Improve Your Running

At the very beginning, this was a tough question for me to answer. I had tried to get into running on several occasions previously. What I found was that I lost my motivation to get out there after a few runs or a week. So the best advice I can give you on this question is to start smaller and build up. Set a schedule that you know you can meet. If that means getting out 3 times a week then go for it, if you have the time and can plan more all the better. You will find that if you have a plan ahead of time and meet that plan, you will build confidence and will be more likely to keep at it.

For me, I found that the minimum I could do and still see the small gains I was hoping for was to run 3 times a week. Less than that and I was not consistently seeing improvements. Not seeing any improvement led to disappointment, and ultimately giving up on the process. Each time I finished a planned workout no matter how far or how slow, it built my confidence and helped me to get out the door on my next run.

If you are just beginning this question is natural. However I would recommend that for the first few weeks, at least, you change the question around. Rather than worrying about how far you should run, focus instead on how long you should run. For me, I was able to build confidence knowing that getting out there for 20 minutes was something I could do 3 times a week. In my previous attempts, I would say I am going to run 3 miles, and I would struggle to get the mileage. Or the goal would end up taking far longer than I had planned. In both cases, the result is you will not feel as though you are improving your running, just the opposite I was developing a negative thought.

Start with a plan that has you focused on a time frame rather than a specific distance. With each run you will acclimate your body to the demands of running. As your body starts to adapt to the demands you place on it, you will see improvements. Maybe your first day out you can cover 1.25 miles in 20 minutes. If you stick to your plan, you will start to see gains and maybe after a week, you can cover 1.35 miles in the same time frame. Regardless of how big or how little the improvement is… CELEBRATE it. That is a success and you worked hard to earn that success.

The biggest recommendation I can give as newbie runner is to finish the workouts you start. If you find that the duration you have set for yourself is too much, shorten the workout rather than continually stopping early. It is a small change, but you will find that you build more confidence in meeting a goal or plan, than stopping short or making it up as you go.

I will be very honest with you while I learned the answer to this question for myself early on; it took me nearly 2 months to fully embrace.

It doesn’t matter!

Almost every run will seem like hard run to a newbie.

Most of us will not be able to run very far without huffing and puffing or feeling their legs ache. This is completely natural and expected. Your body is simply not accustomed to the motions and demands of running. This may occur after ΒΌ of a mile or after 10 steps. Just remind yourself, that this is only a starting point.

In my first week, I focused on jogging short distances (60 seconds) at as slow a pace as I could without actually walking. Then I walked for 120 seconds, and then I repeated the process. The actual times you choose will depend largely on how fit or conditioned you are when you begin your own journey. I know runners who started at as low as 15 strides of running and then walking. They key is to keep moving and make sure the walking portions are being done at a fairly brisk pace.

Here’s a secret… your heart doesn’t know if your running or walking. When you work harder than normal it is going to beat faster and pump more blood through your system and thereby improve your endurance. You just need to be active. All the while it is becoming more efficient and better at its job and therefore, you can ask more and more from it.

A good rule of thumb to improve your running is to use the 80/20 rule. 80% of your running should be at LOW intensity. Only 20% of all your running in a week should be at a moderate or high intensity. Don’t believe me, check out some of the elite runners schedules. They follow the 80/20 rule.

Items of Running Gear

Headphone

Headphones are a popular accessory for runners and make it possible to continue to listen to favorite tunes while on-the-move. For extra safety and comfort, there are special wireless headphones that make it possible to hear environmental noises or hazards, such as traffic, while out on a morning run. But, for those that plan to exercise on a treadmill or trail run, there is the option to go with the sealed headphones that block out distractions.

Fitness tracker

For those runners that like wearable tech, the fitness tracker or heart rate monitor is a great solution to monitor the running and training. Most come with an easy to read display that can include features like calories burned, pace, distance, elevation and heart rate. In order for features like pace and elevation to give accurate readings, it is necessary for the device to include GPS technology. Other features include adjustable straps to easily fit any wearer and the ability to withstand the effects of rain and sweat.

Waist bag

A centrally placed waist bag gives complete comfort to run with keys, phone, ID or other essentials. Most are large enough to easily accept the latest smart phones or other electrical gadgets you may wish to travel with. The preferred type of waist bag is made with a water-resistant material and includes an adjustable strap for the safe and convenient fit.

