Some of the best things about a new running program are the gains you can make in ability, distance, strength, and power, even as you're just starting out.
Running is a very accessible sport because it requires little startup cost or specialized equipment, and nearly anyone can begin a sensible running program, assuming they start smart.
To make sure you see progress, avoid injury, and reach your goals, it's important to understand how to get the most out of your new running program.
We’re going to break down the four most important aspects of a running routine, and here’s a hint: most of these go beyond the pavement.
Cross Train With Strength Training
To be a successful runner, obviously you need to run.
What many people don't realize is that you also need to put in a fair amount of work outside of the track, the treadmill, or the trail.
Strength training is an incredibly important aspect of any running program for the following reasons:
- Strength training helps build muscles around your joints, thus protecting them from this high-impact sport.
- Running is a powerful activity, and the stronger your muscles are, the better they can handle it.
- Running alone can cause an unevenness between the muscles along the front and back of your body. Strength training helps even everything out and prevent injury.
- Stability is a huge part of running, and a core-strengthening routine will help keep your posture correct. This means fewer aches and pains in your hips and back.
If you are starting a new running program you may be thinking, "I can't believe you want me to do more!"
We definitely do. But don't worry!
Just like with running, the more you focus on your strength routine, the better your body will adapt to it.
Always be careful about overtraining (more on this in a minute). You shouldn't be running every day, nor should you be strength training every day.
Instead, you can combine the two by incorporating moves like push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, etc.
If you need help figuring out a program that's right for you, it's always great to talk to a fitness coach or personal trainer.
They can set you up with a smart routine that will help you see results even faster.
Have The Right Nutrition and Supplementation
Ever tried to run on an empty stomach?
While you might be able to power through the first few minutes, that gets real miserable, real fast.
Proper nutrition is a huge piece of the puzzle, and making sure you get this right can really help improve your performance overall.
If you are running as part of a weight loss program, it's especially important to make sure that you are getting your correct caloric intake.
Obviously, you don't want to overdo it, but you don't want to underdo it either.
When you take up running, you begin to look at food in a different way.
Running is an endurance activity, and in order to keep up with it, you need to fuel your body.
Food is not the enemy when you’re running. It’s an ally!
It's just a matter of finding the right kind of food for you.
Obviously, you can never go wrong with the basics: complex carbohydrates, protein from meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Remember to take your running into account when calculating your calories for the day, and make sure you're eating enough to support your run.
In some cases, nutrition supplements might be very helpful.
Those who struggle to eat enough protein can benefit from protein powder.
Those with especially sore muscles might look into a glutamine supplement.
A good multivitamin is also a great idea.
Improve Cardiovascular Capacity with Interval Training
The first time you go for a run, you're probably going to struggle to maintain speed for longer than a few minutes (or even for one minute for true beginners).
This is totally normal!
This is your body saying, "This is where I am right now." You should listen.
The best way to improve your ability to run longer and further is by improving your cardiovascular capacity.
You have to bring your heart and lungs up to speed so that they can help support this new endurance activity.
Obviously, a change like this requires patience and proper training.
The good news is that there's a very easy training plan you can follow: intervals.
Interval training simply means that you alternate short periods of running with equal or longer periods of walking in between.
During the run, you bring your heart rate up to a higher rate, and during the walk, you give your heart rate the chance to stabilize while you are still moving.
This is called "active recovery."
As you continue running, you can increase the length of your running intervals and decrease the length of your walking intervals.
Take this process slowly and be smart about it. Pushing too far too fast only leads to injury.
Be patient with yourself and understand that your body is adjusting to a brand-new activity.
Here's one many runners struggle with.
The key to becoming a better runner must be to run more, right?
Well, yes and no.
Ideally, you should be looking to run approximately three or four days per week, allowing the other three or four days for recovery.
As we said before, running is a high impact endurance activity.
It takes a lot out of you and puts a great deal of strain on your muscles and joints.
Overtraining can happen very quickly, and if you're not careful, it can lead to injury.
When running, your recovery days are every bit as important as your training days.
So as hard as you might find it to sit still, it's better for your system in the long run to take those rest days.
Go ahead and walk or swim, do yoga, foam rolling or try some other type of gentle exercise which doesn't overstress your system.
If you are having trouble balancing your strength training and rest days appropriately, a fitness coach or personal trainer is the person you want to talk to.
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Mint Condition Fitness is the leading personal training studio in Los Gatos for purpose-driven men and women to lose weight, get out of pain, and do more of the things that make life meaningful.