Running: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you secretly harboring a desire to run? Maybe you are a long time runner and looking to improve your time or distance. Maybe you have gotten complacent and need a form refresher. Today is all about running.

For many running congers up type A personality visions or hamsters. Some might use the word crazy and others secretly want to be runners. Almost anyone can run if they start at their level, get good shoes, and take it slow. If you have chronic ankle, knee, hip, or back issues running may not be for you, on the other hand it may be something you can do if you start at your level. As with any exercise program get clearance with your health care person before beginning.

First, the business stuff. Find the right spot for you. Is it a trail, a road, hills, no hills, and consider length. Next, think about safety. Is the spot safe for you to run? Will you be with a buddy, alone, a group, or a trainer? Also, its a good idea to have water, a small first aid kit handy, and Goo or hard candy (energy and help with low blood sugar) depending on the length of your run.. Do you need to drive and park? Consider the clothing you will need. Layer up and get good shoes. Shoes can make the difference in running. Find a salesperson you like, trust, and who knows how to fit your feet for any concerns you face when planting your feet.

It is a good idea to cross train other exercises with running. This allows a break and helps keep overuse injuries at bay by creating more balance in the body. Other activities could be swimming, rowing, biking, etc and strength training should also be included in your fitness routine.

Running is a practical way to maximize time and caloric expenditure, however we want the energy expended to go toward running, not be wasted in other non-essential movements. In other words, pay attention to your form. Core stability plays an important role in all sports activities and running is no different. Abdominal and low back muscles are involved in walking, running, and holding us upright. The quadriceps and hamstrings also work across the hip to help stand, walk, and run. It is important to think about mechanics of movement when considering running form.

Begin in good alignment, knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and the ears centered over the shoulders with the crown (top, not forehead) of the head moving up toward the ceiling or sky. Begin walking slowly and notice how your body moves. Do not try to change anything at this point just notice. How do your feet hit the ground? Do you bend at the hip? Is the core strong enough to stabilize you while you swing the arms or do you feel rotation? Where are you holding tension – do you clench the hands, tongue, teeth, toes? Speed up your pace and notice if things change? These observations will be important to help you understand where you may be weak, have muscle imbalance, or are likely to waste energy while running.

Once you understand your own form concerns you will be able work on undoing them. According to Julie Sieben in “Run Like a Pro”, you should be upright and relaxed with your gaze resting about 10 feet in front of you. She suggests acting like a string is pulling the sternum to the sky so the chest is lifted and the shoulders and back and down. Running gait is individual, however you should not try to over or under stride. The foot should land directly under the body and your center of gravity. Aim to keep the leg slightly bent at the end of the push-off phase keeping the body closer to the ground. Through out the run pay attention to breathing. Make sure to breath deeply, all the way to your belly. Beginners tend to breath shallow because the body is requiring more oxygen than they are used to. They are then forced to stop because they cannot catch their breath.

Remember, begin any training program slowly. Keep focused on form, areas where you may be wasting energy, and your breathing. Once you get into running vary your times, terrain, intervals, and distance to keep you challenged and motivated. Most important, believe in yourself – you can be a runner!

Sample Workout 6 Week Training Schedule

Walk Interval Run Interval Total Time Times Per Week
Week 1 5min 5min 20min* 3
Week 2 4min 7min 33min* 4
Week 3 2min 12min 28min* 4
Week 4 2min 15min 34min* 4
Week 5 2min 25min 27min* 4
Week 6 30min 30min 4

*Alternate Walking & Running

By Julie Sieben, Run Like A Pro, American Fitness Magazine Sept/Oct 2006, p.58-61

Sieben, J.(2006). Run like a pro. American Fitness Magazine. p. 58-61, American Fitness Magazine, September/October
2006