Steps To Improve Your Running

How can you improve your running?

Knowing the answer to the 3 most common questions will help improve your running today.

How often should I run
How far should I run
How hard should I run

How often should I run?

At the very beginning, this was a tough question for me to answer. I had tried to get into running on several occasions previously. What I found was that I lost my motivation to get out there after a few runs or a week. So the best advice I can give you on this question is to start smaller and build up. Set a schedule that you know you can meet. If that means getting out 3 times a week then go for it, if you have the time and can plan more all the better. You will find that if you have a plan ahead of time and meet that plan, you will build confidence and will be more likely to keep at it.

For me, I found that the minimum I could do and still see the small gains I was hoping for was to run 3 times a week. Less than that and I was not consistently seeing improvements. Not seeing any improvement led to disappointment, and ultimately giving up on the process. Each time I finished a planned workout no matter how far or how slow, it built my confidence and helped me to get out the door on my next run.

How far should I run?

If you are just beginning this question is natural. However I would recommend that for the first few weeks, at least, you change the question around. Rather than worrying about how far you should run, focus instead on how long you should run. For me, I was able to build confidence knowing that getting out there for 20 minutes was something I could do 3 times a week. In my previous attempts, I would say I am going to run 3 miles, and I would struggle to get the mileage. Or the goal would end up taking far longer than I had planned. In both cases, the result is you will not feel as though you are improving your running, just the opposite I was developing a negative thought.

Start with a plan that has you focused on a time frame rather than a specific distance. With each run you will acclimate your body to the demands of running. As your body starts to adapt to the demands you place on it, you will see improvements. Maybe your first day out you can cover 1.25 miles in 20 minutes. If you stick to your plan, you will start to see gains and maybe after a week, you can cover 1.35 miles in the same time frame. Regardless of how big or how little the improvement is… CELEBRATE it. That is a success and you worked hard to earn that success.

The biggest recommendation I can give as newbie runner is to finish the workouts you start. If you find that the duration you have set for yourself is too much, shorten the workout rather than continually stopping early. It is a small change, but you will find that you build more confidence in meeting a goal or plan, than stopping short or making it up as you go.

How hard should I run?

I will be very honest with you while I learned the answer to this question for myself early on; it took me nearly 2 months to fully embrace.

It doesn’t matter!

Almost every run will seem like hard run to a newbie.

Most of us will not be able to run very far without huffing and puffing or feeling their legs ache. This is completely natural and expected. Your body is simply not accustomed to the motions and demands of running. This may occur after ¼ of a mile or after 10 steps. Just remind yourself, that this is only a starting point.

In my first week, I focused on jogging short distances (60 seconds) at as slow a pace as I could without actually walking. Then I walked for 120 seconds, and then I repeated the process. The actual times you choose will depend largely on how fit or conditioned you are when you begin your own journey. I know runners who started at as low as 15 strides of running and then walking. They key is to keep moving and make sure the walking portions are being done at a fairly brisk pace.

Here’s a secret… your heart doesn’t know if your running or walking. When you work harder than normal it is going to beat faster and pump more blood through your system and thereby improve your endurance. You just need to be active. All the while it is becoming more efficient and better at its job and therefore, you can ask more and more from it.

A good rule of thumb to improve your running is to use the 80/20 rule. 80% of your running should be at LOW intensity. Only 20% of all your running in a week should be at a moderate or high intensity. Don’t believe me, check out some of the elite runners schedules. They follow the 80/20 rule.

Conclusion

If you start with small achievable goals and then build upon those small successes early on, you will be more likely to stick with your plan and continue to improve your running.

The takeaways for a new runner are simple.

  • Commit to a plan that is reasonable and achievable.
  • Focus on a timeframe rather than a distance at the beginning
  • Finish your workouts
  • Celebrate your successes no matter how small
  • Find a walk/run interval that fits your current level of fitness.
  • Believe that you are getting better each time out. You may not see it on your watch, but your body is improving and becoming more efficient.

 

Losing Your Weight With Running

So you want to get started running. Running is one of the most effective ways to burn calories and get in shape. Running will build your core strength, increase your endurance, and give you more energy. Regular running can change your life.

To get started with running you’ll need to know some of the key aspects of running training. You’ll need to get the running equipment, design a running plan, and adjust your diet.

As they say, running is the simple process of putting one foot in front of the other. It is something that we as humans have evolved to be good at. Our bodies are designed for running. Our ability to sweat paired with our balanced torso, and head gives us a distinct advantage over other animals during long distance running.