Socks

To avoid many of the common foot problems from running long distances it benefits to wear the right socks. Running in the exercise specific socks makes it possible to avoid issues related to toenail damage and blisters. By combining the running socks with a well-fitting pair of shoes the feet are kept healthy. Many of these socks are made in a merino wool and nylon material with no seams which can start to irritate the feet after a long run.

Spiritual Side of Running

When I began running I just had one goal. I wanted to complete a marathon. More than anything else, I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Since I wasn’t really athletic in any other capacity, I told myself, “I can put one foot in front of the other. I”m strong mentally and have plenty of determination. This will be good for me.” So that was it. I began my training to knock this thing off my bucket list. I had no idea that this running thing would turn into much more than just crossing the finish line in a marathon.

The first few weeks were fairly normal. I did my daily runs and tried to get enough rest to have the energy to run my next one. Then, I began my long runs on Saturdays. Although I labelled them “long runs” in my training log, they were more like “short runs”, 2-4 miles at first. Every week I added a mile to my long runs. I did all of my training at an old Civil War battlefield. Most Saturdays I was the only one there. So, I took my iPod for entertainment. I ran every weekend beginning early in the mornings. After about 2 months I hit one of my first big milestones, double digit mileage!

At that point I was pretty excited about all that I had accomplished so far, but it was getting challenging. Physically, the running was beginning to get to me, so I knew I had to rely on my mental strength to get me through the rest of it. After all, I wasn’t even halfway to my goal yet! What had I gotten myself into? But I didn’t come this far to quit. So I kept running, and then something almost magical happened.

The physical pain disappeared. The heaviness of my legs lightened. My energy went back to the fresh level it was before I even began my run. It was unbelievable. It was truly what a lot of people call a second wind. Was it a fluke? Absolutely not. Things changed for me that day.

I realized that I could generate reserves of energy that most novice runners never tap into just because they’ve never had to. I was absorbing energy from every piece of nature around me. I began running without my iPod. I didn’t need music anymore. It seemed that I was creating my own rhythms in my footsteps and my heartbeat. Once I wrapped my mind around the fact that I could just run and run and run as long as I kept my focus I knew that running could be a powerful form of meditation. Running became my way of connecting with myself and the world around me in a way that unified my spirit and gave me the belief that much more is possible than we usually believe. We just have to tap into our higher powers.

Going From Walking To Running

There are a couple of things that you want to do before you start running. First of all, you should have a physical to make sure that you are in shape. Also, you want to invest in a good pair of running shoes. Go to a running store and have the salesperson fit you for the proper shoe for your foot type and the correct size. You will also need a running watch so that you can time your walk/run periods. There is no need to buy an expensive watch – any with a timer or chronograph will be fine.

You may be in great shape from your walking, but you need to get used to running gradually. This will help you to start a running program safely and without getting injured. To start this run/walk program, plan on being out there for 30 minutes. And, 3-4 times/week is great.

The week that you want to start running, here is what you want to do. Start out walking for 5 minutes. Then you want to run for 3 minutes. Don’t run too fast – go at a nice pace that you can sustain for 3 minutes. Then, walk for 5 minutes and then run for 3 minutes. Continue doing this run/walk for your 30 minute period.

Then the next week, you want to increase your running time. Start by walking for 3 minutes and then running for 5. Keep alternating 3 minutes walking and 5 minutes running until you complete your 30 minutes workout.

The next week, you increase your running time even more. You want to walk for 1 minute and then run for 4 minutes. Alternate your walking 1 minute and running 4 minutes until 30 minutes are up.

The next week, you should be able to run for the entire 30 minutes. Remember it doesn’t matter how fast you go – that will come later. The plan is to be able to run for 30 minutes.

If you need to take longer to build up, do so. If you need to repeat a week, that’s absolutely fine. You want to build up at a pace that is comfortable to you. This is a guideline – you should listen to your body.

Now that you can run for 30 minutes, you may be ready to sign up for a 5K road race. This is great motivation to keep up your running program – and it will give you a great sense of accomplishment when you get it completed.

