Running for Beginners

Girls on the Run

According to research done by Running USA, about 17.1 million people participated in running events in 2015, about 57% of those female and 43% male. With the start of the new year, many of us look for new workout ideas, to start something different or to restart something old. For many, this includes a running or walking program. Sometimes it’s the “I want to run a marathon before I turn (insert age)” or a search to experience that runner’s high. Regardless the reason, finding the right program with appropriate progress and balance can be difficult.

Before you start out to become a runner, do a little self-analysis. When did you last run or walk with any regularity? Do you have any ankle, knee or hip issues that might resurface? What other workouts do you do throughout the week or month? The process of building a foundation focusing on form and safely adding miles often gets overlooked with running and walking programs and people start to aggressive.

If you’re just beginning (or restarting) your journey, start slow and give yourself time to build up both duration and miles. Allow a few weeks to get your body accustomed to the movements of running. Set aside three days each week and go out for 20-30 minutes with a combination of running and walking in an interval format. Don’t worry about distance for now.

While you’re building your foundation, pay attention to specifics with your form. Position your body in a slight forward lean from the ankles, not a bend at the hips. Try to keep from bouncing up and down to minimize the stress on your lower body. Hold your head and chest up and swing your arms forward and backwards letting your fingertips lightly brush your ribs. Be careful to not cross your arms in front of your body. Finally, pay attention to your breathing and be sure to not hold your breath and keep a steady rhythm.

Girls on the RunOnce you get through several weeks of consistent training or if you started out with a little bit of a foundation, start planning for your event or mapping out your goal for miles. Use an app such as Map My Run on your phone or a device like the FitBit to check in on your miles. On your next outing, track the miles on your normal route to determine your baseline. From there, maintain a three day a week program and build by adding between 0.5 – 1 mile per week on at least one of your runs. If it feels difficult at any mileage level, stay there until you feel comfortable moving on.

It takes time to create that foundation so don’t rush the process. If you want to run an event over 10 miles, give yourself several months to slowly build your routine. If something starts to hurt, pay attention and back off if needed. In addition to running, be sure to add a day or two of cross training, especially strength exercises to balance out your running. Take time to enjoy the process, stop and smell the roses and vary your routine to see places and experiences only your feet can take you.

[Editor’s Note: Always consult your doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.]

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.