I was like you, when I started running I’d run half a block and be completely out of breath and have a terribly crippling stitch. I was surprised how quickly that changed with some regular practice. I could measure the improvement within the first week. After about 2 weeks of running regularly, I could run 1Km before having to stop to catch my breath. After running for a few more weeks the heavy breathing, and racing heart stopped being an issue, I could jog and carry on a conversation (and I thought those runners were just trying to show off!) I would run until my legs started to ache with fatigue.

During this process I paid attention to my eating habits. It’s hard not to, when you think about the run you’re planning on doing later that day. I cut back on my sugars and carbohydrates and started drinking protein shakes. I lost 10 lbs.

So whether you want to loose weight, gain energy, or reach a goal of doing a particular race. You have to start your training somewhere. Here’s my suggestions for getting started.

Get Some Information Subscribe to a running magazine. Having the material show up regularly throughout the year will keep running on your mind, so it will be harder to kind of move on and forget to exercise. These magazines have some really great information about different running techniques to try, equipment reviews, and general tips and tricks from the experts about how to make running more enjoyable. Personally I recommend and subscribe to “Runners World”.

In addition to a magazine subscription you should consider buying a book or two on the subject. There’s tons of stuff to know. Everything from proper breathing and posture to designing appropriate training schedules to dealing with injuries. Check out Amazon.com or your local book store for suggestions.

Running Equipment The only thing you really need is a good pair of running shoes. Take the time to find a pair that really fit you properly. I suggest going to a specialty running store because they will know what type of shoe will work best for you. A pair of shoes will last for about 800 to 1000 miles of running. It’s not the piece of equipment that you want to cheap out on.

Other things that will make running more enjoyable include double layered sport stocks, shorts or running tights (yes even I wear tights), a running jacket, and gloves and a beanie for running in cooler weather.

The real secret of the decade for training has been the heart rate monitor. This device can accurately measure your heart rate as you are running. Your heart rate is a very good indication of the effort that you’re putting in. By watching it closely you can keep yourself in the ‘zone’ that is most efficient. For example, I know that once my heart rate goes above 180 bpm I will start breathing heavier, and will quickly have to slow down or stop. By keeping my heart rate closer to 160 bpm I know that I can run farther and burn more calories.

The advanced heart rate monitors can also be connected to ‘foot pods’ or ‘GPSs’ to measure your distance and speed. both of which will provide great motivation for your training.

The Runners Log A running log book is a useful tool. It’s great motivation because you’ll want to fill in the spaces with proof that your doing the exercise. A running log is also great for looking back and figuring out what training techniques worked best for you. That can be helpful when you want to run a new personal best.

You’re log book should contain the following information: distance run, total time, how you felt, and the weather. It may be a good idea to note the shoes you wore so you’ll know when it’s time to replace them.

Number One Tip My best tip for staying motivated is to sign up for a local run. Find a 5K or 10K to register for and train towards being able to complete it as best you can. Always have another run on the horizon that you have to stay in shape for. Find a friend, and have them sign up too while you’re at it. Don’t wait until you can run the distance before committing to a race. I ran my first 10K when the farthest I could run without stopping was 2K. The adrenaline you get from running in a race will boost your performance significantly.

Running Diet If you’re running regularly then you’ll need to eat. One of the leading problems people have with improving their running performance is due to lack of food. There is a tendency to think “oh, if I was only 5 lbs lighter I could run so much farther”. The problem is that when you run you’ll be breaking some muscle fibers, and if you don’t feed your body with proteins and carbs to rebuild the muscle you’ll just loose muscle mass which will not only reduce your performance but also decrease your metabolism making it harder to loose fat going forward.

That’s not an excuse to binge after going for a run. Have a good healthy meal, just make sure to incorporate some protein and carbs to help keep you fit.

Fact: You can only metabolize about 250 calories of fat per hour. So if you burn 700 calories during an hour long workout the majority of those calories are coming from either muscle, or food. This is why the optimal heart rate for burning fat is a rather low at just 60% of your maximum heart rate.

More than Running Running is great and all but there are other things that you should be doing in order to see the most progress possible. Running excessively without giving yourself enough time to adapt to the impacts on your body is a surefire way to end up injured. Even though you should be running a fair bit during your training, you should be swapping some running sessions for some cross-training exercises. Consider anything that will keep your heart rate up such as roller blading, biking, swimming, or wall climbing. This will work out your cardio-vascular system without stressing your joints the same amount that running would.

