If you want to move from your sedentary couch to the running track, but have no clue how to make the leap, do not lose heart! Marathoner, nutritionist and fitness consultant Tanuja Sodhi has some advice on how you could make a transition to being a runner.
“I don’t want to radicalise anyone by ‘selling’ running as the only road to fitness,” she says. “Yet, if you aspire to attempt it someday and you have no lower back, knees and ankle issues, give running a shot.”
Here is a set of tips (of course, it is not an exhaustive one but only a basic indicative list) that she offers beginners:
Set a goal
Once you start running, set a goal for yourself. Setting a goal will motivate you to keep running and training regularly. In most cases, the goal is a half-marathon. If you just want to resort to maintenance running, it may be difficult to keep yourself motivated for a long period. Preparing for a 21km helps one to follow a systematic long-term schedule with running buddies. Besides, earning the ‘marathoner’ tag is too tempting an aspiration to resist.
You have to plan and fit running into your weekly schedule. Running is a time-consuming activity, so you need to figure out when and how many times a week you can run. In India, running mostly happens in the morning hours with evening as the next best option. The running time you choose may depend upon your work schedule, the distance you want to run and the availability of your running buddies.
Get a good pair of shoes
Running is one of the most cost-effective activities around. Unlike sports like golf, swimming and cycling, all you really need to invest in is a decent pair of running shoes that is well cushioned and fit your feet perfectly. The other thing is a stretch of road that costs you nothing.
Start slowly, plan 10 per cent increments
If you want to start running, make sure you start slowly and cautiously, especially if you have only led a sedentary life. Walk vigorously for a fortnight. Once comfortable, follow the 1-3 minute cycles where you run for a minute and walk for three. As your lung capacity keeps increasing and you ease out into this schedule, reverse the cycle to three or four minutes of running followed by a minute of walking. Keep increasing incrementally. Remember, too much too soon can lead to injuries. There are way too many real cases of over-enthusiastic but ill-informed running enthusiasts ending up with injuries because they started too fast and covered too much mileage too soon when their bodies were not really ready for the rigours. The ‘10 per cent increase in mileage per week’ rule works well. It can prevent injuries.
Never start without a warm-up
Complete some dynamic stretches or a short jog before you start running. This prepares your muscles for the onslaught of running by warming up your joints, making your muscles limber and raising the body temperature to help you ease in to your run and also avert injuries.
Don’t ignore cooling down
It will help prevent nausea, dizziness and muscle soreness. A lot of people regularly fall prey to these because they have not cooled down sufficiently.
Pay attention to nutrition
When you’re just starting out with shorter runs, you perhaps don’t need to increase your calories majorly, but you definitely need to eat right. You need a fair amount of carbohydrates in your diet to sustain your energy levels as carbs are the first fuel that the body burns.; proteins for your muscle recovery and repair; a small amount of good fat for joint recovery, and most importantly, hydration to prevent you from dehydration and fatigue. People wait to be thirsty to drink water. When one is thirsty, one is already dehydrated. In very severe cases, dehydration while running could even lead to multi-organ failures. An athlete should drink more water than a non-athlete.
Enhance your running skills by cross training at least twice a week. This can be done through cycling, strength training, swimming and yoga.
Ensure adequate sleep
You must make sure that you are adequately rested with seven to eight hours of sleep, because you are putting your body through rigorous activity. Adequate sleep can enhance speed and agility. You don’t want to be feeling lethargic or fatigued when you set out for a run.
Join a running group
Having running buddies can be very motivating and help destress besides help networking.