How to Begin a Running Program by Brian Holland
Social distancing has all of us at home far more than we used to be. Even if you are still working, odds are it is from home and not the office. The same goes for the gym, so we have to turn to new ideas for exercise. Looking out the window, I have seen far more runners than before. Are you ready to give it a try again? It should be no problem if you follow a progression.
If it has been years since you last ran, starting slow and easy would be smart. If you overdo it on day one, there will not be a day two. Here is a step-by-step plan to help make sure your first social distancing run doesn’t leave your feet and legs aching, causing it to also be the last run.
Step 1: Choose a good pair of shoes
- Having the correct footwear will make a huge difference. Grabbing that old pair of Chuck Taylors from the back of the closet probably isn’t the choice you want to make. If you don’t already own a pair of shoes for running, I suggest getting a comfortable pair of athletic shoes that have a fair amount of cushion.
Step 2: Warm-up and Stretch
- The first two minutes of the run shouldn’t be the warm-up. Before taking off like The Flash, make sure you have taken the time to stretch the quadriceps, calves and hamstrings. These stretches should be done standing, as we are on our feet during a run.
(Insert picture here of stretches for each muscle group, quad calf and hammy – pics attached)
- In addition to the stretches, some movements to prepare the body are good. A round of 20 jumping jacks to get the heart rate and blood flow beginning to increase followed by hip swings. Stand on one foot next to a wall so that one shoulder is next to the wall, (you are not facing the wall) with your inside hand against a wall to help balance, swing the inside leg swing forward and back. It does not need to be a forceful movement, just enough to get the hip joint moving and the surrounding muscles firing. If your right shoulder is next to the wall, the right hand and right leg are on the inside.
- The last warm-up movement will be torso rotations. Standing with your feet apart, easily rotate the body to the right, then all the way back to the left, allowing the arms to swing along. Again, not forcing the movement, but rather allowing the body to go as far as it wants to, possibly increasing range of motion as you do 10 rotations to each side. The will warm up the abdominals and oblique muscles, which we use while running, believe it or not.
Step 3: Set a goal, start a stopwatch (you have one on your phone) and take off!
- Set a goal of either how far you want to run or for how long you would like to run. If this is truly day one returning to running, be realistic with your goal. I like to think of exercises like salt, you can always add more. Don’t burn yourself out on the first day. There will be plenty of opportunities.
- I suggest starting with 5-10 minutes, about half a mile to a full mile. If you find this to be far too easy, then, of course, you can do more. If you find this to be too far, then do what feels like the right amount. Enough to be a challenge, but also to have something left for tomorrow.
- The reason for the timing/stopwatch is simply to have a baseline for comparison. If it doesn’t matter to you, then skip it. However, many people like data and having visual evidence of progression. Knowing how much time your first run was, or what distance you traveled will give you something to look back at in two weeks to see what you have accomplished.
Step 4: Cool down and stretch…again
- Please do not run around the block, right back to your front door and straight to the couch. As amazing as it may sound in the moment, your body will thank you if you take an extra 10 to 20 minutes to cool down and stretch.
- After you have completed running, start the cooldown by continuing to walk. For example, if you ran for 10 minutes, walk easily for an extra two or three minutes. Allow the heart rate to drop and the muscles to begin relaxing in a controlled manner, similar to how you didn’t go from zero to a sprint.
- The final stage before a cleansing shower and nutritious meal (check-in with Kristin Burgess for healthy eating advice) is to stretch. As opposed to the warm-up stretching, these stretches can and should be done from the floor or a mat. Sitting or lying down signals the body to relax. I suggest stretching the quadriceps first, by lying onto one side, then bending the up leg at knee and grasping the ankle/top of foot area and pulling gently so the heel of the foot gets closer to the hips. The same stretch as the warm-up but done on your side rather than standing.
- The hamstrings and calves can be stretched simultaneously. Use a band or a long rope; a belt even will work if you have nothing else. Lay on your back with an end of the band in each hand and the middle around the ball of either foot. Use the band to guide the leg into the air, keeping the leg close to straight. The hamstring can be stretched with a bent knee, so you don’t have to keep the legs as straight as pencils. Allow the lifted leg to move around a little, side to side or in a small circular fashion as to keep the hip loose also. Not only are we stretching the back of the leg, but also allowing gravity to help return blood from the lower legs to the heart.
Be proud of your efforts and hopefully you will feel ready to go the same time or distance tomorrow, or even further. Good luck!
Brian believes that physical activity is not limited to improving physical health, but plays a key role in mental health and happiness as well. Whether you are looking to compete or to escape the world of comparison, Brian has something for you with a background in yoga and professional level athletics. Brian has experience working with all age groups. “There is nothing that we cannot do, only things that we have not learned how to do yet.”