Are you one of the many people who have resolved to start running this 2017? Then it is important to start with a caveat: many of those who begin the activity give up after a short while. Why? Some major reasons are:
- The inability to get up early in the morning! You may face this problem if you happen to be in the middle of winter on January 1st. I know it can be particularly hard to drag yourself out of the warmth of your bed, resulting in you quitting on your resolution to run.
- The lack of a proper plan. Rookie runners typically try and run as hard as possible for prolonged durations leading to exhaustion, side stitches and aches and pains. After a few months of this, it is but natural to give up.
- There’s also the problem of unrealistic expectations. People take up running expecting that they will be ready to achieve their goal with just a few months of practice when the reality is that they should be setting long-term goals spread over a duration of six months to a year.
So how do you ensure that you don’t give up running midway and stick to your New Year resolution? Here’s what I recommend:
Be clear about your goal
Are you preparing for a 10-km race, half marathon or full marathon? It’s vital to be clear about your objective so that it’s possible to chalk out a proper running programme to help you achieve the same. Avoid setting unrealistic goals like, trying to run a full marathon (42.195 km) with just a couple of months of practice. A target spread over time period of six months to a year depending on the difficulty of the race is both practical and sensible.
Get proper gear
You will need to invest in basic gear like a good pair of running shoes and shorts. Large sports shops have facilities that can analyse your gait to recommend the best footwear suitable for you. Resist the urge to buy needlessly expensive gear at the beginning: you will end up wasting money on nothing if you give up running later.
Start with the basics
Novices make the mistake of trying to achieve too much too soon and tire themselves out in the process. The right thing to do is to start with the basics—brisk walking, or walking interspersed with short bursts of running would be ideal. Starting with the basics will condition your body to withstand greater strain while minimizing the risk of injuries so that you can stay on course to fulfil your New Year resolution.
Maintain the plan
Don’t skip from one plan to another in a hurry. While following a specific plan, try and maintain it for at least two weeks. For instance, if you have started with brisk walking, don’t skip to running just because walking is easy. Making gradual progressions to prepare the body to withstand the strain is key to a successful running programme.
Strive for balance
Not physically exerting yourself enough will deprive you of the benefits of running, while training too hard will lead to fatigue, injury and exhaustion, thus bringing the need for a balance between the two. The intensity of a run should be such that it allows you to talk without much effort. Anything more, and you’re overexerting yourself; anything less, and you’re not pushing hard enough. In fact, you shouldn’t be completely exhausted at the end of the run; it should leave you with the feeling that you could have done better if you’d exerted yourself a little more.
Proper warm up and cool down
Proper warm up and cool down is crucial to preventing aches and injuries and doing it right will help minimize health issues and keep you on course to achieve your New Year resolution. Begin with at least 5-10 minutes of proper warm up that includes dynamic stretching, working every joint of the body. You could also include slow walking or jogging. A cool down session of 10-15 minutes is a must to prevent muscle soreness, cramps and stiffness, apart from feelings of dizziness and lightheadedness due to rapidly dropping heart rate and blood pressure after the run.
Focus on timing in the beginning
Instead of distance, focus on timing to prepare yourself for the race—not in terms of speed, but duration. For instance, focus on your ability to run for 10-15 minutes non-stop before attempting a 5 km run, gradually targeting higher numbers as your training progresses.
Water regulates your body temperature, keeps the joints lubricated, helps carry nutrients to all parts of the body, and fights fatigue, dizziness and muscle cramps. It’s vital to stay well-hydrated during a run so that you can stay fit and continue practicing. Ensure adequate water intake during the run. Sip through at least 100 ml of water for every 15-20 minutes you spend on the running track.
Don’t run every day
It’s important to give your body enough time to recover. Thus, I would suggest capping your runs at two per week in the initial stages and progressing to three as you gradually advance. Running daily from the beginning could put excessive strain on the body and thus derail your long-term plan.
Incorporate strength training
Strength training helps toughen the joints and muscles so that your body can withstand the stress of running. You could opt for either bodyweight exercises or train with equipment. It also strengthens the core which leads to better balance and stability. Strength training for two days a week is recommended for runners.
Proper breathing is key to running so monitor it closely. Ideally, you should find yourself breathing more heavily than normal, but not so heavily that you find it difficult to talk or breathe easily either during and immediately after the run. Secondly, pay close attention to your running gait since a faulty gait could result in aches and pains, and also lead to tripping over and falling. Finally, never run on an empty stomach. Fuel up with a banana or bread and peanut butter before the run so that you have adequate energy reserves to last the distance.
Be sensible and realistic about your objectives, be regular with practice, and follow a suitable diet. That, and a bit of willpower should ensure that you achieve your goal in 2017!