It’s also important to learn how to do the proper stretching. Stretching before and after each run will improve the recovery time, increase the performance during the run, and prevent injuries. Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching as part of your routine. In fact, I do yoga once per week to focus solely on stretching.

Strength training is key to increasing your speed, and it’s a corner stone of your running training. Increasing the strength of your legs and core body muscles will make a HUGE difference. Strong legs will result in more controlled steps, it will help keep your ankles and knees from becoming sprained, and improve your speed. To work on these muscles you can do some squats and lunges at home or the gym, or you can try running hills. A strong core will increase the efficiency of your running greatly. It will reduce the strain on the lower back which could cause pain. To strengthen you core do some sit-ups and the bridge (there are always abdominal exercises in the latest health magazines if you want some more ideas).

 

Tips To Buy Running Clothes

I love running clothes, and will buy something new for myself anytime I can come up with an excuse to do so! It doesn’t even have to be a good excuse or a new one…I’m not too proud to use stale, bad excuses when necessary.

In fact, more than half of my wardrobe is composed of running attire: running shirts and running shorts and jackets and tights. Running shoes and socks and hats, oh my!

I have tried (but not quite succeeded yet) to get every color available in both tops and running shorts. It’s an ongoing project, but a fun one…everyone needs a hobby, right? And you should see me stylin’ when I’m running in my orange running shirt and orange running shorts…in fact you can’t help but see me….I’m nearly neon at that point.

I do feel it’s important to be comfortable while running, and certainly color-coordinated as well. Not only does it make the experience of running much more enjoyable; the appropriate running clothes are important for body temperature regulation: to keep cool in the hotter months and warm during the winter months. Not to mention compensating for changes in humidity and wind chill, etc.

When I decided to train for my first marathon, it was the beginning of a new year. And that meant I had to start my mileage build-up in January. I definitely needed winter running apparel. Fortunately, that winter was a mild one.

Most days I could wear a short-sleeved running shirt with a lightweight running jacket and running tights. I always wear a running cap and on the cooler days, gloves. The cap serves a dual purpose: to keep the glare out of my eyes and on cold runs, to keep the heat in. The gloves usually get peeled off about half-way through my run. There were a few times running when I needed to wear a fleece hat, but usually only when it was windy out.

I discovered that a lightweight running jacket was essential for running at that time of the year. It not only kept me warm, but it was vented so that I didn’t overheat during my runs. I’ve heard that running causes the temperature to feel 10 degrees warmer. Before I had my running jacket, when I would run in colder weather, I’d wear a long-sleeved running shirt. But this wasn’t a great strategy as I was starting out my runs feeling cold, and then, once I did start to heat up, pushing up the sleeves just didn’t do the trick to cool me. By having a vented jacket, now the moisture wicks away from my skin, and I don’t get chilled during longer runs. Since I hate to be too hot while running, it’s nice that I can take my running jacket off if I get overheated, and put it right back on once I start to cool off.

We have very low humidity in western Montana, so if I’m running when the sun is out, it can heat up fairly quickly, even during the winter. Even though I would get warmed up in the sun, it was important for me to note that when running at temps below 45 degrees F, I needed to be wearing running tights. It is important to keep your leg muscles warm. Even though I might sometimes get a little too hot when wearing the tights, I found my recovery time was much quicker, and I was not as sore the next day. My main problem with running tights is that I just don’t have as many colors to choose from as I do in my selection of running shorts. I suppose that’s okay, cause I only have one running jacket. So what’s the point? I simply learned to be content to just wear different colored running hats.

The hardest training times for me were the transitional seasons: winter into spring and spring into summer. After running in tights and a jacket all winter, I got excited to put on running shorts without a jacket, just wearing a short-sleeved running shirt.

I did have to be careful though, because spring in Montana could bring some unexpected, very nasty weather. It only took getting caught in a spring snowstorm one time for me to realize that even though the day might look nice to start with, I was running for 2 to 2 ½ hours at a time. A lot can happen weather-wise during that time. As they say in Montana, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.”

I ran long training runs with my friend Vickie riding her bicycle along with me, and it was easier to start off with a lot more layers of running clothing. As I warmed up, I would shed an item of running clothing, and she would tuck it away in a saddle bag. I was doing a lot of my long runs during that unpredictable spring weather, so having her there alongside me for my long training runs made it easy to be prepared for whatever the weather might bring. Thanks, Vickie!

