Spring Fitness Tips
By Nicole Flanagan
Spring is in the air and so is the pitter pat of beginning runners hitting the roads and trails across the country. Similar to the masses of new gym goers in January excited by New Year’s resolutions to become fitter, beginning runners often hit the road at the first sign of warmer weather with similar aspirations. Many new runners head out with good intentions and admirable goals, but often find themselves overwhelmed or unenthused with the progress of their new activity. Why is that? Running is often the first choice of new fitness enthusiasts because of the low start-up costs, the fact that you can do it just about anywhere, and there are no long term dues or fees associated with running. Because of the low cost and ease of access, many new runners aren’t prepared mentally or physically for the new demands they’re about to put on their bodies and well as the time investment needed. All good things come in time and running is definitely one of those “good things.” Here are 10 tips to help ensure success with your new adventure into running.
1. Get Fitted: Pay a visit to your local independent running store. Often these smaller stores have more knowledgeable staff than the big box retails stores. Many provide gait analysis which reveals your foot strike pattern. Knowing this will help in selecting the best shoe for your foot type. Don’t skimp on your shoes. Be prepared to pay $80 to $100 for a good pair of running shoes.
2. Get Technical: Invest a little in some technical fabric running shorts, tops, and socks. Technical fabric can be made of a variety of fibers including natural and synthetic materials. Avoid 100 percent cotton. It tends to retain sweat causing chaffing, irritation, and even blisters. Technical fabrics allow the moisture to rise to the surface where it can evaporate. They still get damp, but not nearly as much as 100 percent cotton.
3. Get a Group: Motivation, inspiration, accountability, and commitment increase dramatically when you’re a part of a running group or at least have a running buddy. Everyone experiences times when they don’t want to run, but if you know you have buddies counting on you, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to rolling over and getting out of bed. Check with your local running store. Many provide beginning running groups or know of running coaches in the area that work with beginning runners.
4. Get a Plan: Just getting out the door and running often does not work for many people, especially if you’ve been sedentary or away from exercise for any period of time. Find a beginning running plan to follow. There are beginning running programs online or you can contact your local running store, running club, or running coaches in the area to inquire about beginning running plans. One of the most effective ways to begin is with a run/walk method
5. Get Acclimated: Whenever you begin new exercise your body’s fitness level will actually dip a little while you acclimate to the new demands you’re putting on your body. Understand before you take up running that it takes your body about four to six weeks to acclimate to the new demands. Anticipating that “wiped out feeling” can actually make it less of a shock. Just know that you’re going to feel the effects of your new activity. Hang in there and before you know it, you’ll pull out of that dip and begin to feel stronger than before you started. Also, start slowly. Many new runners experience shin splints, pulled calf muscles, cramping quads, or sore hips from going out too fast or from doing too much too soon. Take it slow and ease into your new activity.
6. Get Fueled: Fueling your new activity is very important. Timing is key. It’s a good rule of thumb to eat about 1.5 hours prior to your run. This will give your body time to digest the food and provide your body with the needed energy for your activity. Not eating or not eating enough before your run can make your run feel labored or cause your muscles to feel fatigued. Eating too soon can sometimes cause stomach issues.
7. Get Hydrated: Being well-hydrated is just as important as being well fueled. Be sure to drink about 20 oz. of water about two hours prior to running. This will give it time to pass through your system and be voided before your run. During your run, drinking water is fine. Once you’re running more than 45 to 60 minutes, you’ll need to switch to a sports drink to help replace vital electrolytes which are minerals (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus) that play a major role in helping to maintain proper water balance in your body. Electrolytes can be lost though your perspiration. Sports drinks such as Gatorade contain these important minerals.
8. Get Warmed-Up: Before you head out on your run, be sure to warm-up your muscles with a dynamic stretch. A five-minute walk is a great way to do this. This will help decrease the chance of your muscles feeling tight during your run. Save the traditional stretch-and-hold stretches for after your run.
9. Get In Tune With Your Body: Listen to your body. If you’re feeling something other than regular workout-related muscle soreness, don’t run. Running through the pain is never a good idea. If you’re experiencing pain along your shin, hip, IT Band or any area of the body that’s beyond normal muscle soreness, ice it, elevate it, and use your normal choice of anti-inflammatory medication and rest. When you no longer feel any pain, ease back into your running. If the pain persists, don’t let it linger. Go see your doctor.
10. Get Rest: Rest is just as important as your workout. Rest allows your body time to rebuild and recover. When you run or do any type of exercise, you actually create little micro tears in the muscle tissue. Your body then rushes in to rebuild and repair the tears. This is the normal muscle-building process that makes you stronger. However, if you don’t take the proper rest, your body may not have time to fully repair before your next run causing you to feel sore, tired, and sluggish. When you first start your beginning running program, it’s a good idea to have at least one day of rest in between runs.