Q: I want to start running but if feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. How do I get started?
A: Let’s begin with a standard disclaimer: “Before starting any fitness program, get checked out by your healthcare provider. Be sure to discuss any issues or symptoms you have that concern you.” Then, if you’re fit enough to walk for 20 or 30 minutes, you should be able to begin a running program.
Step 1: Start walking. Start out by walking just 3 times the first week, and four times the second. The first week, you only need to do 20-25 minutes. Increase to 25-30 minutes the second week. After this, you can graduate to the next step, or if you’d like to stay in this step for a week or two longer, that’s OK. If you stay longer, walk 4 times the third week, 30-35 minutes each time. The fourth week, stay at 4 times, but increase to 35-40 minutes.
Step 2: Start run/walking. Do this step very gradually adding a little more distance each time. For this step, you’ll continue to exercise 4 times a week. You want to warm up by walking for 10 minutes. Then do a very, very easy run/walk routine: jog lightly for 1 minute (or 30 seconds if that seems too hard), then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these intervals for 10-15 minutes, then do a 10-minute walking cool down. You can do this step for two weeks, or longer if you like.
Step 3: Lengthen the running. Once you’re comfortable running for a minute at a time, for several intervals each time you exercise, you’re ready to start running a little longer. Continue to exercise 4 times per week. Increase your running to 1 minute 30 seconds, with an equal walking (1:30 running, 1:30 walking) for 15 minutes. Do this a couple times or more, then increase running to two minutes, with walking for 1 minute. Do this a few times or more, then increase to running 2:30, walking 30 seconds to a minute. If any of these increases feels too hard, feel free to go back a step until you’re comfortable increasing. Don’t rush it. You should stay in this step for 2-3 weeks or more.
Step 4: Follow the Rule of 9. Once you start Step 3 above, you’re basically running with short walk breaks. This can seem difficult, but it’ll get easier. Commit to doing 9 running workouts in Step 3. The first 9 running workouts can be difficult, but after that, it almost always gets better and more enjoyable. Don’t quit before the 9 running workouts! After the 9, try running with only infrequent walk breaks.
Step 5: Take your running to new levels. First of all, celebrate! You’re now a runner. You might be walking a little during your runs, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Eventually you probably won’t need the walk breaks, but no need to rush.
Q: It seems like everyone else knows what they are doing and I feel so out of place. Will this feeling ever go away?
A: Trying anything new and putting yourself out there is scary and it comes with self-doubt and uncertainty. If you are dedicated to a fitness routine, eating healthy and remain consistent you are improving and you should be proud of your efforts. That being said, here are a few tips to help round out your workouts.
Q: I just discovered that "runners trots" are a real thing. Why does my GI tract act up when I'm running?
A: Some people get headaches when they're stressed. Runners get the trots. At least 45 percent of runners have experienced some gastro-related issue during their run. "The GI tract is very sensitive to stress, and running, or the anticipation before a race, is definitely stressful. When you run, your intestines take a double hit: The motion jostles their contents and speeds things along. Plus, blood, essential for your tract to stay on track, is rerouted to vital organs and muscles in your lower half, disrupting the sensitive balance your body has for fluid absorption and possibly causing dehydration, which can lead to cramps that force you to beeline for the bathroom. The Fix? It is recommended putting the ix-nay on bathroom-inducing high-fiber and high-fat foods 24 hours before a race or long run, and fueling up on benign, already-tested, plain meals. That's our fancy way of saying it's all about "trial & error".
Q: I just experienced my first taper week. Why did I get so antsy?
A: That two-week-ish span where you cut back training volume by about 50 percent gives you time to recover and to become mentally and physically stronger. You probably haven't felt well-rested in weeks. As a Runner in training we typically aren't used to having all that energy. Our body has gotten accustomed to fatigue as a 'normal' state. Our mind is probably on overdrive, too, thinking about race day. A fresh body, coupled with nerves and excitement, can drive you and those around you crazy. The Fix? Take 10 minutes to visualize the race, and then try not to think about it for the rest of the day. See a movie; read a book; grab a beer with a non-running friend; do some gentle exercise if you must. A favorite of ours is to take a walk to knock the edge off.
Q: My running buddy has started running with another partner. They plan meet ups and don't tell me and even go to races together. How should I address it? My feelings are really hurt.
A: Stop the drama mama! Your run activity is your sanctuary, your solace and most of all your happy place. Sure, you might fear lack of motivation going at it alone or maybe even feel left out. Don't think of it as a loss, think of it as an opportunity. Mix up your run routine, find new routes, find new races. Whatever you do don't let someone else's behavior impact your workout.