Prevent Running Injuries

One of the biggest reasons for running injuries is the “terrible too’s”. So many runners are so excited when they take on something new or have a new goal. This can apply to beginning runners who are just getting started or runners who have been running awhile and decide to take on a new challenge – such as training for a marathon or decided to get faster with their 10K time.

When a runner does too much too soon – injuries can occur. The general rule of thumb is to never add 10% to your weekly mileage from one week to the next. Also, don’t try to add mileage and increase speed at the same time. Too much intensity and too much mileage at the same time can really hurt you.

Another major cause of injury can be your running shoes. Running in shoes that are not made for your foot type can cause injury after a while. Make sure that you are going to a specialized running store and get fitted properly for your foot type. This will help you to run more comfortably, in addition to warding off injury.

Also, make sure that you are not putting too many miles on your running shoes. Depending on your size and running habits – shoes need to be replaced every 300-500 miles. After that – the supportive and cushioning material in your shoes will break down and your feet are not getting the protection that you need when you run. This can definitely lead to injury.

Running on concrete is a big culprit of running injuries. Avoid sidewalks if possible. Concrete is 10 times harder than asphalt and will definitely cause a shock for your legs. I run beside sidewalks instead of on them.

Make sure that you are stretching and working all your muscles. If you are having glitches in your knees – you may find yourself doing all the knee exercises that you can – but ignoring the other stretches that you do after your run. Or if you are nursing a sore ankle – you may be causing extra stress on part of your other leg. Make sure that you are strengthening all parts of your legs to keep balance.

How To Set Running Goals

SMART Goals

A goal must be SMART where

S = specific

M = measurable

A = achievable

R = relevant

T = time restrictive

Specific means that the goal has to be clearly defined. For example, running to get fit is too vague.

How will you know that a goal has been achieved unless it is capable of being measured?

Whilst it is good to aim high, a goal must be achievable. If it highly unlikely that you could ever achieve a particular goal then you’ll very quickly become disheartened, lose motivation and just give up. And, of course you don’t want to risk injury by pushing yourself too far too soon. Yes, a goal should challenge you but it has to be achievable if you put in the effort.

A goal has to be relevant to the direction you want your life to take and it has to be consistent with any goals set for other areas of your life. One goal should not be in conflict with another.

A goal must have a date by which time it should be completed. Having a deadline gives you impetus to take action.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “I will, on behalf of Cancer Research, complete a 5k race averaging 9 min/mile pace by (date)”

Put It In Writing

A goal must be written down. There lots of research to show that people who have written goals achieve far more than those who don’t.

A goal should be framed in positive terms. For example, saying “I will” rather than “I would like” is much more empowering.

Once you written down your goal statement, add your signature and date.

I highly recommend that you write your goal on a number of business card size pieces of card. Place one in your wallet, another on the fridge door and others anywhere else you think appropriate. Some people like to have one on the bathroom mirror so that when they get up in the morning they are reminded of their goal.

Create A Plan

Setting a goal is one thing, but you will only succeed if you figure out what has to be done to allow you achieve that goal.

There’s a saying which I think is very apt “failing to plan means you are planning to fail”.

You need to create a detailed plan of the steps you need to take to achieve the goal. What actions do you need to take and what must you achieve each week, each month?

It’s helpful to break up a goal into mini goals. Aim to achieve a mini-goal every 2 to 4 weeks.

There are many training plans for runners available online which can help you create your own written personalised plan.

And, of course, you must keep a diary to track your activity and progress. Using a sports watch, where you upload your running data to your computer, is one of the best ways to chart and analyse your progress.

Naturally, when one goal is achieved, it’s time to set another one.

Benefits Of Morning Running

  • Enjoy the Peacefulness Of the Morning.

The early morning to me, is the most peaceful time of the day. The paths are moist with dew, it’s calm and quiet, a light blanket of fog is lifting off the water, the birds are singing a soft chorus in the background. Being out there to witness the sun rising above the horizon is truly worth getting up early for all by itself.

  • Increased Metabolism Throughout the Day.

Running in the morning will jumpstart your metabolism early in the day and keep it higher for hours afterward. This means that you’ll be burning a greater amount of calories, not only during your run, but throughout the day as well.

  • Enhanced Mood Throughout the Day.

