This was intended to be a fairly light weight article on running for beginners but this article could also have been called “How to turbo charge your running”. I wanted a few simple tips for beginners to focus on. So I thought I would search the web and have a look around. What I ended up doing was surveying nearly 50 articles and tallying up all of the suggestions. The list of tips grew to over 50, some of which overlap somewhat and are more sub-suggestions of other ones which mean nothing to a beginner, but for others may take your running game to the next level. These have been compiled from the top 50 ranked websites from Google, who’s algorithm is designed to display hits based on “recency, relevancy and authority”. Overwhelmingly the top 10 tips stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
I will discuss these so that beginners can focus on the 5 top tips and seasoned runners can use the other 5 tips to build on their current successes. I might even end up spilling the beans on a few of the other runner up tips and see if this help “turbo charge” your running game. **I will asterisk these additional “top tips” that fall under the same category**
- Good running shoes
The number one tip was getting a good pair of running shoes and changing them regularly. This was head and shoulders above the rest. Cheap or old shoes put unnecessary shock through your feet, knees and into lower back. This will cause pain and damage over the long term. I once calculated that if you averaged 60 kilometres a month, over three to six months your shoes will have made between 300 000 and 500 000 strikes on the ground. The shoe will lose their cushioning effect, affect pronation which is a natural foot rolling used to reduce shock and for this reason it is necessary to replace them regularly. **Another thing that I will add at this point is that your feet swell when you run and your shoes may need to be a size to a size and a half larger than your normal shoes**. Speak with a podiatrist or shoe tech about this.
The next 4 tips were clustered together quite tightly and are clearly industry favourites.
2. Run with a friend or group
The number two tip was to run with a friend or in a group. This provides accountability, improving your chances of running success. Running in a group also provides motivation to keep you on track as club members will attest, being with other people is more fun and it’s good to share successes. **On another level running mixing with others may assist to troubleshoot your running form. This will reduce injuries lengthening your running career and set up a solid platform for improvements.**
Equal third was nutrition and hydration. Who would have guessed after pouring through 50 articles that what goes in your mouth was exactly the same tally. This can also be subcategorised as **appropriate water consumption** and general hydration. Put simply dehydration is a very dangerous situation. When dehydrated, you can slip into a heat stroke and become distressed very quickly. As you sweat losing water, your blood thickens making it difficult to deliver oxygen to working muscles and the brain. Blood also is your cooling system. As it thickens it becomes less effective at taking warm blood to the surface of the skin and delivering cool blood to the brain and other vital organs, compounding the problem. Thickened blood is less effective at exchanging gases delivering less Oxygen to your muscles. As you overheat you develop headaches, stomach and bodily cramps, nausea and may pass out and go into a coma. For a 5K event however, you may not need to drink water. But be sure your hydration levels are good before the race. You can observe your hydration by pinching your skin and observing it elasticity or observing your urine. It should be pale yellow to clear. **It is suggested that for races over 5K you sip a few hundred millilitres of water at least every 10 minutes.**
Nutrition was right up there with the top suggestions. So if you have taken up running and haven’t considered modifying your diet, then it’s time to consider this. This included eating **appropriately before and after a run** and your diet in general. Fuelling your muscles for running is important. You must also provide your muscles with nutrients so they can repair themselves while resting. Carbohydrates and sugars are used to fuel muscle movement. Carbohydrates are things like pasta, bread, rice and potatoes etc. Proteins are used to rebuild and repair muscles and include things like chicken, fish, meat, some veges, lentils and beans. Other minerals and vitamins are used to assist the conversion of sugars into energy and supply calcium to strengthen bones. **So when you are at the vegetable section of the shopping centre think all of the colours of the rainbow when choosing your fruit and vegetables.**
5. Run for time and comfort rather than distance
When starting focus on time on the road rather than distance. Also focus on running for comfort. Use the conversation test. If you can jog and hold conversation that means your body isn’t too stressed. If you can’t hold a conversation because you run out of breath, that means you are training above the heart rate zone and pushing yourself a bit hard. Your running career won’t last long. You will think you have failed, end up hating running and feel bad about yourself. **Also when running for comfort consider slowing your pace and even walking to recover in order to lengthen your running time.** This is a perfectly legitimate and acceptable training technique. I struggled with this concept but vastly increased my distances by doing so. Also while on this point of running for comfort consider walking up hills. **Running for comfort also mean getting appropriate clothing that you won’t have to think about while running.** There is nothing worse than being bugged by an item of clothing or overheating when you are out and about. It’s like having a pebble in your shoe. You know what that’s like!!
