Be ready to start running.

If you have never run before, or if you used to run, but it has been so long you feel like you are starting from scratch, then I am writing for you. How do you start running? I want to motivate you to start something new or to get back into a strong fitness habit you used to have. Running is the gateway sport to being even more active and gaining strength.

Running is one of the most stressful forms of cardio exercise on the body.  With each stride and foot strike, your entire body weight pounds into the ground and the entire shock of this movement must be absorbed by your foot, ankle, shins, knees, and hips.  So, before you jump up ready to pound the pavement a little, make sure that you have talked to your doctor and built up a base of walking or elliptical machine lower intensity cardio workouts.  

Thinking about starting to run.

This is so awesome!  I am always excited when people want to take their fitness to the next level; it is something that I am always striving to do for myself.  You have a walking or cardio routine now you want to add running, or you have a jogging routine and you want to add a track sprint workout.  Once you get into a habit of running some, then you can start weight training.  There is always a way to build and to take our fitness to the next level.  It is such an awesome process to watch yourself get stronger and fitter.  Sometimes we get weaker or don’t make gains, but, hey, it’s all part of the journey.

Fitness is a journey whose destination is always tomorrow, and the purpose of today is to try to make tomorrow a little stronger.

4 Rules to Starting a Running Routine:

  1. Don’t be afraid to walk.
  2. Only run with good form.
  3. Buy new shoes.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others

Number One: When you start running, don’t be afraid to walk.

In fact, you should walk.  I am going to use my dad as an example here.  I am pretty sure I get my love for activity from my dad.  Anyway, he regularly walks 4 miles.  However, recently, that four mile walk feels pretty easy, and he wants to maybe start running.  There is a right way and a wrong way to start running.  Breaking into a jog as soon as you hit the end of your driveway or stoop is not the way to go.  

Every year for the last 5 years my dad and I go on a walk on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. This is 5 years of Christmas walks! My dad is always a walker and sometimes a runner.

Start walking.  Personally, my trail runs feel great this summer, and I think it is because I started walking a mile to get to the trail, instead of running that mile.  Start walking.  Pump your arms walking, do some high knees walking, gentle torso twists, get things moving.  When you are a half mile or mile into your walk, that should be 10 or 20 minutes, break into a jog or run.  Jog or run for a minute or two, or to the next street corner or to the next tree; pick a stopping point.  

Number Two: Only start running with good form.

Never run with poor form.  When you begin to tire, your form will break apart.  Your head might lean forward, your gaze could drift to the pavement, your chest might lean forward, your heel won’t some up as high as it should, or your arms could start creeping up and in.  When this happens, stop and walk until you are ready to start up again with proper form.  The reason for this is injury.  Running injury can happen when you run with poor form and are not using your muscles properly.  

4 components of basic proper running form:

  1. Foot strike.  Mid-foot or ball of toe.  Never heel.
  2. Chest up, head up, eyes forward
  3. Heel lift
  4. Arm motion

Foot Strike

Foot Strike: When your foot hits the pavement your foot should be only a little bit in front of your hips, almost directly under your hips, not out in front of your hips.  There are two parts of your foot that you can use to strike the ground when running, the ball of your foot or your mid-foot.  You can experiment with the two to see which one feels best and most natural.  You should never strike with your heel.  Your heel bones are not made to absorb the shock impact of running; the bones in the arch of your foot are.  Remember what the strongest architectural structure is?  You got it, the arch.  The foot is an arch.  The foot is structurally designed to absorb that impact.  Fascinating, right!?  When runners heel strike, they are creating a lot of pounding on a group of bones that were not designed to absorb shock.

Chest, Back, Eyes

Chest, Back, Eyes:  The rule of thumb here, is to imagine that there is a rope tied to your chest, right at your sternum.  It is pulling you slightly up and forward.  In the Sage Running video, they discuss exactly this.  When running, your chest should always be up, as if someone were slightly pulling it up.  Your eyes should be forward, not looking down at the pavement.  Your back should be neutral, do not curve your lower back, as some runners tend to do.  

