Running for Beginners Tips

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Can I run another marathon right away after my first one?

Post-Marathon: Let Yourself Recover

It takes your body a few weeks to recover from a marathon, especially for beginners. Even though you feel great, resist the temptation to sign up for that other marathon in town three weeks later. You can get away with this once you have had some experience with marathons and your body is used to the stress, but it is always a risk because you are still recovering. Even if you didn't run hard or fast, be sure to respect the marathon distance, because your body will respond with an overuse injury if you don't allow time to rest. But rest doesn't mean that you have to sit and do nothing (although that's fine, too). Walking is a great post-marathon activity, as is easy running, biking, and yoga. I'm not saying don't run, but give yourself at least few weeks off from weekly long runs if you want to train for another marathon.

How can I find other marathoners to run with?

Check Out Your Local Running Club

If you are new to marathons, you may find it helpful to run longer distances with one or two friends or with a larger group for safety as well as for socializing. Seek out running clubs in your area to find company for your weekly long runs. Not only do some of these groups arrange to place water in strategic locations, but they will know where you can safely run 15-20 miles.

If you prefer to run by yourself, use the local club as a resource to help you plot a route for a long run if you aren't sure where to go. Also, many local running clubs can recommend local sports medicine professionals, such as podiatrists and chiropractors, who are sympathetic to runners.

How do I know what pace to run when training for a marathon?

Listen To Your Body, Learn Your Pace

As you start running longer distances to train for a marathon, pay attention to your muscles, your feet, and how your body responds in different temperatures, and after different distances. When you increase your mileage, decrease your pace so you can run the entire distance at approximately the same speed. If you are used to sprinting for 3 miles for a workout, you will need to moderate your pace as you adjust to a longer distance. Your easy runs should be easy enough for you to carry on a conversation with your fellow runners. Not only does a “conversational pace” ensure that you aren't going too fast, it makes the run more fun.


Running's Benefits Transcend Weight

Some beginning runners take up running to lose weight, and that's great. But weight loss is tricky, and it can be easy to lose motivation to keep running if you aren't losing weight the way you think you should.

But even if you don't lose a pound, running can help keep you healthy.

Every now and then I like to mention some sports-related scientific research. A recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggested that college students who were fit had healthier metabolic profiles than those who didn't exericise, even if the body fat percentage of the exercisers was slightly overweight.

If you are running to lose weight, great, but if you feel frustrated at the numbers on the scale, try to think about the big picture--how much better you feel and how you are reducing your risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

What running surfaces are best ror marathon training?

Choose Asphalt Over Cement

Many beginning runners think that running on a cement sidewalk is no different from running on an asphalt road. Not so. Asphalt has some “give,” while cement has none. If you regularly run on cement sidewalks, you may find that your feet or lower legs start to hurt as you increase your mileage. Try to run in neighborhoods or on side roads where you can run on the street rather than the sidewalk, and seek out asphalt paths wherever possible. When you run on any road or street, be sure to run on the left, facing traffic, and stay on or near the shoulder of the road.


New Runners: Strengthen Your Shins

Beginning runners (and even experienced runners) can develop shin pain from building up mileage too quickly, wearing the wrong shoes, or running on very hard surfaces (concrete sidewalks are the worst).

But you can reduce your risk for shin pain by strengthening the muscles of your shins.

Some options:

-Toe raises. While you are sitting at your desk or watching tv, simply keep your heel on the floor and raise the rest of your foot. You should feel a stretch in your shins. Hold the foot off the floor for a count of five, then set it down and do the other foot. Repeat 2-3 times every few days.


Running for Beginners: Getting off on the Right Foot

I think the best way for beginning runners to get hooked on running is to start gradually, but consistently. If you or someone you know is a new runner, start with about 10-15 minutes of running, interspersed with walking breaks if necessary. Try this 3-4 times a week. Then start extending to 20 minutes of running, then back to 15, then up to 25, so your body can adjust to the new activity. Before long, you'll be ready for your first 5K!

How can I stay motivated during marathon training?

Stay Motivated By Enjoying The Journey

Some beginning marathoners are motivated by a cause and they are running and raising money for a charity. Others simply see it as a personal challenge. Regardless of your reason for running a marathon, staying motivated during long runs can be hard, especially if its cold, or raining, or if you have had a long week.

If you like to listen to music, bring your favorite tunes, with you, but please don't tune out your surroundings; you still need to watch for traffic or other hazards when running. Running with a group or even one training partner also boosts motivation, and talking to fellow runners helps the miles go by remarkably quickly. Or, use the time to clear your head and review issues from your work or personal life and think about pleasant events to come, such as your non-running weekend plans or your next vacation. Remind yourself (as often as necessary) that you will enjoy the experience and look forward to the accomplishment of completing a marathon.

