I always look forward to this time of year.
The trees begin their autumnal transformation, the weather starts to cool; it’s these crisp fall days that lure me out of the gym and onto the city streets and sidewalks. After a sweltering summer, the weather is finally pleasant enough to run outdoors again.
I’ve been running since high school – it’s one of only a handful of things that allows me to completely clear my mind of anything that may be causing me stress or worry (or both) and just be. With the road or trail stretched out in front of me, there’s only me and it. No need to think about anything else, unless I choose to let my mind wander. What I love about running is how democratic it is, as long as you have two feet to walk on, you can – in most cases – run. If you run on the beach, you don’t even need shoes. No complicated equipment needed, just your body and mind.
If you’ve been thinking about getting into running, now is the perfect time to start. The air is crisp, the leaves provide plenty of scenery, and today I’ve got a few tips to help you get up and get going. Don’t be intimidated – everyone has to start somewhere.
Equip yourself: Like I said, running is great because you don’t need a ton of equipment, however, because running is a higher-impact sport, it is important to invest in a great pair of well-fitting shoes when you can. Check out our recent interview about finding the perfect pair, and then head over to your nearest running-specific store to get professionally fitted.
While you’re at it, consider picking up some running-specific clothes. Technically you can run in any old pair of shorts and a tee shirt, but do you really want to? Clothes made from moisture-absorbent wicking material will keep you far more comfortable, drier, and help keep your skin healthier (AKA: fewer breakouts).
Before you run, walk: If you’re not already working out regularly, your running routine should actually start with some walking. Take two weeks and walk or use a stationary bike for 30 to 40 minutes per day, at least three times per week. This will get your body moving and ready to take on more rigorous exercise. Walking is still a great way to work out and the perfect way to explore new parts of your city or town. Keep it interesting by choosing a few new routes to take, and download an app like Runkeeper, which will track your mileage and time, and can help you plan future routes.
Take it slow: After you’ve maintained a regular, lower-impact routine for a few weeks, it’s time to pick up the pace. But while it may be tempting to push yourself to the limits, it’s best to start slow to avoid injuries like runner’s knee and shin splints.
Before you start, warm up for three minutes (you can save stretching for the end), then try switching on and off between walking at a fast pace and jogging. When you’re done, cool down for a few minutes by walking slowly and finish with a few minutes of stretching. Over time, increase the amount of time you spend running. While it may be tempting, don’t go for distance or speed as a beginner, let your body do the talking: If you’re huffing and puffing, take a break, if you’re experiencing pain, slow down or stop. Your goal should be a sustainable exercise routine that will last you for years, not to burn yourself out or do permanent damage to your body. It’s also smart to pair some weight training with your running routine. Weights and other weight-based exercise will help you avoid injury by strengthening the muscles around your joints, and can even help you run faster.
Once you’re running, work on tweaking your form. Keep your back tall and straight and look ahead at the route before you, not down at your sneakers. Keep your arms relaxed and at a 90 degree angle, and your hands loose, as if you were holding an egg. Take shorter strides, and — take this from someone who has a bad habit of biting it — scan for upcoming cracks and bumps in the sidewalk.
Stay hydrated: With any exercise routine, and life in general, when you’re running, you’ve got to stay hydrated. There are plenty of sugary sports drinks available, but water is best. Drink at least 8oz. of fresh water before and after a run, although more H2O can’t hurt. If you find that you get parched mid-run, you may want to invest in a water bottle that fits in your palm, or a belt with a bottle holder.
Know your routes: No matter what kind of exercise you do outdoors, it’s important to ensure your personal safety. Before I embark on a new route, I like to drive it first and scope things out. This serves two purposes: I can check out the neighborhood and clock the mileage on my car’s trip odometer so I can get an idea of how much time it will take to run. If you don’t feel comfortable running in your neighborhood, drive to one that feels safer or check out the gyms in your area for treadmill access. Many schools also allow residents to use their tracks during off-hours, the benefit of which is a nice flat surface and a pre-measured distance (most tracks are around 400 meters around) – and no cars.
Having a few routes up your sleeve will also ensure variety. I can easily get bored with running the same streets week after week, but switching it up makes me feel motivated and gives me something to look at while I’m out there.
Keep motivated: Once you get comfortable with your routine, try partnering up with someone for a once-a-week running date to keep you accountable. You’ll have someone to run with and having the date written in your calendar will make you less likely to bail. And never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Make a new running playlist to get you excited to hit the pavement, or give yourself a gift — like a new running top, sports bra, or pedicure to nurture your tired feet — after you’ve stuck to your routine for a few weeks.
After you become comfortable with your routine, consider upping the ante and signing up for a 5k. Thanksgiving in the US is about 11 weeks away, which makes right now the perfect time to start working towards the goal of running a holiday race (secretly my favorite kind of race).
I love running, but I’ll also admit to falling out of love with it a few times a year, usually when I’ve pushed myself too hard. Take it easy and be patient, and work variety into your exercise routine – it really is the spice of life.
Be sure to check out our newly launched collection of running-specific apparel, available now.
Do you have tips for new runners? Be sure to share!
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