Leaves are shedding, fall befalls us, temps are dropping, and this is a great time to become a runner. It is also the last stretch of outdoor weather you can enjoy before winter sets. If you had to choose between starting now and starting after new-year’s resolutions, start now – in the outdoors; not on the treadmill.
Get a Heart-Rate Monitor
The number one thing you can do for yourself is to invest in a heart-rate monitor. A basic one like the Polar FT4 is about $60 or you could try a Bluetooth-enabled one like the Jarv for the iPhone for under $40 or the Wahoo for both iPhone and Android. Generally, you run the sensors of a chest-strap under some water for better skin contact, clip it around your chest and the sensors read electrical impulses created by your heart. Occasionally the readings aren’t that accurate during the first 10 minutes of a workout but they usually improve, especially as you phase over your warm-up session and you begin to sweat (which improves contact between the sensors and your skin). The benefit of getting one for a Smart Phone is that you will also have a rudimentary GPS system that will help track your mileage, which can be motivational and confidence-boosting. The disadvantage is that you have a bulkier device to carry. To get the best of both worlds you might consider the Garmin Forerunner 110 or the 220 for $150 and $300, respectively.
While you are waiting for your heart-rate monitor to arrive you can jog at a conversational pace. It shouldn’t sound like you are out of breath and if you can’t casually hum a tune then take it down a notch. I measured this pace at about 35 breaths per minute.
Beginners don’t realize when they’re overdoing it. It is as if they are trying to compensate for a year’s worth of sitting on the couch in one sweet workout. Whatever your motivation, resist the temptation at all costs! Slow down. The heart-rate monitor comes to the rescue because it objectively measures your effort. Get acquainted with the Maffetone 180-Formula, which basically says to take the number 180 and subtract your age. For example, I’m 37 years old, so my target heart-rate is 180-37 = 143. Take that number and make sure you’re never going over 5 beats-per-minute higher than that, and preferably stay right on target. If you do this, running will be easy and you will love it! Furthermore, you will improve massively by becoming a fat-burning machine, it is just a matter of time. If you breach your target, slow down or walk until your heart-rate is under control. It is totally OK to walk a little bit (or a lot) and that is still my preferred mode of propagation sometimes, especially up tough trails and hills. Walking is not a sign of failure, so don’t beat yourself up. In the beginning it will seem like you are moving painfully slow at this target heart-rate and this is perfectly normal and to be expected. As months fly by, you should find yourself struggling only to move your legs fast enough to measure a decent pulse.
First Workout 15 Minutes
Start with small numbers and run for a certain allotted amount of time rather than a target distance like 2 miles or 5K. Measuring time does a better job at adapting to your level of fitness: a fast runner will run farther and a slow runner will cover just the right distance. Make sessions in the first week 15 to 20 minutes long including 5 minute warm-ups and 5 minute cool-downs. Start with 2 sessions per week and the basic rule of thumb is to add no more than 10% every week. So if you ran 40 minutes the first week, make it 45 minutes the second week. This way you will double the time on your feet about every two months. However, it is common to take an easy week every 3 or 4 weeks, perhaps skipping a weekly workout or covering just half the distance on a long run on order to allow physical adaptations to take place through recovery. After about a month you could consider adding a third workout into your week.
Embrace your bad runs and races for they will serve as yard-sticks for measuring future improvement in performance. I still remember the day I felt sick to my stomach after running a whole 1 kilometer as a teenager and the unreasonable pain I felt after my first marathon. But you won’t be able to use that memory to your advantage if you don’t stick with it. So, the key to running is consistency. It is normal for your legs to feel like “blaaah” some days and you should still do an easy session on these days but don’t try to be a hero by “killing the workout”.
Learn the ABC’s of Proper Running Form
Form is an advanced topic, but beginners should get acquainted with the concept that running is a skill that we can learn. Rather than delving into what exactly proper running form is at this point, here are some “don’ts” to help you get started:
- Don’t bob up and down or side to side. If you are feeling bouncy when you run you are wasting energy.
- Don’t swing your arms from side to side. If it looks like you are swinging your arms for a german beer song in Octobkerfest you are doing it wrong. Keep elbows kinked at around 90 degrees and swing them forward.
- Get a friend to help you out and film yourself when you are running. Then see if the awesome running form you have in your mind corresponds with reality. Watch for a leg swinging out to the side as you propel yourself forward.
Image Source: http://www.heliocentricity.info/exercise.html