How can I start training for a marathon?

Build Mileage Gradually

Whether you are a beginning runner or a beginning marathoner, build mileage gradually when training for a marathon to let your body adapt to running longer distances. If you are new to running and you want to train for a marathon, give yourself several months of training time so you can build mileage and endurance. Don't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent per week and you'll reduce your risk of overuse injuries.

Runner's World magazine, either in print or online at, is a great resource that includes detailed suggestions for beginning runners. Some of these plans include timed periods of walking during long training runs, and some beginning marathoners find that a combination of walking and running a useful way to build strength and confidence as they cover longer distances, especially those who are new to running, not just to marathoning. Some runners, both beginning and experienced, follow a walk-run plan to complete the marathon, but even beginners can run the entire distance successfully if you give yourself time to build mileage and if you cross train to build strength and endurance.


Tips from A Legend

This short list of tips doesn't come from me, but from John Wooden, legendary coach of the UCLA mens' basketball team known for 10 national championships. I'll highlight a few of his quotes this week as I find them.

Here's one to start with that I think is a good one for beginning runners:

"Nothing will work unless you do."

To me, this means that you can't be a runner without doing some running. How much you do is up to you, and your goals will be different depending on whether you are hoping to run a 5K or a marathon, but the point is setting goals are working for them.

What should I do when I get hurt while training for a marathon?

If You Hurt, Get Help

It almost goes without saying, but if you experience any type of pain beyond the next-day soreness of a tough workout, if any muscles are visibly bruised, swollen, or warm, or if something just doesn't feel right, visit a sports medicine professional.

Experienced runners know that it is better to catch an injury early, identify the cause, and solve the problem then to keep running with chronic pain. There's no point in being stubborn and allowing something to get worse and sidetrack your training. The majority of running injuries are easy to correct and you can prevent them from recurring. Don't be afraid to go to a podiatrist, orthopedist, or other sports medicine professional. The right person will not say, “Just stop running.” He or she will help you keep running, or modify your workouts until you heal.

  • If your feet are bothering you, start with a podiatrist. Ask runners you know or check with a local running store or club to find someone who treats runners.
  • If your knees, hips, or back are the problem, try an orthopedist or a sports medicine specialist.
  • Some people have great success with chiropractors for help in managing minor knee, hip, and foot problems. Make sure you get a recommendation from a friend or colleague, fellow runner, or another sports medicine professional.


Boost Your Confidence with a Fall 5K

Fall is a great time for runners who got started in the spring and summer to check out a local road race.

Don't be intimidated: If you have worked your way up to running, or even run/walking, for 3 miles, you can try a 5K. Treat it like any other 3-mile run, and if you feel like picking up the pace, don't do it at the start. Just start running as if you were on a normal run, and then during the second mile, focus on someone a bit ahead of you who looks like they are going about the same pace as you are, and start picking up the pace and see whether you can pass them. Once you pass person A, look ahead for someone else.

But, if you feel like you are running out of steam, slow down a bit, and walk if you need to. Also, use the water stop (there should be at least one in a 5K) as a break if you need it, or just run through it if you are feeling good and it is a cool day. You don't HAVE to drink any water during a 5K; you won't get that dehydrated.

If you try a 5K and decide that the road race scene isn't for you, that 's great, too. Just keep running, and enjoy yourself!


When to Use a Running Log

Beginning runners can benefit from a running log because it can provide motivation to see what you've done, and information that can help you either taper before race day or plan to increase training far enough ahead a race.

Logs also come in handy to make sure you aren't overdoing it when you are coming back from an injury or planning to take a step up to marathon training from running shorter distances, as a way to make sure that you are building up gradually.

What to put in a log? If nothing else, just log your mileage. If you wear a watch and want to note how long it took you to run five miles last Thursday, that's fine, but if all you do is note that you ran 5 miles, that's helpful, too.


The Running Experience

If you haven't run seriously before, you probably don't know exactly what to expect from your running. There will be new experiences, and the person in those jogging shoes is going to change.
• Early on, you'll probably run out of breath during your runs. Don't worry; it's normal. And it will get better.
• You may also experience “side-stitches” and muscle soreness. This, too, is normal, and will also disappear as your body becomes accustomed to its new routine.
• You'll probably get thinner – even if you don't lose much weight. Muscle is denser than fat. As they lose fat and build lean muscle mass, some new runners experience relatively little weight loss. But it's likely you'll need to buy smaller clothes.
• You'll probably feel happier, too. Vigorous exercise like running releases endorphins into your body, producing the “runner's high.”
• You're likely to get sick less often. A fit body means a fit immune system.