Now that we have dispensed with the basics let’s tackle some of the more advanced concepts to take your running game to the next level.
6. Have a plan
Whether it’s a general training plan over a few months or a plan for an event, have a plan. Get organised and take things a bit more seriously. This may include things like making training a priority, tackling a mountain with a specific outcome in mind, running at a certain time for a distance, **improving your cadence** (google it), doing **interval training*, including **sprint work** and an active rest or setting a goal of some sort. Don’t forget to include rest as a part of your plan. To take your running game to the next level have a plan and stick with it.
7. Use of technology
The use of technology in your training plan is an absolute. A pedometer measures your **cadence** (number of foot strike per minute). Watches and phone’s can be used to track and time your run for review later. Most running apps and GPS enabled watches track your current speed and can tell you to speed up or slow down (Virtual Pacer) or shadow a previous run (Ghosting is similar to the previous feature but loads one of your actual previous runs), and tracks improvement. You can also share them directly to social media which is important for accountability and improving feelings of self worth and accomplishment.
A heart rate monitor while seeming simple is actually a very effective tool to measure the overall stress on your body. By knowing your resting heart rate, you can calculate the heart rate needed to achieve your desired outcome. To most effectively burn fat aim for the “fat-burning zone” of 65-75% of your max HR). To increase Cardio fitness and build endurance aim for 70-80% of you Max HR or for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) aim for “VO2 MAX” or maximal effort (90% HR) till exhaustion. (You don’t really need a HR monitor for that last one!)
Incidentally it’s worth adding here that HIIT training has been proven that you will continue burning calories long after you have stopped exercising due to the ‘afterburn effect’. Also called the EPOC effect (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) the body has a number of duties to perform after very stressful ( think 90%+ HR zone) exercise. The duties include replenishment of oxygen and energy stores, removal of of lactic acid and other waste products, reparation and strengthening of bones and muscle. These keep your metabolism higher for anywhere from 10 to 72 hours depending on age, sex, body type, race and exercise type (and what website you read). So that 500 calorie work out might end up being a 750 calorie effort over the next 24-48 hours.
Your body is a machine with many variables and measuring them with the use of technology and applying science will surely see you blasting through those plateaus.
I’ve mentioned walking above with regards to comfort but when incorporated into a training plan as a strategy it comes into its own category. If you are just getting started or use walking as part of your race plan, it will help to reduce stress on your body in the short term and vastly increase distances and training effectiveness in the long term via replenishment. When learning to run, look up “run walk run” as a training strategy. The idea is to start with a higher ratio of walking to running; say 5:1, 5 minutes walking followed by 1 minute of running, followed by 5 minutes of recover walking then more running. Over time start to change the ratio slowly so you are running more and walking less. 4:2. 3:3, 2:4 etc, so eventually you will be doing 1 minute walking, 4 minutes running, 1 minute recovery walking etc. You get the picture. This is the last step before being able to run continuously.
When I looked at increasing my distance, I could run 5k’s easily in 25 to 27 minutes depending on how I felt and 10k in approx 60 minutes. But 10 k was probably my limit. I felt sore, my breathing was OK but my muscles and joints had had enough. When I incorporate walking into my plan, walking for 1 minute every 10 minutes, my body felt way less stressed, I felt less pain and I was EASILY able to increase my distance by 25-50% almost over night. I jumped from doing 10-12 k’s to 15 – 17k immediately. What this does to your system is allow for increased calorie expenditure and build endurance as well as reducing stress on joints and allowing the body to catch up on waste removal and Oxygen and nutrient replenishment. Such is the powerfully restorative effect of walking as a strategy.
Rest as a incorporated training strategy was on equal par with walking but walking is an active rest. Taking “rest days” is equally important as training. Without it muscles and joint will be overworked, stressed and under replenished. (Think about how a 7 day working week would affect you!) Ive discussed how walking while running allows for an active rest. Rest days is the same thing on a larger scale. Taking a rest or **“recovery”** day gives the body time to replenish energy, proteins, fat and carbs stores as well as regenerating the endocrine system (which regulates metabolism, growth and development, supplies hormones, signalling for your body, sleep mood etc…) Rest allows for adaptation to occur and is where improvements are made. Don’t underestimate rest as a vital part of your training plan.
