"running for dummies"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Running outdoors is not a luxury city people like me can afford. :(

Anyone can run. It's the getting started stage that is hard to do, and not everyone knows how to. As a kid, I loved to run. Somehow I stopped running during my teenage years and I detested anything that requires me to sweat. However, I took part in a marathon (as a favor to a friend) a few years ago and I rediscovered my love for running, but I found out that my body was so unaccustomed to running that my legs hurt within the first 10 minutes, and I was worn out even before I hit the half mark.

When I started going to the gym recently, I met a runner who gave me some really good tips on running. You could probably find most of these tips online via Google, but I find that most of them are really lengthy articles that are just general advice rather than sounding like 'an experience'. So here are some of my own experiences, coupled with some of the tips I was given.

I have never practiced running outdoors though, so bear in mind that whatever I'm writing here is based on my experience with using the treadmill.

Gear up and get runnin'.

The most important thing to remember here is that you must not expect your body to be able to sprint like a cheetah during the first few rounds. I was really unfit (my idea of exercise was getting up to get the remote) and I was only able to speed-walk at 3.0kmph for 30 minutes the first time round. Go at the speed you're most comfortable with and gradually increase the time & speed during the next session. Once your leg muscles get used to it (yes, it will be slightly sore during the first week), you can start jog-running for 3-5 minutes between intervals of speed-walking.

You should be on the treadmill for at least an hour each time, 5 days a week. You musn't run and take a week's break before running again otherwise you might have to start from scratch as your leg muscles need to get used to moving as much as possible to develop those 'running muscles'. Also, I find that it helps when I set a running goal for myself. The goal is to run/speed-walk at least 5km each time, so that I wouldn't be wasting an hour to leisurely walk and not burn any calories. I'd push myself to achieve that goal (or possibly more) within the hour.

Once you're on a constant routine, you should start challenging yourself day-after-day to do better. Like say if I ran 5km today at the comfortable speed of 4.5kmph, I'd try to hit 5.2km at a faster speed the next day. Don't try to go too fast or too far between two sessions though, baby steps is the key to gaining a runner's stamina. Don't beat yourself up either if you can't outdo yesterday's progress (been there, done that). Just tell yourself that your body will get accustomed to running later on and just enjoy the run for now.

When it all gets too much, stop, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

I find that whenever I run, I start to breathe rapidly after 7 minutes. This will somehow increase the speed of my heart rate and I will get this urge to stop running and just catch my breath. What I'd usually do is to switch my breathing into slower, longer breaths and I will feel better and less inclined to stop running. Always breathe in and out in steady, slower rhythms so that you don't over-exert your heart. Your heart needs time to pump the oxygen into your bloodstream and when you breathe rapidly, there's lesser oxygen going into you and your heart will pump harder to try and get more oxygen in. Always remember to observe & steady your breathing.

I find that recording your workout is a great way to keep track of your progress. Each time I run, I will note the distance, average speed, length of time and calories burnt for that session, with a note at the bottom describing how I felt about that day's run. Some days I'd be like "Too tired today, didn't run as far as I could.." but there are also days when I go "Feeling great after today's run, best achievement so far." It may sound silly to some, but I find that this helps me understand that I run better on days when I'm not too stressed out at work. Some days I feel relieved from stress after running. So, always keep track, you'll know yourself better this way.

You can't expect yourself to sprint just yet, or be skinny after just a few weeks. I'm onto my third week and so far I've dropped half a jeans size, I can run for 10 minutes without stopping and I go at an average speed of 5.2kmph. It may not be much but it's a great achievement from the mere 2.5kmph I started out with. On weekends when I have more time, I run for at least 2-3 hours. Set reasonable goals, reasonable expectations and when you've achieved that, you'd feel great about yourself regardless of how far or fast you went.

Ever felt like a snail whenever you have pro-runners running like mad hares on the treadmills beside you? Well, I've been there too, and I'm telling you this; always keep in mind that they have been running & training for years and you're just starting out. Just think "some day soon, I'll be running just as fast." Never compare because it'll make you feel bad about yourself. KEEP the focus onto yourself and your own goals.

Always keep your iPod with you like I do. It doesn't only serves you well when you're bored. ;)

Personally, I find that music choices play a pretty big role as it subtly influences your running. Whenever I warm-up or speed-walk, I pace myself with upbeat songs to get myself into the mood. When I start running, I play tunes with a harder and faster beat. I have this under my iPod's GymJam playlist, which I will share with everyone in another post. Basically, this method works in helping me pump more energy into my run. I used headphones instead of earphones as well because my earphones keeps falling out whenever I run.

This isn't really something you'd need to know (it's common sense anyways), but I wished I had someone to tell me what's best to be running in when I started out. I would usually go for a run before my yoga class and believe me, running in yoga pants isn't the best thing unless you enjoy pulling your pants up every 5 seconds. You might also end up tripping if your pants has too much flare at the bottom. Proper running pants, long or 3-quarter should be secure but not tight, and not too long. Running tops can be anything from a racerback to a huge cotton tee. My running outfit is always a racerback topped with a hooded Adidas jacket with front pockets. The jacket serves as a holder for my iPod and gym locker keys, which I find convenient. And I have this theory that running in a jacket helps me sweat more, thus burning more calories, though I can't say how true that is. Wear proper running shoes too, nothing's worse than running with an injured foot, TRUST me.

Always, always keep a bottle of water with you. When you run and breathe a lot, your mouth gets dry and your body needs to replenish loss of fluids to function properly so, in between runs when you're slow-walking, quench that thirst with 1-2 mouths of water, and remember to drink slowly so that you don't accidentally breathe water into your lungs. Always use the bathroom before you run. Nothing's worse than ruining your running-mojo with a toilet break.

So those are just a few basic rules I follow (and made-up) but the bottomline is, do whatever suits you best. Don't let nobody, professional or junkie, tell you otherwise. Tips are great, but not all of them work out for you. Just go with what you feel best about and just be sure to run, run, run! ;) Have fun.


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  1. botanical garden near ur place is an awesome place to jog,especially in the morning and before sunset.

  2. I know it's beautiful out there but I don't think it's wise to do so - not with the Acid Splasher still on the loose and the many psycho maniacs out to rob innocent people in the parks. :/ The gym is still the safest place where I don't have to worry.


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