Running Habits to Adopt and Avoid

Okay, you've got your jogging shoes and a simple outfit you're comfortable running in. While it may not have occurred to you before, running is actually a complex activity. Whether or not you stick with your new activity may depend on the habits you do or don't pick up in your first few weeks. Here's quick list to help make your running experience more enjoyable:
• DO start slowly. Your training pace should allow you to carry on a conversation while you're moving. If you can't talk and run at the same time, slow down.
• DO set goals. Select a short race to run within a few months. Fit it into your overall annual running plan. Occasional races help give greater meaning to your goals.
• DO celebrate milestones. Reward yourself for accomplishments such as your first five-mile run, completing your first 100 miles, etc. Even a small reward – like a favorite candy bar – can keep your motivation alive.
• DON'T beat yourself up if you miss a day. It's just one day. Take a 12-step approach, and run one day at a time.
• DON'T push yourself too hard. Expecting too much too soon sets you up for failure. Set realistic goals, and adjust them for when life intrudes on your activity.
• DON'T “run through the pain.” Serious pain usually indicates a serious problem… and if that problem is structural, running will only make it worse. Anything beyond the normal soreness and stiffness associated with taking up a vigorous activity should be taken seriously.


Choosing the Right Running Shoe

Different running shoes are designed for different biomechanical needs, and matching a shoe to your needs can be a little intimidating at first. That's where the “shoe finder” comes in. A running shoe finder is simply a system that helps you select a type of shoe that best fits your body's needs and your style of running. An online search will reveal many options. Shoe finders from magazines are generally the least biased. Large retailers come next – though they only list the shoes they carry. Manufacturers only list their own shoes, so their finders are of limited help. To use the finder, enter answers to a few simple questions (sex, weight, etc.), and the finder will return (usually) several shoes of the type best suited for you. Make a note of the models the finder suggests. Try several finders, and note which shoes are recommended time and again. Finally, visit a good running shoe dealer, and try on as many of the recommended models as possible. Jog around the store in each one that fits well, and select the model that's most comfortable.


Getting Started Running

Other than running shoes, you probably already own everything you need to get started. Slip on a t-shirt, a pair of loose-fitting shorts, socks and a sturdy pair of jogging shoes, and you're ready to start on a lifetime activity that not only promotes excellent health, but also does it at a bargain price.

The secret is to start slowly. Don't try to run 10 miles the first time you go out… you'll almost certainly become discouraged, and sore. For your first few weeks, choose routes that allow you to walk home from any point easily – in case you become tired or sore.

Start with a short route – allowing yourself to walk whenever you become tired – and gradually increase the distance – not more than 5% per week. If you don't overdo it early on, you're more likely to stick with your new activity “for the long run.”


Running Safety 101

As with any activity, there are some risks and hazards involved with running. Most running injuries are minor, and won't interfere with your training for long. It's the other hazards that usually present the biggest challenge…
• If you run after dark or before dawn, choose a safe neighborhood. Wear reflective clothing, and – ideally – a small blinking LED to warn traffic. Always run where there are streetlights. Never run in unfamiliar territory after dark.
• If you must run on the road's shoulder, run facing traffic. Always assume that oncoming drivers can't see you.
• Run on as forgiving a surface as possible. Grass is good; concrete is bad.
• If you're running alone, make sure someone knows where you'll be and when to expect you back.
• Don't run with earphones or earbuds, unless you're on a running track or jogging path. Even then, keep the volume low enough that you can hear someone approaching on foot.
• Never, ever run on railroad tracks. Ever.



At one time, virtually all runners stretched vigorously before every workout. But most authorities now recommend that you warm up for five to 10 minutes before stretching. Therefore, some runners prefer to do their stretches after their running workout – and some much later.

As long as your muscles are warmed up sufficiently, it's fine to stretch before your workout. (Jogging easily for five to ten minutes should do the trick.) Just be sure you don't over-stretch, which can lead to soft tissue injuries like muscle pulls.

It's important to gently stretch the muscles you work during a run. Stretching not only increases flexibility, but also reduces the risk of injury, muscle tension and soreness. Stretch gently, and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Don't “bounce,” which can also cause injury.