9. Goal Setting
“Goals are dreams with a deadline.” Use terminology that puts an end date so you can measure your success at some point in the future. So instead of saying “I want to run a marathon”, say “ I want to run the Gold Coast Marathon this year”. That gives you a point that you must work towards and you can begin your planning.
Make it MEASURABLE
Don’t make the goal so vague that you can’t measure success. Include a goal like a distance, within a time frame. So say “ I want to run a 5k race in under 30 minutes. Rather than just saying “I want to start jogging.” Or “I want to run 5k”. The mark of success is when that achievement is attained.
Make it ATTAINABLE
A goal of running a marathon in 12 month from starting running is attainable. A goal of running the “Blackall 100” in 6 months may not be. So there is no point setting a goal that you cant attain as you will be setting yourself up for failure. Essentially when you start something, you dont know what you dont know. So its worth asking you support network if your goal is attainable.
Make it RELEVANT
The goal and small stepping stone goals must be relevant to the big picture. If you wanted to do the Kakoda trail, there would be little point setting goals of running hundreds of kilometres of flat ground in preparation. It would be more relevant to train with a heavy packs while running hills and climbing local mountains. Your running of endless kilometres would improve your cardio vascular fitness, but when you arrived in Kokoda, geared up with a heavy backpack and hit the hills, you would be sadly unprepared. The goals of training you undertake must be relevant in the bigger picture. A relevant goal in working on your strength, fitness and endurance would be running up and down Mt Coolum with a 15 KG pack in 25 minutes. If you find on your first attempt it took you 50 minutes, you will need to be flexible in that goal setting (as you may find its not ATTAINABLE) so readjusting your goal to climbing Mt Coolum in 40 minutes is a good temporary goal. Once you have smashed that goal you will feel good about it and set another goal reducing your time by another 5 minutes until you maxed out. All the while you will improve your cardio, endurance and feel very good about your preparedness to tackle Kokoda. Another relevant goal would be to walk/run up and down Coolum 5 times in a day, SMASH THAT and then go for 10!!!
Set a TIME
“Goals are dreams with a deadline.”
Set a time limit on your goals else they could literally go on endlessly. Something like…“I want to run up Mt Coolum with a 25 kilo backpack in less than 30 minutes BY Christmas.” You might be going to Kokoda in Early January, so if you aim to peak at Xmas that will set you up nicely to be fit enough for your trip. Your other supportive SMART goals could include:
Working on cardio, “Take 30 seconds off my 5K personal best by November 1”.
Working on maximal strength “5 reps of 100Kg Squats ( or one single squat of 120KG ) by xmas.”
Working on endurance “Cycle 10 KM in 25 minutes by November 15.”
It might seem silly setting a goal in such a granular fashion but it the goal only makes sense if it supports the outcome.
- 10th Running tip – Read on
There was so many thing I could have chosen as the tenth item on this list. Some tips included cross training, start slowly and build over time, warming up and cooling down techniques”. But I have chosen to “learn proper technique”.
Simply put if you wish to run well into the future you should consider learning proper running technique. I dont think I have great technique hence why I have constant little niggles like random cramps in my calves, a swolen anke that took 5 months to settle down, locked hip flexors and my current Pes Answerine bursitis.
But the basics are bottom up approach.
- Land on the ball of your foot (Midfoot) behind your big toe. This will allow the foot to absorb some of the force that wants to shoot up into your ankle and knees and destroy your joints. The point of the midfoot also allows for natural pronation, the rolling effect of the midfoot from inside to outside to assist dissipate force. Avoid landing flat footed or worse Heel striking. This sends way to much force into your ankle, through the shin and into your knee.
- Land with a slight bend in the knee to allow the muscles to lengthen and absorb the strike.
- Run with feet landing under the body not too far in front. The force from the ground will travel up and back wards acting like a break and sending unnecessary force through the joints.
- Lean forward to generate energy for movement.
- Higher cadence with more steps is better than a long stride with fewer steps. The equate to less force per step.
- Running can leave you feeling tight. Some hip mobility exercises performed after running or when tight will help the legs to swing freely. Perform a squat to the ground (think taking a dump in the wild) and hold for 30 – 60 seconds. The complementary stretch is the the yoga cobra move. Also the lunge and hold will stretch the hip flexor.
Also consider visiting a professional and undertaking a gait analysis. This is a review of your running form. Essential they will advise on the above but will also spot other issues.
I thank you if you have read this far. I’ve enjoyed learning and compiling this stuff and hope you have as well and it helps you with an injury free running career.