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by Jennifer Rhines, American Olympic Long-Distance Runner & Running Coach

Are you new to running? Check out these 4 do’s and don’ts to avoid some common newbie mistakes!

A woman running in the snow

1. DO reflect on the reason WHY you’ve decided to start running.

Whether it’s a commitment to better your own health, to raise money for a charity, or to honor the memory of someone close to you, this WHY will help you stay dedicated to your training. When the excitement of trying something new begins to wear off, your WHY will be the motivation that gets you out of bed early or out the door for a run after a long day at work. This WHY is what will push you through the monotony of a tough day; it will carry you through to the next run when everything clicks, and you remember why you love to run!

2. DO make time to stretch.

It’s common to feel stiff and sore when you’re adapting to a new running routine. Stretching before you run gets you warmed up and ready to go. Post-run stretching helps with recovery by returning your muscles to their normal length. Sometimes, you don’t realize how much better you will feel until you take the time for a few pre- and post-run stretches. Staying on top of stretching will help keep you healthy and improve your flexibility!

3. DO seek out a group to meet up with.

Those of you that are extroverts have probably already done this! Even if running is your “alone” time, joining others a few times a week can be very beneficial. It gives you an opportunity to meet and learn from more experienced runners. It also shakes things up and gets you out of your comfort zone. You learn when to push yourself and when to hold back. If you’re planning to run a race, you will step on the starting line with many people that all have different goals. Being comfortable running with others can make race day less stressful and more enjoyable!

4. DO make sure that you have the right running shoes for you.

We all have different running styles, but it’s important to know and understand how your foot strikes the ground. If you have a high arch, it is likely that you supinate, which means your foot rolls outward after landing. If you have a normal arch, you most likely have a neutral foot strike, meaning your foot strikes the ground in an effective and efficient manner. If you have flat feet, you most likely overpronate, meaning your arch flattens as your foot hits the ground, causing the foot and ankle to roll inward. Below is a  breakdown of the type of running shoe recommended for each foot strike:

  • Neutral Foot Strike: Neutral Cushioned Shoe or Light Stability Shoe
  • Overpronation: Stability or Motion Control Shoe
  • Supination: Neutral Cushion or Lightweight Cushioned Shoe

Tip:

You can take a video of yourself to analyze your own foot strike or head to a running specialty store to have an expert analyze your foot strike for you.

1. DON’T be afraid to start with a run/walk plan.

If you are new to running, it can be aerobically challenging; you may find it hard to catch your breath. Also, the impact from running is a new stress on your body. For some people, it’s best to start with a combination of running and walking. I suggest starting with run/walk intervals that you’re comfortable with and gradually decreasing the walking time while increasing the running time. Many people eventually transition to running without walk breaks, but if you don’t — that’s OK. Remember that you are doing this for you and stick with what is best for your health and enjoyment!

2. DON’T increase your volume and pace too fast!

As a new runner, it’s really exciting to see the paces drop and distances increase! You will frequently be running your fastest times and longest runs ever. There’s a unique satisfaction in this, and it’s easy to start chasing these all of the time! You risk becoming fatigued and feeling burned out if you don’t give yourself time to adapt. You will learn there are times to push yourself and times to let your body recover. Training needs to be cyclical whether you are a professional or brand new to the sport!

3. DON’T eliminate the other forms of exercise that you enjoy!

We all have only so much time in the day, and it can be hard to find time to fit everything in.  However, I feel that many different forms of exercise complement one another. Yoga, spin, pilates, and strength training for runners all provide different mental and physical health benefits. If there’s something in particular that you enjoy, keep it in the mix because it’s probably providing you the balance that you need!

4. DON’T skimp on sleep just to get your workout in!

Sleep is important in many ways. You need good sleep for proper immune function, to regulate hormones that affect appetite, to manage inflammation, and to improve your athletic performance, among many others! It can be a delicate balance, but it’s important to balance sleep and exercise to support your overall health and well-being.

About Jennifer Rhines:

A woman in running clothes smiling

Jen Rhines has competed on 3 US Olympic teams, 6 World Championship teams and 5 World Cross Country teams. Her international career spanned 17 years where she competed in everything from the 3k to the marathon. Jen continues to compete as one of the top masters runners in the world. She currently lives in San Diego, CA, where she is a running & health coach.Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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