By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
Lose weight, improve your health, prevent illness, boost confidence, relieve stress and decrease depression. The benefits of running can't be beat, but making the leap from walking to running can be intimidating. Where do you begin? How do you know if you’re “doing it right”? How do you handle obstacles in your training? There are a lot of questions that could prevent you from starting a running program altogether. Here are a few tips to help you transition to running this fall.
The best approach is to take your time starting with a run/walk program and to increase your mileage slowly. Some level of muscle soreness is to be expected when you start a new activity, but shin splints, joint pain and other minor injuries are usually the result of doing too much too soon. Stick to increasing your time spent running by no more than 10 percent per week. Also, always begin your workout with a warm-up consisting of some conditioning exercises and a 5-minute walk, picking up to a jog as you reach the end of your warm-up.
If you’re worried about getting your form down perfectly, recent research has good news for you. It seems that over time, new runners develop their most efficient gait naturally. Some general rules are to run with good posture, keeping your head up and looking straight ahead – not down at your feet. It may also be beneficial to focus on keeping your shoulders relaxed and down rather than using muscle strength and energy to keep them up, because that strength and energy will serve you better in your hips and legs. You may also notice a cramp or pain in the top of your shoulder as tension builds up over time.
In addition to always completing a warm-up, it’s also very important to stretch after each run. Yoga poses such as the butterfly, pyramid and pigeon are all great post-workout stretches that will help you recover faster.
Foam rolling (also called self myofascial release) is another great way to promote muscle recovery post- workout, and it can even improve your performance over time.
Running isn’t just about your legs. Your hips and glutes are integral areas used while out on a run. Try some strength training exercises that focus on your hips and glutes to make your legs stronger and alleviate or prevent knee pain over time. Some moves to try are body weight squats, lunges and wall sits.
If you’re looking for a few other tips, check out some of the links below.
Weigh In: Have you recently started running? Are you using a program or trusting your instincts?