Pinching the Cup: My Five Top Tips for Beginning Runners
I don’t come from a family of runners. In fact, when I run races they tend to scoff. Why on earth, they say, would anyone want to run on Thanksgiving morning? And when I ran my longest distance last year at the Philadelphia Broad Street Run – a 10-miler – and I told them my time, my mom asked why I stopped to pee as this added to my time and my brother said he could run that race faster than I did. Ah, families.
But I love my family (I mean, what family is perfect?), so I smile and my girlfriend defends my honor (my hero!). All these factors made it that much sweeter when my sister called me a couple of days ago and said she wanted to run a race with me – and, after I picked my jaw and cell off the floor where it had fallen from my hand in shock, I said I would love to!
My sister has had two children and is on a mission to get fit. She had been lifting weights, but wanted to add some cardio into her routine. Wanting a goal and a way to shock the other members of our family (more on that in a minute) she asked me to run a 5k with her. Her idea is this: We both register for a race that the rest of the family can attend. I tell them to come out and cheer me on, then she shows up, suited up in running attire, and shocks, awes, and amazes the fam with her first 5k run.
Like Sarah, I think that many people start running later in life. Many want to try it, but don’t know where to start. I wanted to post something that would help those interested in lacing up for the first time get moving.
Here are my Five Top Tips for Beginning Runners:
1. Start slow – For any runner running too fast, too far, too often will not only injure you, but it will burn you out mentally and emotionally and most likely prevent you from wanting to continue with your running mission. My advice is to start with a walk/run combo. Gradually increase the run to walk ratio until you can run at a comfortable (ie. not labored breathing) pace for 5min. Increase the amount you run/pace you run by NO MORE than 10% each week as you feel comfortable.
2. Stretch – I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do this! Stretching improves your flexibility and helps to keep you injury-free. For some great stretches click HERE.
3. Cross Training (XT) and Rest Days – I am a big proponent of incorporating both XT and Rest days into your running regime. Doing this allows for your muscles to have ample time to recover as well and strengthen muscles in a variety of ways. My favorite XT activities are biking, which is great for the legs and has helped me become a stronger runner, and weight lifting – especially those that will strengthen your core as this is most likely to make you a stronger runner and keep you injury free. BONUS: The more you build muscles, the more fat you burn when you do cardio activities. For some clutch weight lifting exercises click HERE.
4. Diet – Whether you are interested in running for weight loss or because you enjoy being active, your diet is an important key to becoming a successful runner. You’ve probably heard of “carb loading” before a race, but make sure you test what foods work best with your system BEFORE the night before the race. Every body is different and will respond to different foods as such. Meals high in fiber the day before (or the morning of) are never a good idea. HERE are some eating suggestions, but the best advice I can give is to try what works best with your body and go with that.
5. Gear and Guides – As with starting any new activity you can become inundated with information and “helpful” suggestions. From shirts to shoes to shorts, the apparel for runners is vast. Then you get into accessories with reflectors,GPS watches, water belts, and sunglasses. It can be overwhelming! Here’s what you should do: Find your local running store, tell them you’re a beginning runner, and start asking questions. The vast majority of people you will talk to will be runners themselves and know the answers to a lot of your questions. (DO NOT go to those grotesquely huge “sports” store to ask as they will not be helpful) Local running stores will often have postings of group runs or individuals looking for running partners if that is something that interests you.
The only item that is a necessary part of healthy running is a good pair of running shoes. These you can get at your local running store as well. Every foot is different and thus everyone needs a different type of shoe. This is one of those occasions where you should spend the extra money (ballpark $100) for a quality shoe as these will help you become a better runner and keep you injury-free. For additional questions I always turn to Runner’s World – both the website and the magazine (most libraries carry subscriptions) have a lot of great advice.
And – some parting words of wisdom – DON’T FORGET TO PINCH THE CUP! Hydration whenever you run is key and most 5k races (and ALL races farther than that) will have water stations along your route. Here’s the key that another runner told me after much water dribbling on my part – If you pinch the cup in half, it creates a smaller opening allowing you to drink and get hydrated while not pouring the majority of it down the front of your shirt. Sweet!
Happy running my friends!