7 Tips for Beginner Runners, According to Trainers
Running boasts a lot of health benefits. For starters, the more you run can help with your cardiovascular health. Getting those legs moving can help loosen up the stiffness of your aortic vessel, making it easier to pump blood, and can also improve blood pressure. Furthermore, running can help relieve stress and increase your endorphins, making your brain feel happy and excited (ever heard of a runner’s high?). While running brings the opportunity to better your health in more ways than one, getting started is no easy feat, especially if you don’t know where to begin. That’s why we asked the experts what to do to start your goals. Check out these tips for beginner runners brought to you by personal trainers!
1. Take it slow
Ever heard the phrase, “slow and steady wins the race?” Well, you should take that quite literally.
“To start running, it is very important to begin with a slow pace,” says personal trainer Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSC, founder of Everflex Fitness. “Many people I train with start with the mentality that they need to run as hard as possible to create the physical change that they want. What they should be focusing on instead is creating great mental habits around running. The biggest challenge is the mental side and building consistency in your running, so keep your pace nice and slow to start and you will be off to the races.”
Hamlin suggests that every time you think about running you should feel excited about it. While that’s not everyone’s mentality, there’s a way to get your brain thrilled: “Starting slow, enjoying the outdoors and fresh air, and keeping a comfortable pace up so that your body doesn’t signal to you that you should quit.”
With your running habit in place, Hamlin says that you increase the chances of massive physical change without having to work so hard for it.
2. Stretch your body
Before any form of exercise, it’s important to get your body loosened up. Running is no exception.
“Dynamic stretching is done before running involves performing gentle repetitive motions in a way that gradually increases motion, circulation, and muscle length and will improve your running performance,” says Melissa Kendter, an ACE-certified trainer, running coach, and functional training specialist for EvolveYou, an all-female training team. “You want to warm up your entire body, arms to feet included, before running.”
While Kendter has a handful of motions she likes to recommend, two of her favorites include alternating lateral squats and calf rocks with arm swings.
“I’ll have my runners stretch their calves, quads, and glutes at a minimum before they run,” Hamlin also suggests. “They can also do some body weight lunges to help warm up the system and turn on a few of the patterns that will be used during a run. Start super slow for the first five minutes at least and then you can open up your stride and increase the pace if you feel comfortable.”
3. Be prepared
If you want to take up running, winging it isn’t your best answer.
“Follow a plan, write down your runs in your calendar as you would for doctors’ appointments,” Kendter encourages. “Put them at times that are most convenient for you so that you can get them done.
“Spend money on a nice pair of running shoes that offer enough cushioning and support,” she says. Also think about investing in soft, breathable apparel.’
4. Eat before and after
Thinking about eating while working out may not be on your mind, but it’s important to fuel your body with the proper nutrients to run more efficiently.
“A pre-run snack enhances performance by putting fuel in your tank,” Kendter acknowledges. “During your run, your body uses carbohydrates in the form of glycogen and glucose, and to a certain extent, fat, as a fuel source for energy production. By fueling each run, you are providing your body with immediate energy for your workout and training your body to handle fuel during activity.”
Meanwhile, Kendter claims that eating after a run helps to boost recovery because post-run meals restore nutrients lost through exercise, and the right foods can help refuel your muscles, strengthen your bones and reduce inflammation from intense exercise.
Therefore, it’s best to consume about 25 grams of carbohydrates 20 to 30 minutes before running, in addition to sipping fluids to hydrate. Post-run, take in 20 to 25 grams of high-quality protein and 25 or more grams of carbohydrates.
5. Stay hydrated
No matter if you’re running in the heat, cold, rain, or snow, your body needs to stay hydrated to function properly and go the distance.
“Hydration should always remain on the forefront of your mind depending on the length and intensity,” says Kendter. “If your activity will last longer than 60 minutes, 25 grams of carbohydrates every 30 to 45 minutes may be necessary. Any run over 90 minutes will require some special focus and preparation on your part to fuel well.”
Restrepo suggests staying hydrated during and after your run by making sure to consume enough water. On longer runs, it’s a good idea to take a water bottle along with you.
6. Keep your head in the game.
When looking at tips for beginner runners, you may think about the physical aspects. However, running is a mental game too, and it might even be of more importance to start training properly.
According to Restrepo, paying attention to what your body is telling you is key to keeping an open mind and remaining optimistic- an important tip for beginner runners who might want to quit as soon as they reach their first mile.
“Running can be difficult, but keep an optimistic outlook and recognize your accomplishments as you go,” Restreop recommends. “Focus on your own development and enjoy the experience rather than making comparisons to other people.”
7. Remember to recover.
Congrats, you completed a run! You prepped, you stretched, and you ate beforehand. But your training doesn’t start there. One of the most important tips for beginner runners involves recuperating.
“Recovery is key,” states Kendter. “You need to match your recovery with the hard effort of training so you can continue going week after week.”
Ways to recover include focusing on getting enough sleep, getting the proper nutrition and hydration intake, even when you’re not running, and taking rest days.
“You want to keep your easy days easy and hard days hard, so that you can progress, get better, get faster, and go the distance,” she says.
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