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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beginner Runners Part 1 -- Preparation

 This is my personal list of "know-how" for anyone pondering running for the first time. These are things I wish I had known, or at least had known to look out for, when I started running. My hope is to get you all excited about running (it's FUN, believe me!) while also keeping you safe and healthy!  
One of my favorite routes.

The Right Gear

I plan to provide a lot more detail at a later point on the right sneakers for your foot, but gear for runners encompasses a lot more than just footwear. Also check out my posts: Summer Running Gear Part 1 and Part 2 for some video on what I wear during the warmer months!

A watch is essential. 

There are a lot of fancy gadgets out there like pedometers that not only record how many steps you take but also record your route and save it for a later time. I find that these are not the most accurate when it comes to running. Pedometers were initially made to record walking steps. The most accurate ones out there use satellite technology and they are expensive! Maybe one of these days I'll invest in that kind of technology. However, the most important thing to know right now is how long you are running. (I believe that distance becomes important at a later step, so I will discuss it in the next part of running.) I use a basic, simple, watch during my runs and it works just fine.

    Clothes for the weather. 
    • You won't know how your body reacts to certain fabrics in certain temperatures until you run, of course. However, moisture-wicking fabrics are the standard and are always the best.  

    • In colder temperatures it will be cold until you warm up so bring layers that are easy to take off and carry. The layer that is touching your body you want to be moisture wicking.  This helps to keep you warm and dry when your body heats up.  

    • You also want to make sure that you dress for about 20 Fahrenheit degrees (or around 10-12 Celsius degrees) warmer than it actually is outside. The reason being that you don't want to wear too much clothing but you still want to keep warm. If you need to, wear gloves and hats to protect those parts of your body that tend to feel the cold first.  

    • A good windproof jacket and a good waterproof/resistant jacket are musthaves. 

    • Have a mixture of long-sleeve and shortsleeve shirts as well as shorts, pants, and 3/4-length bottoms for all seasons. 

    • Here's a neat tool I just found that helps you dress appropriately for the weather in all temperatures under all conditons (rain, snow, wind etc.) : What to Wear for Runners

    • A good pair of synthetic socks to wear NOT cotton as this fabric gives blisters. I actually do run in cotton and have never had a problem but the experts don't recommend it. 

    • In the summer you want to have a good hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun (I use a hat). In addition a good sports grade SPF, meaning sweat-resistant, is a must. 

    • Where I live it's just too hot to run during the day in the summer (imagine temperatures surpassing 120F!). So I run at night. Sun is not a problem then but it's still hot so I have to be sure to dress accordingly. 

    • Carry water with you or run where there are public fountains. 

    • Be sure to wear shorts and tops with moisture-wicking fabrics. I like the ones that have no sleeves and built-in sports bras. Those work for me. Find what works for you. 

    • Another warm weather handy tool are headbands and wrist bands. If you are wearing a hat than you are fine perhaps. But at night I don't need to keep the sun out of my eyes so I wear a headband and a wrist band to keep the sweat out of my eyes. Trust me, these are handy. 


      I will go into more detail on the best shoes for underpronating and overpronating. But for now I say get a basic running shoe for the type of running you are going to do. I tend to run on trails a lot so I like a shoe that has a lot of "padding" in the sole of the shoe and is shock absorbant. I feel like I'm running on pillows! 

      • Be sure that your shoe is for running. You need a running shoe. When you start to increase your mileage then you can decide if you want to get a fancier shoe. 

      • The most important thing now is to: make sure it's a shoe specifically for running, it's all-purpose (meaning any runner can wear it regardless of how they run), and it's the correct size

      • At least 1/2 an inch of space between your toes and the top of the shoe is recommended. I learned this the hard way and suffered from black toenails for months! Not pretty, especially during sandal season!


      Cases to hold mp3 players, keys, chapstick, IDs are essential. You do not want to hold these things in your hands as you run (check Protect Yourself below to find out why). Plus, putting them in sports bras or pockets can be awkward.

