10 Tips for Newbie Runners
Running is often misunderstood, especially by runners new to the sport. Some may think it’s too hard, while others think it’s something to just throw yourself into (which can be tough on your joints). The truth is, as with any workout, it’s going to feel harder without proper technique. Here are ten must-try tips that will help you through everything from sore knees to a lack of motivation.
1. Take Shorter Forward Strides
Over-striding is one of the biggest causes of running injuries. No matter how much cushioning is built into the heels of your shoes, your body just isn’t designed to land on your heels, which happens when you over-reach. Shorter strides and bent knees will soften your landing and activate your body’s natural shock absorbers. If you want to lengthen your stride, only lengthen it behind you.
2. Focus More on Technique and Less on Leg Strength
Many doctors and physical trainers recommend that all runners strengthen their legs to provide better propulsion and absorb impact better. There’s a better way. If you learn to run in a way that actually softens the impact of your landing, then you won’t have to spend extra time strengthening muscles unnecessarily. Learning to run with a forward lean, as in ChiRunning, goes a long way toward reducing your leg work, increasing your efficiency, and reducing the need for strong legs.
3. Go Up a Shoe Size
Studies show that your feet can actually increase anywhere from one to one and a half shoe sizes when you train longer distances. It’s also worth it to pick the best running shoe for YOU. A good running shoe should be one that allows you to run safely given your current state of conditioning and the current length of your longest run. Shoes should never be restrictive on your foot. They should be flexible, lightly cushioned and have only a slight ramp angle from heel to toe (4-7mm drop). In essence, your shoes should allow your feet to move as freely as they would if you were not wearing shoes.
4. Invest in Socks
Yes, there is an actual difference between $1 and $10 socks. Fabrics that “wick sweat,” including synthetics and lightweight wool, will limit friction-causing moisture while running, unlike cotton, which holds dampness.
5. Blister-proof Your Feet
If you get blisters often, it usually means you’re pushing off to hard and/or over-striding. Running with the ChiRunning technique will neatly solve both of these common problems. Whenever you do you feel a blister coming on, act fast: apply moleskin, a bandage, lotion or lubricant (petroleum jelly, etc.) to the tender area.
6. Run with a Buddy
Exercising is not only more fun with a friend, but company can make your workout feel easier. Researchers believe that having a running partner reduces stress levels during a run. It’s also good to have someone who’s expecting to meet you… especially on those days when you’re feeling a reluctance to get out the door.
7. Motivate with a Mantra
Research from the University of Nevada showed that exercisers who repeated an inspiring phase (I am strong!) aloud three times before running a mile went faster and felt better than those running without the mantra. Try one for yourself! You can also focus on watching every out-breath, for a period of time, as a way to calm and center your mind.
8. Slow Your Pace
Running at a very comfortable, conversational pace for longer distances, helps your body increase the rate of oxygen exchange in your lungs. As you gradually increase your distance your body becomes more efficient at converting oxygen into energy. Then, you’ll eventually be able to hold a faster pace while keeping that same sense of ease.
9. Breathe Through Your Nose
It’s often taught that nose breathing is best. But, when you’re just starting out as a new runner, you might find yourself breathing like a freight train. That’s because your aerobic capacity is low at first. Just keep your pace slow enough to be able to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you increase your conditioning level, over weeks and months, you’ll find it much easier to nose-breathe at almost any speed.
10. Practice Belly Breathing
We talk about belly breathing a lot in Chi Running. Allowing your belly to expand as you inhale triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body and calms the mind. It’s not only a running thing either! Practice belly breathing when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, or in a long meeting. Belly breathing allows air to penetrate deeper into your lungs, giving you more oxygen per breath, while breathing through your mouth creates shallow breaths and stimulates the Sympathetic Nervous system (Fight-or-Flight) and results in panic breathing.