair of shoes do ensure you have half an inch of space in the front of your toes (and your toes can wiggle feely), as your feet will expand while running. Your toes also need to have enough room for motion, so ensure that you can wiggle them comfortably in the front of the shoe. This usually means that you need to buy shoes which are half-a-size bigger than your normal size.

For new runners, and those doing the half marathon, averaging 30-odd km per week, their one pair of shoes should last them a year. The average life of a shoe is 800-900km. Depending on your weekly mileage (for full marathoners), we need 2-3 pairs so that we can alternate our shoes for each run. Because of the heavy mileage our shoes will last one year.

The thing about these shoes is that they never look worn out. They only get beaten down from the midsole, which provides cushioning and stability. They feel “dead” when you run in them. Continued use will result in small niggles, shin splints or muscle fatigue.

One disclaimer here: If you are happy with your shoes, my suggestion would be to stick with the same model.  Why change something which is working for you?

Oh, the Laces: Unless you want the few minutes of illicit rest in the middle of a workout (I used to relish those moments) when the laces come off, do learn the correct way to tie them. There is a science to this little act – you need to double knot them. That means make another bow with the two ends of the bow (there are YouTube videos online showing you how) and they will NEVER open.

Do cut your toe nails to prevent them from banging against your shoes. A lot of runners get black toe nails from not doing this.

3.     Socks: Socks, like shoes have a life too. So do use new socks every season, and maybe keep the old ones for casual use (even if your old socks look brand new!) Socks can be ultra-light or cushioned, made of Dri-fit breathable material. I use the thin ones for speed work and keep the cushioned ones for longer runs.  There are also double-layered socks which prevent blisters. However for a half marathon or any shorter runs, most good quality cotton socks would work. There are some runners run in compression socks. These they say, keep the calves warm. Do feel free to try them out and see if it works for you.

4.     Music: A lot of long distance runners prefer to run without music, including me. When I began, however, my permanent partner was my iPod shuffle. It helped me take my mind off running, and made it seem easier. With time, as I became a better runner I was able to give it up. So if you are a beginner, and feel the need for music, then I would say run with it. As the running feels easier you can wean yourself off it. An iPod shuffle works the best by virtue of its size.

5.     Timing gadget: For example, a Garmin/TomTom watch or any device which measures your speed and distance. To run for fun is a great way to begin running. Once you are fitter, get a device with a simple stop watch if you are really keen to keep a log. Let your body dictate your pace. A gadget is not a necessity at all! I bought a Garmin only when I registered for my first full marathon. Even after that, its primary use was to record the distance and time of our Sunday long runs.

If you have a timing goal, a device would be help to achieve it.

TRAINING:

1.     Regularity: This is the most important part of learning anything new. We all know that practice makes perfect. Similarly, consistency makes you a better runner. Running takes time. It takes months of training to prepare for races and to build endurance. Begin slow and easy. Small steps at a time. Depending on your fitness level you can begin with 2-3 days of running for 30-40 minutes each. And then slowly up the time and distance that you run for. Dedication is the key. NO SHORTCUTS! If you are unable to run on the running day, do run a day before or after, or even a bit in the evening. Try not to skip a workout.  But never run when you are too tired.

Also, the days you are stressed and don’t feel like running, are the days you need it the most. So lace up and head out. You will come back happy.

2.     Pacing: The speed at which you run is very important. As distance runners, we run at an “easy” pace. This means that during long runs you should be able to make conversation fairly comfortably without feeling breathless. Once you find your pace, you will be able to sustain it over any distance. Speed work of course, is much faster.

3.     Strength Training: If you can include some amount of strength and core workouts post your run, it will benefit your running tremendously. Plank, back strengthening, squats, lunges, crunches, hip and thigh exercises work well. This is not essential. Please do not let it overwhelm you. Do it only to take your running to the next level.

4.     Post-run Stretching: This is essential to prevent injuries resulting from tight muscles. It doesn’t take time to do and can be done almost anywhere. Of course, we do look strange when we stretch on the side of a busy road. But then runners are crazy!

Foam rolling is a great way to release the knots (like an expensive massage). So it may be worth investing in one once your running distance increases.

5.     Rest Days: These are as important as training days. Only if you give your body time to recover will you be able to do the next workout well. Cross training (light swimming/cycling/yoga) can be done on those days. But one day of complete rest is a must for total recovery. Depending on your training plan it could be before of after the day of your long run.

Sleep is an essential part of recovery. A minimum of 6-7 hours is recommended. Do listen to your body and rest well.

6.     Running Buddy: If you can run with a friend it will ensure regularity. On days when you are lazy to get out of bed, and you know that your friend is waiting for you, you will have no choice but to hop out and move it. Also, as we run, we spend a lot of quality time together, which can build great friendships. Running with a group is a great way to find motivation as you see others running more or less than yourself.

7.     MOST IMPORTANT: Smile at everyone. Walkers. Runners. People who are sitting. We run because it makes us happy. Let us spread the joy.

When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.

 That’s what this storm’s all about.

                                                                Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami.

 

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