Ten tips if you want to start running

Is there such a thing as too much information on running? If you wanted to start running tomorrow, what exactly do you need to know?

Not much!

We ran as children before we knew anything about technique or coaching. Running is basic instinct. It’s just a matter of wanting to run, and then acting on the desire. It’s a question of taking that first step. And then the next, and then one more.

One step after another. One step at a time.

My intent is to help you start moving the way you did as a child, not to teach you how to run. No animal in the wild is ever taught how to run and they’ve been doing it pretty well.

So did we humans, before we sat down on a chair and forgot to get up. Smartphones and computers are helping us evolve into not-so-smart-beings.

Here are ten things you should know if you want to start running.

1. Walk before you run: Do not get too bogged down by right or wrong form. Just get moving. There is no need to start running yet. Get comfortable with spending more time on your feet. Start with walking. If you already walk, add variations: for example, at five minute intervals, walk slightly faster for a minute. Repeat that a few times. I would suggest a month of walking before you start running. It’ll be a lot more natural by then.

2. Breathing: You wouldn’t hear a child complain of breathlessness when they are jumping around for hours unless they have medical conditions, but that is the very first complaint adults would come up with who pick up running later in life. It’s because we have taken this vital function of life for granted. Focus on breathing while you stand, sit or lie throughout the day. You need to become comfortable with deep breathing at rest and then it’ll come naturally to you when you run.

3. Form follows function: Studies have shown that when you think of your running form while running, it reduces your running efficiency. Muscles move your joints—get them to start working better through exercises and drills. Your running form will keep improving.

4. Rule of 10%: Even for walking you need to follow this rule where you increase time on your feet by 10% from week to week. If you are starting from scratch, walk 15-20 minutes; you can even take a break if you feel the need. Then a week later, add a couple more minutes. See how you feel. If it feels good, add a few more minutes. This rule would apply when you get started with running too.

5. Strength training: Most runners love to only run. If you want to stay as injury-free as you can be, and want to keep running for long, focus on strength training. You don’t need to go to the gym. Basic bodyweight exercises will do the job. Adding a little weight is even better. But remember that a good exercise is one that is done. So do them.

6. Water: It is almost hilarious when you see people running with big water bottles when all they are doing is 30 minutes or so. Keep your water bottles in your car or in a corner of the park. Have a sip or two every 10 minutes. That is more than enough. Carrying that water bottle actually messes up your running form and also causes neck and upper back pain you never had.

7. Food: For a long time, typical running wisdom focused on carbohydrates. They are important, but not as much as we used to think, and we don’t need it in large quantities. Cut down on your sugar, parathas, rotis or rice intake. Increase your fat and protein intake. A fistful of mixed dry-fruits and sprouts do a great job. Don’t fall for these seasonal diet fads that come along.

8. Supplements: I would suggest you get a baseline blood test done. Start on any vitamins only if there is a deficiency. Most supplements that are suggested in gym or in running groups are not needed.

9. Signing up for races: We all need goals to carry on with our journey but it’s different for everyone. My concern is that most beginner runners soon fall into a rat race and injure themselves. Sign up for races when you are ready for them and don’t sign up for too many of them in a year as they are a recipe for disaster. Don’t keep increasing your distances. First, become good at shorter distances.

10. Running for health: 30-40 minutes of running is ample for health. You do not ever have to run longer. Just that once the running bug bites you, you just want to do more and more.

posted Tuesday July 26th
by Rajat Chauhan