        Know Your Route

        • I know I said that distance should not be your obession at this point, but it's still important to map out where you're going before you head out the door. I've tried going with the flow and running wherever my feet take me, yet, I've found that I don't have as productive a run. 

        • Maybe I don't factor in street lights or busy streets, which can disrupt your run. Or I find that I run out of sidewalk, or this is no sidewalk, making it dangerous to run there. 

        • If you are familiar with your city than maybe you'll be fine. But even as driving and walking in the same area is different, so is running. Some areas are flatter, some are hillier, some have more rocks, some have grass or dirt. 

        • There is a useful tool on google that allows you to map out your route. This gets a lot more interesting when you want to map out distances later on but I think it is also useful at this stage. Or you can hop on a bike and scope out potential running areas. 

        • Usually in every city there are parks or areas that runners frequent. I say, why not tag along? That's what I did eventually, before finding my own route. Walking is another way. 

        • My recommendation is to stay close to home at first until you get your confidence and stamina up. It's also the safest bet so you don't get lost and if you injure yourself. Although, we are about prevention on this blog, right!
          Getting Loose Basics
          • Stretching is the best thing you can do for your body. At the beginning I was incredibly lazy. I figured I wasn't running that long or that fast so I didn't need to stretch that much. It is essential for any exercising that you want to do. 

          • Be sure to check out my posts on the mechanics and  personal experience with stretching for more information on useful stretches and how to stretch.

          • For runners, the important areas to target are the hamstrings, the quadriceps, and the calves. To avoid injury you want to make sure you also have a strong core to protect your back. I do a full body stretch including the arms, the back, the neck, everything. However, I do pay special attention to my legs and how they are feeling. 

          • There are tons of pages out there that give examples of useful stretches. I like this one because it covers stretches I incorporate into my routine on a daily basis.
            Protect Yourself
            • Be sure to do your research. Research about the best clothes to wear, your running route, or correct warm up and cool down procedures. Just please stay safe and healthy. I mentioned above that I run at night. I make sure to wear bright clothing that reflects the light so I am seen by cars. I sometimes even attach one of those lights bicycles use to my shorts. If I listen to music I don't blast it. I like to stay aware of my surroundings. 
            •  It is also important to learn how to run properly. You want your hands closed lightly into a fist, not bunched, and you want your arms at a nice 90 degree angle. The movement of the arms should be straight up and back. They should not swing across your body and they should not put strain on your shoulders or your back. You want a nice, smooth, relaxed motion with the arms. For the feet you want to land on the balls of your feet. This will help you avoid leg injuries later. Keep your back straight and go for it! Practicing in front of the mirror is helpful. Trust me, once you start adding on the miles, and the time, your body will appreciate that you are running properly. Another lesson I learned the hard way. 

            And check out this video of ME!


              • Music!!! Get those playlists ready because music is one of the best ways to keep you motivated while running. Sure, you have to first peel yourself off the couch, but then it's smooth sailing and your music will help you stay on top. 

              • When I first started I could not run without having my music and I still feel this way. On days that I feel blah, with little energy, my music gives me a push out the door. 

              • Training is different. I actually don't listen to music when I'm training to run my half marathons and marathons. This has to do with pace. It is important to keep the same pace when running, in general. You don't want to speed up or slow down to the music, only when it's necessary. Music disrupts this process because you tend to run faster with more upbeat songs and slower on less upbeat songs. (More on this later though)

              • But starting out I say music is essential. Be sure to change your playlist often though. There is nothing worse than listening to the same music run after run after run. That is a recipe for boredom. Actually, I'm definitely looking for some new tunes to download on my ipod! 

              Part 2 will discuss actually starting the run, including: how fast you should go, how far you should go, and my running route! As always, do your own research before you start any exercise program. These are just tips and tricks that have helped me. 

              Leave comments and tell me what you think!


              1. Thanks Sam! I am going to read this and let you know how it works!

              2. There is still more to come!!!! Stay tuned...