How to Start Running

Over the last few years I’ve managed to turn into one of those annoyingly perky avid runners. Possibly even the type who has a tendency to ramble on about pace, stretching and injuries to a helpless audience (sorry friends!).

But one common thing that I have noticed, is that while a lot of people want to work running into their fitness plans, they don’t know how to start. So here are 5 steps to get anyone up and regularly running:

1. Transition between walking and running. It’s really hard to start going for regular 5km runs cold turkey without any base conditioning. In fact, I suspect that’s what leads people to say they hate running. Take it easy on yourself and work your way into it. Below is a handy chart to help beginners transition from walking/running to completely running in a few weeks. Take it easy and enjoy the process.

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2. Add strength training to your fitness plan. Trust me when I say, if you don’t work a strength training program into your running plan, you will likely become prone to injury. When you begin running you also begin to develop muscles based on a very repetitive and distinct movement. Without strength training alongside this repetitive motion, it is easy to develop a muscle imbalance. This is the biggest mistake that I made out of the gate, and once those muscle imbalances develop, and injuries begin, they are very hard to shake. Here is a good strength training program to get you started.

3. Understand the metrics. In order to keep track of your progressive improvement it’s important to know the applicable metrics and understand how they work. Distance and pace are fundamental running metrics across the board. Start working with these metrics out of the gate to understand how they work together to tell the overall story of your performance:

– Distance (km): Track the progressive distance covered during each run. You will quickly find you can add a few hundred extra metres each week as your conditioning progressively improves, without even really noticing. 

– Pace (min/km): This is an important metric to track your ongoing speed improvement. This is also an important metric to keep in mind when you are training for a race with a goal finish time in mind. As you keep training, you will likely find your pace improves and you will be able to cover more distance in less time.  Even just improving your pace by a couple seconds per kilometre each week will have a significant impact over the course of a few months. 

4. See a physiotherapist before you are injuredThere are some great physiotherapists out there who focus on running and can tell you where you are likely developing an issue (such as a muscle imbalance) and prescribe exercises to pro-actively address it. This is by far one of the best uses of time and money before you start running regularly, as it could save you weeks of injury and ongoing physio down the road, once that injury does flare up. Here are a couple of physiotherapists who I have seen in Toronto and highly recommend:

– Dana Parsley at Adelaide West Physiotherapy 

– Michelle DeYoung at Athletic Edge Sports Medicine

5. Keep on rolling. Foam rollers are an awesome recovery tool. They help to loosen up tightness and speed up recovery time. Here are a few exercises to get you started.

And that’s it. Just stick with it and remember to enjoy the quiet calm when you are outside, running, and focused on the pavement in front of you. See you on the trail! 

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