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How To Learn To Run

Running, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, may seem straightforward compared to activities like swimming or biking. However, like any sport, it requires strategy and planning for success. Here’s a guide to get you started on your running journey and ready for race day.

Step 1: Gear Up

To begin your running journey, you’ll need minimal gear: a pair of gym shoes and a water bottle. While any gym shoes will do initially, investing in a pair from a specialty running store can enhance your experience. These stores often have fit experts who can analyze your running style and recommend the best shoes for your needs. It’s advisable to dedicate these shoes solely to running and replace them every 300 to 500 kilometers.

Step 2: Find Routes and Running Groups

Discovering suitable running routes and finding running companions can significantly enhance your running experience. Seek recommendations from local running shops or gyms for safe outdoor routes and running groups. Participating in group runs not only provides accountability but also offers opportunities to learn from experienced runners.

For solo runs, utilize fitness tracking apps like Map My Run, Garmin Connect, and Strava to identify popular routes in your area. Prioritize safety by staying aware of your surroundings, avoiding distractions like headphones, carrying a phone, and informing someone of your running route. When running at night, ensure visibility by wearing reflective gear.

Step 3: Start Running

Begin your runs with a five-minute dynamic warm-up, incorporating moving stretches such as lunges and leg swings to activate core, glute, and leg muscles. Start at a comfortable pace where you can converse easily. Despite feeling like you’re not exerting yourself enough, research indicates that running 80 percent of your miles at low intensity yields the most improvement.

To gauge your effort level, use the “talk test” – if you struggle to hold a conversation, slow down or incorporate regular walk breaks as needed. As your fitness improves, gradually decrease the duration of walk breaks.

“A run/walk method is proven to work, begin with a three-minute to two-minute breakdown, then progress to a 4/1 breakdown, eventually transitioning into 10-minute increments.”

Step 4: Increase Mileage and Intensity – Slowly

As your enthusiasm for running grows, avoid the temptation to increase mileage too rapidly. Overuse injuries like IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, and shin splints can result from excessive mileage increases.

Adhere to the 10 percent rule, limiting mileage increases to no more than 10 percent per week. Additionally, consider implementing “cutback” weeks every third or fourth week, during which you slightly reduce your mileage before resuming higher mileage weeks. For example:

  • Week 1: 20 kilometers
  • Week 2: 22 kilometers
  • Week 3: 24.5 kilometers
  • Week 4: 22 kilometers
  • Week 5: 27 kilometers

To improve speed, allocate 20 percent of your weekly mileage to challenging efforts like tempo runs or speed work. Expect some muscle soreness, but if pain affects your running form, prioritize rest or skip a run.

“Set aside your Type A personality, taking a few days off is better, as you’ll return stronger.”

Step 5: Get Race Ready

Preparing for a race involves more than just running. If you’re participating in a triathlon, you’ll start the run segment after a demanding bike ride, which can impact your performance.

Begin incorporating brick workouts into your training regimen at least once a week, consisting of a bike session followed by a run. First-timers should start with short, easy rides followed by 10 to 15 minute runs. During races, allow time to transition by easing into the run segment.

“Maintain control of your heart rate and avoid starting at an intense pace that you can’t sustain.”

Whether it’s race day or a routine run, prioritize listening to your body for a healthier and more enjoyable running experience.

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