If you’re someone who has never been into running, it can be scary to try and get started. However, there are many benefits to this form of exercise. Not only physical and mental health benefits, but also cost-effective ones. Running can be done anywhere and costs nothing once you’ve purchased the right shoes.
Amanda Ballard, a group fitness instructor at ProMedica ForeverFit, runs the Couch to 5K program. She used the program herself to begin running nine years ago, and now facilitates team and camaraderie-centered workouts to motivate people to get in shape. Ballard recognizes the health benefits and believes that through proper preparation and understanding the mental block that comes with running, anyone can get into it.
If you’re new to running, here’s how Ballard recommends getting started.
Know the benefits of running.
Running has many benefits. It can improve cardiovascular health and strength, reduce stress and improve your mental health, and tone muscle. Your core muscles are also improved because they work to keep you balanced.
“Running is one of the least expensive forms of exercise,” says Ballard. “A pair of good running shoes is all that is required.”
Beyond that, you can run anywhere – at the gym if you have a membership or outside in neighborhoods or parks.
Prepare for your runs.
In order to best prepare, Ballard recommends hydration. Though hydration and nutrition are important with any sport, it’s especially important with running. Ensuring you are properly hydrated before a run can help prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.
“Drinking a glass of water an hour before a run can help tremendously,” says Ballard.
Aside from a good pair of running shoes, Ballard recommends avoiding baggy pants that may fall down or a hood that could bother you in the wind. Instead, try moisture wicking clothing that has ventilation.
Additionally, dynamic warmups can be very helpful before a run. Ballard recommends a light jog, some knee lifts or downward facing dog to stretch first.
Preparation is especially important if you’re wanting to run the ideal amount Ballard recommends for beginners: two to three times per week. On other days, Ballard recommends doing stretching, strength training or cross training. However, Ballard believes people should listen to their bodies and rest when necessary.
“If your body is telling you that something is sore and you push it further, you may be risking injury,” says Ballard.
Ballard also recommends being cleared by a doctor before starting to run.
Run for time, not for speed.
For beginners, Ballard recommends slowing down a bit and working for a time goal instead of a distance.
Rather than sprinting to meet a goal in a certain amount of time, just see how far you can go at a reasonable pace. Gradually increasing the time will eventually increase the distance, and hopefully lead to a faster pace once the person has more running experience under their belt.
“Many people start out fast and then get frustrated when they cannot run far,” says Ballard. “A slower pace can work wonders. A run/walk interval can be beneficial to many runners as well and help them increase their overall running time.”
Beat those mental blocks.
Though there are some good methods to start running, mental blocks can be a huge problem in keeping up with the exercise. Ballard believes adding a new goal may help with motivation. She also recommends switching up your routine or changing the scenery, as well as adding cross training and not only doing running as your sole form of exercise.