How to set realistic goals, fuel up properly, and more.
Summertime is the perfect season to start a running program. With the sun shining, there's simply no reason to not lace up your sneaks and hit the road. But before you get started, learn the five mistakes every beginning runner makes. And skip them!
Starting too fast
The most common mistake new runners make: going too hard, too fast. By not easing into it, you end up exhausted much sooner than expected, and the tail end of your run becomes a wind-sucking session. This can make running seem too hard, which can lead you to quit your program all together.
Solution: The key is pacing yourself; running is a sport in which progress is especially slow and gradual. If you're running outside, downloading a pacing app like RunKeeper (free, iTunes and Google Play) can help you keep track of your speed. Start off at a moderate pace, and gradually increase throughout your run. This will make for not only a more enjoyable run, but it's also the key to building endurance.
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Wearing the wrong shoes
Maybe you've heard this one before, but it's worth repeating. You may think because your feet feel okay, and you're not getting blisters, you're in the clear. But poor-fitting shoes can cause all sorts of unexpected problems: ankle pain, hip pain, even shoulder pain, and so on. This is why I think of the wrong shoes as the "silent killer" of running programs.
Solution: The best advice is to sidestep this from the get-go. Hit your local running store and have them fit you for the proper shoes. They will look at your gait and see what areas of your feet take on the most pressure while you walk and run. The right shoe will take your runs to a whole new level.
Setting unrealistic goals
It’s very easy to get caught up in what others are doing and try to match up with them, especially when it comes to running. But remember: the only person you should be competing against is yourself. If you’re a brand new runner, trying to run a 5k straight through right off the bat is likely going to leave you feeling discouraged. It's okay—even recommended—to start with an even smaller goal, like running a mile. And then move forward from there.
Solution: Start with a realistic program that will help you build the strength and endurance to reach your running goal. For example, start with a run/walk program that allows you to take rests in between each set of running. Over time, you’ll build the endurance to run all the way through with no breaks.
A car can’t run without gas, right? It also probably won’t run very well if you fill it with water. This is exactly the way you should be thinking about fueling yourself for a run. New runners often find that one day, they feel like a million bucks on their run, but then the next, it feels like all progress has gone out the window. Often the difference is proper food and water.
Solution: Everybody is different, so you’ll have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you, but there are some tried and true solutions that work for most.
If you have 1 hour or less before your run, eat a small mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut or almond butter spread on top.
If you have 2 hours, eat a meal that includes larger portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be eggs, bacon, and a slice of whole wheat toast.
If you’re going on a longer run, you can bring some energy gels (GU Energy Gels are a popular option) for the road, but I find it easier and healthier to just snag a pack of your kid’s fruit snacks. My kids and I love Fruigees since they’re a natural, organic option and made with only fruits and veggies. This is a super efficient snack that will give you that quick punch of natural sugar to help you keep going, without upsetting your stomach.
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You may have heard the term, but many people don’t know what this is or how to fix it. By overstriding (landing on your heel first), you are opening yourself up to injury, such as shin splints.
Solution: Aim to land mid-sole. Your stride may have to shorten up to achieve this, but you’ll be happy you did in the long run (pun intended)!
For more running tips like this, check out The Pros and Cons of Running On the Treadmill
Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of the new book, Strong is the New Skinny. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors, and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and on Pinterest.