Of course, my favorite season for running is summer: primarily because most of my running clothes match that season. As I said before, I hate to be too hot while running, so my running shorts for the most part tend to be the kinds that have a generous runner’s split up the side to allow me the most comfort and the coolest run. But I also have quite a few longer length running shorts that are good for cooler mornings or late spring days.

My singlets (running shirts – tank tops) are of a very cool lightweight, wick-away material. I’ve noticed that some of my running shirts don’t breathe as well, so I use those mostly for early morning runs when it’s not too hot yet.

Okay….so maybe I have gone on a bit too much about running clothes, but my point is this: when running, I want to be smart about what I wear. So by having a lot of choices of what to wear, I never have to worry that I don’t have the right piece of running clothing. That’s how I justify it anyway

I check the conditions, and dress accordingly. And while I’m at it, why not look my best? Wearing nice running clothes makes me feel better about myself. After all, I work hard for this body!

So the three C’s of running clothing of critical importance: Comfortable and Color-Coordinated…. 😉

Tips Running For Beginners

There is a funny saying that cross-country runners like to throw around that goes something like this: “Our sport is your sport’s punishment.” Unfortunately, this quote carries with it more than just a hint of truth – most people simply hate to run. Running is hard, it takes time that could be spent doing other things, and for many people running is painful, uncomfortable, and not the least bit enjoyable. Ask any serious distance runner, and they can recount to you the scorn they sometimes receive from friends and colleagues about the fact that they run. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that I’m going to ruin my knees, or that we as humans simply weren’t meant to run long distances (which, as an anatomy professor and evolutionary biologist, I disagree with wholeheartedly). So how does one overcome this fear and loathing for all things related to running? In this article I’ll provide 10 tips regarding what helped me the most during the first few months of my transition from being a couch-dweller to becoming a full-fledged runner.

I officially mark May 2007 as the date when I started running. When I say running, I mean really running, not just jogging a few miles here or there when I felt like it. May 2007 is when I began to really call myself a runner, when I began a habit that sticks with me to this day, and has become such an integral part of my life that I couldn’t imagine living without it. Prior to this time, running was for me, as the saying at the beginning of this article alludes to, like a form of self-punishment. I did it because it was supposed to be good for me, or because some coach at some time ordered me to do it during some practice – I did not, however, enjoy running. That all began to change for me when I began to gain weight after the birth of my two kids. I realized that I was now in my 30’s, and if I was going to take control of my health, I needed to start getting serious about exercise. This brings me to my first tip:

Tip #1 – Find a Source of Motivation For me, having children was the primary impetus for beginning my running habit. I wanted to get my health back under control, and I wanted to be able to keep up with two little kids as they grew up and became even more active. To this day, one of my main motivations for running is to set a good example about the importance of exercise for them. A secondary source of motivation was entirely personal – I wanted to lose some weight. It turns out that I lost about 15 pounds during my first six months as a runner, and that was strong motivation to keep going.

If you don’t have kids, and your weight is not a problem, motivation can still be found in other areas. My next tip for beginning runners details one of the things that really helped to keep me going at the beginning of my running life:

Tip #2 – Sign Up for a Road Race I’m extremely competitive with myself, and one of the things that initially got me running was a deal that my wife and I made to sign up for and run a 4-mile road race on the 4th of July, 2007. When I signed up for the race, I had never run more than about three miles in one go, and four miles seemed like an astronomical increase over that. Signing up for the race and paying money to reserve my spot gave me a goal to train for, and because I’m not a quitter, there was no way I was going to back out. If you’re even the slightest bit competitive (even if just with yourself), signing up for a local 5k is probably one of the best things you can do to motivate yourself to keep running. For me, racing hooked me in a way I never would have anticipated, and running races is one of my prime motivators for training to this day. It also introduced me to a whole “running world” that I didn’t even know existed. In every town there are like-minded people who run crazy distances simply for the fun of it. These people are among the most open and friendly people I have met, and their enthusiasm for running can be infectious. If you want to gain entry into this little slice of the world, start by going to some road races – I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

So lets now assume that you have some source of motivation to get you off of the couch and onto the road or trail. What follows are the lessons I learned from personal experience that I think are the most important to pass on to a beginner who has made the decision to start running.