According to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, running will boost your spirits and make you feel more positive. Runners actually have attested to the alleged “runner’s high,” which is the feeling people get after they’ve finished a good job or run. Endurance activity is suspected to lead to an increase in the brain chemicals that signal pleasure.

  • Enhanced Fat Burning.

Several proponents of working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach argue that it stimulates increased fat burning. This is due to the fact that your glycogen stores are low forcing your body to rely heavily on fat storage to fuel your workout, as opposed to burning carbohydrate for its energy.

  • Increased Alertness Throughout the Day.

Running can increase your mental clarity for four to 10 hours post-exercise. It will raise heart rate and increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, including the brain. A 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found aerobic exercise, like running, improves brain function and cognition in healthy aging adults. The study found that it led to an increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus which is the primary brain region affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Increased Productivity Throughout the Day.

You will be more awake and ready to tackle your day by giving yourself that extra energy boost. I personally feel more energized throughout the day when I run in the morning, which leads to more creativity and productivity in my other daily activities.

  • A Great Time for Thinking and Planning Your Day.

The peacefulness described above can be the perfect setting for starting out your day. It’s the perfect time to sort out and clarify your thoughts and to plan for the activities and events you have later on. For many people, this peaceful time every morning becomes something they look forward to. Time for themselves to think, take care of their body and mind, and just relax before starting the day.

Running With Asthma

The first thing that you want to do is to see your doctor before you begin a running program. He will give you a physical to check your condition. Then, he will give you a treatment plan to keep your asthma under control when running. And, make sure that your asthma is under control before you even start running.

Watch to see what the weather is before you go running. There are some things to look for to make sure that you do not trigger an attack. When the pollen counts are high, you either want to run indoors or make sure that you are running a shorter run if you do run outside. Running after the rain is also good as the pollen counts are low after a rain. Also, windy days may also bother your asthma.

Cold weather running can also bother those with asthma. The colder temperatures can bother your lungs as you breathe and trigger an attack. On those frigid, winter days you should run indoors.
See what time of day works best for your running. Some runners with asthma breathe better at different parts of the day. Know what these times are for you and try to plan your runs then.

Make sure that you warm up before your run and that you cool down after your run. Start slowly with a walk before you start running. Also, the same when you finish your run. Just going straight out the door and running fast may trigger an attack – the same thing with finishing abruptly.

Always carry your inhaler with you on your runs. You should never go out without it. You can slide it in your pocket. If your shorts do not have a pocket, you need to wear something like a belt to carry it in – it’s crucial that you have it in case you have any problems during your run. Be aware of how you feel during your runs. If you start to cough or have any problems breathing – slow down and use your inhaler.

Having asthma doesn’t mean that you give up a running program. There are many runners out there running marathons and half-marathons that have asthma. Even Olympic athletes have won gold medals that are asthmatic. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and you can stay out there safely on the roads, also.

Ways To Fit Running Into Busy Schedule

  • If you have kids and take them to ball practice – use their practice time as your run time. You can run around the practice field or the surrounding area while your kids are busy with their practice.
  • Get a running partner. If you have a friend that you run with – chances are that you will be more apt to not let them down by skipping the run.
  • Make an appointment with yourself. This may sound crazy to you – but if you put your run time in your daily calendar when you are making your weekly schedule – you’ll schedule everything else around that.
  • Be accountable to someone. Tell or better yet bet someone that you are going to stick with your running program. This will make you a little more likely to get it done.
  • Keep a running bag in your car. By keeping your clothes with you all the time – whenever you have a half hour or so of down time – you can get your run in. No excuse that you don’t have your clothes or shoes with you.
  • Run home from work. This is a great way to get rid of the stress of the day before you get to your family. Also, a way to beat the stress of sitting in rush hour traffic! If you live too far away, run before you start to drive home. You still get your de-stress time in and let the traffic settle down.
  • Take your kids with you. If you the person taking care of the kids – you can do this a several different ways. You can get a running stroller. If you don’t want the upper body workout – you can run at a gym. Most gyms have child care and your can get your workout in while your kids are having a fun time playing with others.
  • Get a dog. OK, this may be a little drastic. Maybe you already have a dog that would love to get some extra exercise. You know that you just can’t say know to those “puppy dog eyes”!