Two years ago, I was a beginner runner. Having covered over 2500 miles (4000km), running half a dozen races and the distance greater than half a marathon on more than 10 occasions (including a marathon) during this time, I’ve learned lots of new things about running. Some tips I discovered right at the beginning, others came later. I would like to share some now with those who are at the same point I was 2 years ago – beginner runner.
Running Tips Beginners (and Advanced Runners)
Although I am targeting new runners with this article, these tips can be applied by all runners, regardless of their experience and level. All the advice provided has been tested by yours truly.
|Running is fun! If you are not enjoying it, you are likely doing something wrong. Attach a meaningful purpose to running, such as losing weight, wanting to be energised, using running for relaxation, being able to run a marathon. Only you know why you started running, focus on that WHY! At the same time enjoy the process – running is a journey, not a destination.
|There is a right way to run! Majority of us go out, buy a pair of running shoes, put them on and set off to run. Quickly out the door, only to find that we are out of breath and exhausted after 2 minutes (that’s if you are relatively fit – most will be gasping for air after 30 seconds). There are ways to make the transition from non-runner to runner which will bring more enjoyment and better results. More importantly, keep injury free. So do a bit of research, it does not take long. There are books about running that you can buy, articles online with running tips for beginners and social media communities which will help you get started. However, don’t spend too much time researching, after all, you want to be out there running, not sitting at home reading.
|Stu Mittleman is an ultra distance running champion – meaning that to him marathons are what one mile runs are to the masses. This is a man who ran a thousand miles in less than 12 days (that is 3+ marathons per day). And yes, this was all done without sugar!
In his book, he shows what the human body is capable of but in a manner that is easy to comprehend and that can be applied to short, mid or long distance runs.
|“Was man made for running?” Once such a question is posed, slowly but surely, answers start coming in. That is how McDougall came across the Rarámuri (better known as the Tarahumara), an ancient tribe living in the deep canyons of the Mexican Copper Valley. These men and women have been running for centuries, rather millennia, and not just to keep fit or from trouble, they ran for pleasure.
|Warm up and warm down! These 2 crucial elements of your run should never be neglected. I only once skipped a warm down in these 2 years and I regretted it (I believe it to be the main cause of the only injury I experienced in running). Each phase should be at least 5 minutes. The warm up and warm down are really just a faster paced walk – nothing more. Forget any stretching at the beginning. When your muscles and ligaments are cold, you will only do more damage than good. A quick walk is all that is needed to warm up (see Stu Mittleman’s book ‘Slow Burn’). Same goes for the warm down, a quick paced walk will gradually slow things down after a run and help the body transition to regular state. Skipping this part will lead to muscle soreness and potential injury. Even if you only have 15-20 minutes for your run, don’t skip the warm up and warm down phases. As you extend the runs, also extend these phases. I usually do 8-10 minutes of each on a typical 6 to 10 mile run (10-15km).
|Get a heart rate monitor! You will get the most benefits from running if you run in an aerobic state. What this means is, that you are tapping into your fat instead of sugar to fuel the run. Why the heart rate monitor? Well, unless you are an experienced runner, you will not be able to easily tell when you are in an aerobic state. A heart rate monitor will quickly show you if you need to speed up or slow down. There is no need to buy the most expensive one on the market. A very simple one will do. Buy a cheaper pair of shoes if you have to, but make sure to get a heart rate monitor. Running at an aerobic pace will give you more energy at the end of your run than you had at the start! I used mine for about the first 6 months. After that time, you will be able to tell without the use of any apparatus if you are in a fat or sugar burning state. I used a simple Polar heart rate monitor which did the job for me.
|Running shoes! This one is simple, it’s really not about the shoe. The key, buy a shoe that is a size larger than you are used to. That way, the foot has more freedom to move and the energy that transfers with every step can be released. Tight shoes simply reflect the energy and it comes back, causing muscle fatigue and shin splints. By the way, research shows that the more expensive the shoe, the larger chance of injury (see Christopher McDougall’s ‘Born To Run’).
|100-up exercise! As I mentioned earlier, no pre-run stretches. However, the 100-up exercise can be done at any time. Before, during or after a run (or at any other time). It is a very simple and effective exercise to keep free from injury. Not only that, it leads to an improved running technique. Click here to learn more about the technique.
|Proper running technique! Now this bit is a bit trickier and takes longer to master. However, it is good to learn the proper running technique at the start as with time, it becomes more difficult to change from old habits. The most effective and beneficial (not to mention safest) running technique is a forefoot strike, where each time you land, your forefoot strikes the ground (not the heel). So far, I have come across two authorities in this field. One of them is Eric Orton and the other Ken Mierke. I am still far from having the proper technique but each day I am a step closer and slowly see the benefits. I have stayed injury free for a year now and extended the average distance of my runs from 5-6 miles (8-10km) to 7-8 miles (11-13km). Even if you are not looking to be doing these distances, I strongly encourage you to spend some time researching the techniques.
|Eric Orton’s name was made popular after Christopher McDougall credited him with his running success in the best seller Born To Run. In The Cool Impossible, Orton takes the reader on a training course, showing proper running techniques and exercises designed to achieve top form.
|Ken Mierke has spent many years observing and learning techniques applied by African runners (who have dominated the sport for past few decades). He shares his insights on his page www.evolutionrunning.com. There you can find many running tips for beginners which encourage establishing proper running technique and help get fit in general.
There are numerous other running tips beginners could benefit from, however, if you master these seven, you will achieve more in a year than I have in two. Some of these will require time to develop but others can be quickly and efficiently implemented right at the start. If you found any of these tips useful, please leave a comment. Same goes, if you have any questions or remarks you would like to share with others. In the mean time, go out and enjoy your run!