Tip #3 – Get Appropriate Running Shoes I can’t emphasize enough how important this tip is. When I say “appropriate” running shoes, this doesn’t mean to head to your local sporting goods store to pick out the coolest shoe in the “running” section. What most people don’t realize is that each of us has a particular type of running gait. The way our legs move, the way our feet hit the ground – each of us is a little bit different. When it comes to running shoes, you want to be sure that you find a pair of shoes that is suitable for your particular gait. How do you do this? The best way is to go to a specialty running store where they will analyze your gait (usually for free) and let you try out a few pairs of shoes by running around the block. Any good running store will do this, and getting the right pair of shoes for your body and gait type will go a long way toward making your transition into running go more smoothly. It will also to help minimize any chance of injury that might arise from making an uniformed choice of the wrong shoe simply because you like the way it looks. Finding the best shoe for you can take some trial-and-error, but it is well-worth the effort.

Tip #4 – Start Slow and Run Short When you first start running, it is best to begin by running slowly for relatively short distances. Running will be a lot more enjoyable if you don’t overdo it to the point where it becomes hard and starts to hurt. So, consciously and repeatedly tell yourself to slow down. If you need to walk, do it. When you’re out on the road by yourself, nobody is going to care if you take a walk break, and if this helps you to keep running, then it’s worth it to do so. For me, when I used to run sporadically before May 2007, I felt like I wasn’t getting any benefit unless I pushed myself to the limit. This made running unpleasant, and explains in large part why the habit never clicked. By approaching my development as a runner this time around as a long-term process, it became enjoyable, and I eventually got to the point where running harder and longer was a joy rather than a chore. I found that every increase in run distance was a new milestone, and triggered a desire to go even farther. This culminated in my decision to run a marathon in May 2008, one year after I began running, and that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Tip #5 – Track Your Effort If you need help tracking your effort, purchase a heart-rate monitor or a running computer. For beginning runners who own an Ipod Nano, the Nike+ system is a good choice. It’s cheap (Tip #6 – Eat and Drink Appropriately This probably goes without saying, but fueling and hydrating properly for your runs is critical. If you eat something (even just a Powerbar or similar product) an hour or so before you run, and hydrate well, your runs will be much more pleasant. Starving yourself to lose weight while running is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs. Your body needs fuel to power your muscles on the run, and it needs fuel to repair any damage that occurs after you run. If you deprive yourself of fuel, your desire to run will fizzle away. One additional note about hydrating – if you run in the summer or in a hot area of the country, be wary of your hydration level. When it’s really hot I generally carry water with me. Sometimes I carry it in hand, sometimes I use a water bottle belt, and for longer runs I use a Camelbak hydration pack. Dehydration can be dangerous, and is easily avoided with proper preparation.

Tip #7 – Find Something to Pass the Time Some running purists prefer to avoid all electronic devices while running. I however, am a gadget freak, and can’t bear to run without my Ipod Nano attached to my arm (except during races – for that I go without). Listening to good music on a hard run can be incredibly motivational, and there are times when music alone can pull me through a tough patch. For long runs or slower, easier runs I like to download podcasts from Itunes or audiobooks from my local library’s digital audiobook download site. Most library’s offer these digital downloads now, and although MP3 player compatibility can be an issue at times, there are ways to overcome this and downloads are typically free with a library card. Listening to audiobooks on the run has opened up a whole new world of options for me, and there are times when I’m so engrossed in what I’m listening to while running that it feels almost effortless.

Tip #8 – Run with a Partner I tend to run solo or with my dog (who is a great running companion by the way), but many runners thrive on running with friends/family/co-workers. Having a partner helps to pass the time, conversation on the run generally forces you to slow down, and having a partner to keep you honest helps to prevent lapses in dedication to the sport.

Tip #9 – Join a Running Club Most towns/regions support local running clubs. Generally, these clubs cater to people of all levels and abilities, and joining one can be a great source of motivation. Meeting other local runners provides an avenue for learning about new running routes in your area, and they can be rich source of information and advice for beginning runners. Check out the Road Runners Club of America RRCA for information on finding a local club in your area.

Tip #10 – Join an On-Line Running Forum On-line forums are a great place to find information and advice on running. There are tons of running forums out there, so finding one to your liking should not be hard. A few examples are the Runner’s World Magazine Forums, the dailymile.com Forums, the Runner+ Forums, and the Cool Running Community Forums. Even if you aren’t an active contributor, reading through the collective knowledge on these forum sites can be incredibly beneficial.

I could probably go on-and-on with tips like those presented here, but I’ll cut it off at 10 for now. Probably the most important pieces of advice I can give to beginning runners are to stick with it and to have fun. As your running progresses, you’ll begin to experience both physical and mental changes that you might never have expected. Running improves the health of your body, but it also can change your mind (it’s a great stress reducer for one thing), and once you’re hooked, there’s no turning back.

Happy running