Set a Running Goal - and Track It

One of the easiest ways to make a habit of running is to come up with a training plan, and then write it down. It doesn't have to be fancy or tremendously ambitious. But setting a goal – and then tracking your progress daily – will provide both a roadmap and a record of your progress. The one will give you something to shoot for, the other the satisfaction of looking back on what you've accomplished. Together, they're a powerful way to build the running habit.

Set a 12-month goal – where you'd like to be in a year – but make it reasonable. Then set 12 monthly goals… keeping in mind that each month should bring you a little closer to your annual goal. Break each month down into weeks, and – finally – set daily goals for each week. Be sure to schedule in rest days every week.

Keep a notebook or calendar, and mark down your progress every day. It's not the end of the world if you miss a scheduled day, but try to stay on track overall. As you progress through the year, your mounting success will help propel you to your goal.


Racing Etiquette

When you attend your first race, much will be new. Here are a few tips to make getting along with more experienced runners – and race officials - easier:
• It isn't “cool” to start near the front of the pack… it's an inconvenience at best, and potentially dangerous. Slower runners who insist on taking a place near the front of the pack cause bottlenecks that result in injuries.
• Don't cut in front of someone at a water station and then slow down or stop. Most experienced runners continue running as they drink, and you may cause an injury or get run over.
• On an out-and-back course – especially if there's a narrow section, as in many trail races – runners still on their way out should yield to runners returning from the halfway point.
• When passing a slower runner, be sure you have at least one full stride between you before cutting back in.
• Timing chips are not souvenirs.
• Never run wearing another person's bib number.


When to Run

Working runs into your schedule can be tricky. A relatively consistent schedule works best for most people, but your ideal time depends on many factors – whether you're a morning or night person, your job, your family, and even the weather where you live.

Choose a time and route that will be physically safe. Avoid running during the heat of the day in hot, humid weather. You'll run best if you're awake and alert for your runs, so try to schedule them during your peak hours. Many runners find their lunch hour to be an ideal time to run – provided there's a shower available.


Your First Race

Most runners today go to races knowing they have no chance of winning. Instead, they run against the clock, themselves, a particular rival, or even just for the fun of it. And racing can be a wonderful social activity.

Select a relatively short race for your first experience. No more than about two-thirds or three-fourths the distance of your longest training runs. This will help ensure that you finish.

Set a realistic time goal. If you normally train at a 12-minute-per-mile pace, don't expect to race at twice that speed. In fact, consider running your first race simply for the experience of it… to get an overall feel for what a race is like.

During the week before your first race, make a checklist of what you need to bring with you on race day. Run thorough your list one last time before you leave the house. Nervous people forget things.

At the race, try to relax and have fun. Soak up the atmosphere.

When the gun goes off, resist the temptation to take off like a rocket. Remind yourself of your goal pace, and stick to it. Most runners who fail to finish their first race do so because they're too eager at the start. If you stick to your goal pace early in the race, you're more likely to make it across the finish line.


Running Clubs

If you enjoy running, one of the best things you can do for the sport – and for yourself – is to join a local running club. Clubs sponsor races, provide training opportunities, offer the camaraderie of fellow runners, and promote the sport in general. As a member of a local running club, you'll be able to represent your club at races, to volunteer at club-sponsored events, and to get to know other local runners.


New Runners: If You Took Time Off in Winter, Build Slowly

If you took up running in the fall and backed off during the winter, spring is the perfect time to resume your running routine. A new pair of shorts or a short-sleeved shirt in a moisture-wicking fabric and a bright color will perk up your spirits as much as the pleasant spring weather.

Remember, though, that if you have taken a break from running during the winter months, start slowly. If you haven't run more than 5 miles since last fall, your body won't thank you if you go out for 10 on the first warm day. More experienced runners can increase mileage more quickly after a layoff, but as a beginning runner, you may still be adjusting to this new activity. Build back up gradually, and


Note to Newbies: Avoid Burnout, Build Slowly, Get Good Shoes

Congratulations to any newbie runners out there! Ideally you will be hooked on running before you know it, and you'll look and feel better.

That said, many beginning runners burn out after a few weeks because they have been overzealous. To avoid burnout, keep a few of these points in mind, recently highlighted in a column on

-Alternate with walking. If you are new to running and to physical activity, alternate a few minutes of walking with a few minutes of running. This is a safe way for your body to adapt to exercise and it can help you avoid overuse injuries.

-Check your shoes. Even if you are only running a few miles, make sure you are doing it in running shoes, not court shoes, walking shoes, or stylish sneakers not made for running. It's worth the investment. If your feet feel good, you are more likely to keep running. Not sure what to buy? Visit a specialty running store to get expert advice and the right fit.

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Heidi Splete
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