New to Running? Here’s What You Should Know
- Category Fitness, Health, Experts
In the past few years, the pandemic has forced us to rethink the ways in which we work out. Many turned to running as a mental and emotional outlet, as it also became a way to get out of the house during the long months of quarantine.
But besides that, running is easily one of the most accessible, scalable, and inexpensive workouts out there. It can become your go-to sport, a method of cross-training, or a way to clear your mind of pending deadlines. As an added bonus, there’s no gym membership required or exercise equipment needed — just yourself, a pair of running shoes, and the open road. Well, let’s not forget the motivation to get started.
So let this serve as your motivation, just in written form. This article will cover some benefits of running that you might not know about, as well as tips and tricks to get you moving.
Benefits of Running
Like we said earlier, all you really need is a pair of running shoes to get your legs moving. And who can resist the urge to buy a new pair of shoes?
But there’s more to running than the justification to go shopping.
We already know running is highly effective in building cardiovascular fitness. This also explains why runners have higher metabolism rates (the way your body uses calories) and energy levels. Also, because running is a weight-bearing activity, it builds strong bones throughout the lower body and spine (as long as you don’t overdo it!). More impressively, running as little as five to 10 minutes per day can add three years to your life AND lower your risk of developing cancer or neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson disease (Lee et al., 2017).
Truthfully, our article would be incomplete without mentioning “Runner’s High,” or the euphoria that comes with long-distance running. Runner’s High results from the release of natural opioids in the brain that cause relaxation, happiness, and even decreased levels of pain immediately after you’re done (Boecker et al., 2008). Runners also love the elevated state of mind, known as flow or being “in the zone”, that comes from long-distance runs. Flow makes you feel focused, goal-oriented, and in control of your actions — another contributing factor to post-run euphoria — which is why running is such an effective coping strategy for stress and anxiety (Stoll, 2019).
Related: Want to learn more about the effects of exercise on your mental health? Read what else Haley, our licensed psychologist, has to say.
Tips and Tricks for People Who Are New To Running
Have we convinced you to get up from your couch yet?
Admittedly, starting any type of workout can be intimidating. But, there’s good news for those who want to learn: running has a pretty low threshold for beginners. But before you go, check out these insider tips and tricks.
1. Start low and slow.
Following a running program is smart, and it’s important to start low and slow. We’d all love to run a 10-mile run at a 7-minute pace, but that’s just not reasonable — not to mention dangerous — for beginners.
When it comes to getting started, ease into your running program. If you’re looking to make running a habit, intervals are the best way to go. Gradually adjust your walk-to-run ratio for the best results.
2. Focus on time, not distance.
For those who are ready to progress beyond run/walk intervals, follow a workout timer and just run. Focusing on time, not distance, is a safe way for beginner-to-intermediate runners to improve their performance without the risk of injury. It’s a bit of a mind game, but this strategy prepares you well for longer tempo runs.
3. Set goals, both small and large.
Goal setting is the easiest way to find motivation and track progress. Knowing your goals before you start can set the stage for success.
Think of it like this: if your end goal is to run a half marathon by the end of the year, then you need to set reasonable and achievable goals along the way. Seeing yourself achieve each small goal is a huge confidence booster and will continue to motivate you to achieve your end goal. Just be sure you’re maintaining a healthy exercise identity along the way.
4. Join an online community.
The coolest thing about technology is how well it connects us. And, when you surround yourself with likeminded people, it becomes a bit easier to engage in that behavior as well.
Joining a group of people with whom talking about running can strongly increase your motivation levels and accountability. We recommend building community right here with other Fitness Blender Community users!
5. Try a change of scenery.
Simply put, vary your running routes. Using the same route is not only boring, it also leads to injury and muscle imbalances. Rotate through your courses regularly, or join a runners club around your local city, as they will often run on different trails throughout the week.
6. Fuel your body.
Energy, as you know, comes from food, and your body requires a lot of it. For running, carbs are going to be your go-to, since they’re needed to fuel your muscles. Marathon runners should pay particular attention to diet and nutrition.
Fuel also includes proper hydration. When you sweat, you lose water — therefore, it’s important to drink water before, during, and after a run. Drink when you feel thirsty, but try not to overdo it. Sports drinks are also an option but better suited for longer runs when you expend more energy. This is because they’re loaded with electrolytes and carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores.
7. Cross-training is your friend.
New runners are prone to burnout, especially in the beginning of a running program. Not only is overtraining mentally unhealthy, but it also leads to injury.
Limit yourself to 3-4 runs per week with cross-training and active recovery days between running days. Be sure to mix things up and throw in strength training and other forms of cardiovascular exercise (swimming, cycling, kickboxing, HIIT, rowing, etc.) in your routine as well.
Related workout: Essential Total Body Moves to Enhance Running Form
8. Don’t forget to stretch.
This applies to both before and after a workout. Dynamic stretches are great for a warm-up since they get your body moving, mobile, and ready for activity. But it’s what you do afterward that keeps your body in tip-top shape.
Take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to cool down after your run. Stretch your hamstrings, quads, calves, and even your feet. Taking active recovery days (not complete rest days) can also reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and push you further towards your long term running goals.
Related workout: Relaxing Stretches for an Extended Cool-Down or Stiff Muscle Day
The Pitfalls of Running (Too Much)
It’s important to note that running — as great as it is — has associated risks. The biggest ones are injury and overuse.
There are a handful of things that can contribute to this including:
- The shoes you’re wearing.
- Increasing your mileage too quickly.
- Not fueling your body adequately, from both water and food.
- Neglecting recovery.
Avoiding injury is the best way to keep yourself on track to achieve your running goals. There may be setbacks, sure. But if you listen to your body if something doesn’t feel right, you put yourself in a better position to recover. And always remember: there is a difference between soreness and pain.
Once you’re ready to start, a decent pair of shoes is all you need. Get out and get moving — and let us know where your course takes you.
Boecker, H., Sprenger, T., Spilker, M. E., Henriksen, G., Koppenhoefer, M., Wagner, K. J., ... & Tolle, T. R. (2008). The runner's high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral cortex, 18(11), 2523-2531.
Lee, D. C., Pate, R. R., Lavie, C. J., Sui, X., Church, T. S., & Blair, S. N. (2014). Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 64(5), 472–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058
Lee, D. C., Brellenthin, A. G., Thompson, P. D., Sui, X., Lee, I. M., & Lavie, C. J. (2017). Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 60(1), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005
Stoll, O. (2019). Peak performance, the runner’s high, and flow. In M. H. Anshel, S. J. Petruzzello, & E. E. Labbé (Eds.), APA handbook of sport and exercise psychology, Vol. 2. Exercise psychology (pp. 447–465). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000124-023