This article was written to answer some of the most common questions asked by new runners and by people returning to the running scene after some time off.
1. How long should my first runs be?
Answer: During the first week or so, try to keep your runs to no more than 15 minutes. After that, your goal should be to increase the time very gradually. It is recommended that you increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week.
2. What should I do if I can’t run non-stop for 15 minutes?
Answer: In the beginning, most people have trouble running for even a few minutes. In other words, you’re normal! Beginning with a run/walk method can be very beneficial and quickly get you to a point where you can run the full 15 minutes. The walk/run technique is most well known in Jeff Galloway’s program.
3. How often should I run?
Answer: For beginners, I recommend three or four days a week. I also recommend alternating between running and rest days. This will give your body time to recover and adapt to the new running stresses you’re putting on it.
4. How fast should I be running?
Answer: Determining the ideal running speed is best done using the “talk-test”. You should be able to comfortably carry on a conversation without losing your breath. This can be a hard guideline to follow because some people feel as though they are running too slow. If that’s you, please remember that in the beginning part of your running career it’s very important that you focus on a pace that is comfortable!
5. How far should my runs be?
Answer: When just starting to run, you shouldn’t focus on the distance as much as the time. If you start focusing on the distance you may start focusing on speed which can lead to injuries. Let the duration of a run be your measure.
6. How do I know if I’m running correctly?
Answer: This is a common question among beginners. Unfortunately, the answers are often not as good as the question. Beginners are often told to run in a manner that feels “natural”. This can be true to an extent, but you also need to make sure you aren’t going to injure yourself due to your “natural” form. The best way to check make sure your running form is good is to find a (legitimate) running store and have them watch you run. Not only will they make sure your form is acceptable but they will also make sure you are wearing the right shoes. My running store of choice, TC Running, is a wonderful place to go to analyze your gait by some great runners!
Just remember, the earlier you can figure out how to run correctly, the better. Not only will it help prevent injury but it is also very hard to change running form after a few years of running.
7. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stick with the plan – how do I stay motivated?
Answer: There are many things you can do to help stay motivated. Here are a few;
- Sign up for a race. Having a race goal (and race fees!) on the line will be a powerful source of motivation.
- Run with a partner. Having a running partner can help to hold you accountable for getting those dreary-day runs in. You and your partner will also be able to help each other get through the rough patches in runs.
- If you are taking up running to lose pounds, try not to focus solely on weight loss. This is because, especially in the beginning of your running career, you will likely lose a couple of pounds and then plateau. While burning fat you will also be building muscle. This muscle gain will offset some, in not all, of the weight loss. Make tape measurements and photos of your body every few weeks. You’ll be able to see the inches dropping even if the pounds don’t initially follow suit.
- Journal your experiences in a running blog or on a forum and connect with other runners for support. You’ll be amazed at just how much support you’ll get!
8. Should I stretch?
Answer: In the past, the answer from just about anyone would have been “yes!”. But more recent research has been telling us other things:
- Stretching before running may actually be bad for you, leading to injury.
- It is better to warm up slowly (e.g. by starting out walking) than to stretch before you run.
- Stretching after five minutes of easy running is more advisable than stretching before running.
- Stretching after you run is always a good thing.
9. Should I change how I eat now that I’m running?
Answer: For beginning runners running under an hour a day, nutrition is not a big issue. You won’t need change or add anything special to your diet.. That said, now is a good time to change your nutritional habits if they have been poor in the past. Water is a runner’s best friend. Drink water before and after you run.
10. I am taking up running to lose weight – how much can I expect to lose?
Answer: There are many factors to consider. Here are a few things for you to think about:
- Running is at the top of the list of activities for the number of calories it burns so you’ve made a good choice including it in your weight loss strategy.
- Many runners don’t lose weight because they reward themselves for running by eating more or binging. So, rewards are sometimes not very rewarding in the long run.
- While you will most likely lose some weight running around 30 minutes three times a week, more pronounced weight loss usually doesn’t happen until you are running more frequently and for longer durations. Stick it through as a beginner and you’ll reap the benefits in much greater quantity for the rest of your running career.