Heel Lift

Heel Lift: Most runners have a lazy heel lift.  Watch people jog around your neighborhood and quite frequently, their heel is barely coming a foot off the ground.  With a lazy heel lift, the back of your legs, your hamstrings and your glutes will not be working to their full potential to help you run, and you will be overworking the muscles in the front of your legs.  So, what is sufficient heel lift?  Your calf should come up to at least parallel with the ground beneath you.  You don’t have to literally kick your butt with your heel, but if you watch many professional runners, or even watch a child running, their heel does come up almost this far.  


Arms:  Your arms should be relaxed yet have some tension.  As a rule of thumb, when your arm swings back, your hand should be about at your hip.  Then when your arm swings forward it should come around under your chin.  You do not want your arms to cross the center-line of your body.  So, you don’t want your right hand swinging up to the left side of your body.  Keep your arms swinging pretty much forward.

Again, running form is critical to avoid injury and to build good habits as a runner.  So, when you start to feel your form faltering, take notice and fix it.  When you find yourself falling out of proper form too frequently, stop and walk!  Below, these are some of my favorite videos on running form.  I try to picture these runners and emulate what they are doing when I run.  It is good to be able to visualize what proper running form looks like.

Essential Running Technique Tips for Proper Form & How to Run Faster! | Sage Running

Eliud Kipchoge’s RUNNING FORM – 5 Simple Ways for YOU to Run Better

Shalane Flanagan Running Technique: How to Run Faster 

Number Three: Buy new shoes

Running shoes are only good for 300-500 miles of running.  So, it may sound odd, but when you buy new shoes, you need to track your miles.  I personally replace mine around every 350 miles.  The shoes may still look great and feel great on the outside, but on the inside, stuff is wearing down.  

My personal favorite shoe is a zero drop shoe.  Ok, what is a zero drop shoe.  Picture a running shoe.  The heel of the shoe probably has about an inch and a half of padding and the toe of the shoe probably has about ¾ inch padding.  Right?  That shoe has a ¾ inch drop from the heel to the toe.  Are our feet designed and meant to operate with the heel above the toe? No.  So, to help make sure my foot is working as it should, I like a shoe to just be flat.  Zero drop shoes allow and encourage the foot to bend and work as it should, they often have wider toe boxes for your toes to splay as you push off.  All of this encourages better running form, and consequently leads to less injury.  Go find any pair of regular running shoes and try to flex the shoe with your hands.  They are extremely stiff.  They provide so much support you might as well have a cast on your foot!

Above, is the ALTRA Women’s Solstice Running Shoe. This is the best running shoe I have ever worn. I used to love Saucony for the wide tow box, but now they are all so stiff. I used to wear Asics, but they feel heavy. New Balance were meh. Nike has such a small toe box for me. I am so happy to have found ALTRA.

Above is the ALTRA Women’s Escalante. The main difference between the Escalante and the Solstice is the thickness of sole of the shoe. I like the solstice for the more minimal feel, but if you want a little bit more between your feet and the pavement, go for the Escalante. My BF wears the mens Escalante.

What Is Zero Drop in Running Shoes: Its Importance and Benefits

Number Four: Don’t compare yourself to others

Last but not least, your walk/run exercise time is for you.  Don’t let yourself get tied up in what other runners are doing.  (Unless someone looks like they have great form, then see if your form is still good too.  I like to check out other runner’s form. lol!)  If someone is running towards you and looks like they could run circles around you, just smile and maybe give a little wave.  If someone passes you on the sidewalk, who cares.  If you want to run with your shirt off in a sports bra, do it.  If you are tired and want to walk, but people are watching, oh well!  

The benefits of running are just about endless.  You will feel yourself running for longer intervals on your walks.  That will be proof that not only are your skeletal muscles getting stronger, but your heart is getting stronger.  Running is a cardiovascular exercise; everything to do with your heart, blood vessels, and blood oxygen will improve with running.  Your greatest gains will be in cardiovascular health.  Your heart will be stronger, therefore it will work less to pump blood through your body while you are at rest.  Your resting heart rate will be lower; your doctor will notice.  Your body will be better at moving oxygenated blood through your muscles and organs.  Your brain will be filled with oxytocin, and it will feel great.  Ok, it won’t feel great all the time, sucking wind does not make me feel amazing, but I would rather go out on a run that feels tough than do nothing at all.  

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