First-time runner? Try these tips for beginners

Council Rock High School South girls cross country coach Michael Gross at a 2019 meet.

Now more than ever, exercise should be at the top of the must-do list.

Staying at home most of the time isn’t easy and staying in some semblance of shape is challenging at best.

Especially now, with all the gymnasiums closed for the foreseeable future.

So are you one of those people who has shuddered at even the thought of running to keep your weight down and your cardio up?

Well, think again, newbie.

It’s not as tough as it looks, especially if you have a plan.

And that’s what we’re here for – to give our take on a list of tips to try, something a little different than the million such compendiums you can find on the internet.

With the assistance of Council Rock High School South girls cross country coach Michael Gross (who also coaches at Holland Middle School), we’ve put together 10 suggestions to get you started.

“I think a lot of people are looking to get out and do something,’’ Gross says. “Which is totally understandable at this point.

“You want to be careful not to do too much too soon, especially if you haven’t done any fitness before.’’

>1. Proper equipment: Since online shopping is pretty much your only option right now, visit sites such as Nike, New Balance, Brooks, Saucony, etc. and plug in your size. They’re always returnable. Look for models that are structured for cushioning, not speed.

>2. Start with a walk/jog approach. Some coaches recommend a five-minute walk, one-minute jog at the start, then slowly work your way up until you can reverse those numbers.

“Walk first, just to get yourself to some level of fitness,’’ says Gross. “Then slowly build in little sections of running. Especially for those who are older. You don’t want to go out the first day, expend all that energy and the next day you can’t walk. Don’t be afraid to run for just 15 seconds and then build up.’’

>3. Pick a safe, convenient course. Right now, that starts by finding an area where aren’t a lot of folks around. When there are, practice social distancing. Use sidewalks, rather than running on the street. When possible, soft surfaces like lawns, canal paths are optimum options.

>4. Stretching. Before going out, do five to 10 minutes of floor stretches, like (from prone position) knees-to-chest, push-ups, etc. A post-run stretch isn’t a bad idea either. Lifting light weights once in a while also improves strength and posture for running.

>5. Keep a log book, be it a paper version or a data base on your computer. Enter daily mileage, weather conditions, how you felt and so on. This will come in handy as the months go by to see what works and what doesn’t. Gross advocates the “10-percent increase per week’’ guideline to prevent early overtraining.

“I love log books,’’ Gross says. “Just a notebook will do. Write down how you feel. If you run four days in a row and it doesn’t feel good, that tells you something. And there’s nothing better than to look back and see how far you’re come.’’

>6. Hydrate. It’s perhaps the No. 1 shortcoming for all runners, be they beginners or veterans. It can be as simple as drinking a glass of water on the way out the door. Sports drinks are helpful because they can replace lost electrolytes and trace minerals so vital to muscle performance (and avoiding cramping).

>7. Join a running group. Clubs like the Bucks County Roadrunners are perfect for getting information, ideas from those in the know. Remember, everybody was in your shoes when they began.

“It’s just about getting words of advice from other people,’’ Gross says. “As I coach schoolkids, one of the advantages we have is it’s a team. They encourage each other. Individuals don’t have that unless they join a club. And that’s why I think the club really helps. You understand you’re not alone.’’

>8. Be patient. There’s no need to be experiencing loss of breath right out of the gate. Run at a comfortable pace until you feel like you can move to the next level. It might take a few weeks. Taking it easy will help avoid injury and frustration. And remember to incorporate rest days into your schedule to prevent all this from becoming tedious while giving your body a rest.

>9. Consider coaching advice. There are plenty listed on running websites. They can tailor a running program to your specific needs. Also, think about cross-training, such as cycling, swimming, tennis.

“Around here we have coaches with websites like Jimmy Balmer, Natalie Johnston and Eric Bofinger who can be very helpful,’’ Gross says.

>10. Have goals. For many people, that’s running their first 5K. It’s a good idea to be able to run that distance in practice before doing the real thing. That works for older types and kids alike

“Most of all,’’ says Gross, mindful of youngsters, “I am a big believer it has to be fun. You have to create the love of the sport.’’

Before you know it, that finisher medal or age-group award will be sitting on the mantlepiece.

But, most of all, you will be creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself long after this lockdown is over.

 

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 917 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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