On November 13, 2011, I ran my first run. It was a charity run for cancer research. The following month I ran a seven kilometre race and a week after New Year, I took on a twelve kilometres race. On March the eleventh, I will be running my first half marathon.
I have just over a month to prepare for this event. ‘Prepare’ being the operative word here. I have learnt that you can run or you can prepare. Preparation comes in two parts: training and conditioning. The training aspect is just as important as the conditioning. The training part is simply getting into a running habit. You can develop your own training routine or you can grab one from the many online options that are available. Here is one you can try as a beginner; it is not an actual training program but it is easy enough to get you started without suffering much muscle sore the next day.
As with most beginners, you will need clear defined plans. So I would recommend you start your first run on a Saturday or Sunday morning (pick one instead of alternating). Then your next runs on Tuesday and Thursday evening. The key here is to easy your way into running; so don’t push yourself. The distance is not important. Keep a comfortable pace from start to end of each session. It is also best to go to a running spot such as a park or your neighbourhood track. Find an easy and relatively flat terrain. I would also recommend bringing a buddy who will run with you; better still if you can buddy-up with someone who has been running for awhile.
Now, before you start each run, warm up for 5 minutes. Your warm up is a series of stretching exercises that focuses on your muscles starting with your neck and slowly working your way down to your shoulders, arms, torso, thighs, knees, ankles and feet. A warmup is not a show of strength, so go easy on yourself and don’t rush through it. At the end of each run, you need to cool down by repeating the warmup sequence. Both the warmup and cooldown processes are very important.
You start Week 1 program with a slow jog or walk for 10 minutes. This is a continuity of your warmup. You can walk and work your way into a jog or simply start jogging. Do whatever is comfortable for you. Remember not to push, strain or pressure yourself into this.
The next phase is a slow ten minutes run. This is slightly faster than your jogging speed. Keep an even pace; don’t slow down or speed up. Your breathing must be easy and you should be able to hold a conversation at this pace. After ten minutes, gradually increase your speed for a period of five minutes only. Expect to feel uncomfortable and a little strained during this five minutes. This is the only time in your run that your will push yourself. After five minutes, gradually slow down back into a slow run; not a walk. This might be difficult the first couple of sessions but your body should quickly adapt. Continue this slow running pace for another ten minutes before you go back into a walking pace.
There are two important ingredients here; your pace and your posture. In each phase, keep and even and steady stride. Try to start each step from your heel and end at your toes; heel to toe. Posture wise, your body should not arch over nor should you lean backward. Pull your shoulders back so that your spine would straighten out into its natural form. That’s it.
On weeks two and three, you will have two running bursts instead of one. By the end of week three, your body should already have adapted to running. You know you are on the right track when you feel good physically and mentally at the end of the day after each running session. At this point you can choose to increase the amount of time you spend on run mode and decrease the amount of time you spend on slow running; however, remember to do this at a comfortable pace. Increase your run mode by five minutes every week or two. If you keep this pace, you should be able to run a straight 30 minutes within two months. You can also start running on new route with a different terrain or one with a better view. Morning runs are the best. I like to run on routes that have a lot of trees and maybe even a lake. Find a nice place to run. If it is out of the way, then make it your weekend route.
The final note I need to emphasize on is hydration. Drink a lot of water. I always have at least 500ml of water with me on my runs and I will consume another litre after each run. You can include a non carbonated sports drink after your run but don’t over endulge.
That covers the training process. If your objective is to lose weight, you will need to look into your diet. That is another topic (click here for Dieting and Weight-Loss). If you decide that you want to try joining a race, you will need to condition yourself a little. I will talk about conditioning next time. For now, just get into a running habit. Ensure that it is not a chore. Running must be enjoyable, so have fun running.