Learning how to run

When I was younger, I used to believe that there were two kinds of people: runners and non-runners. I planted myself firmly in the latter category. Why? Because running made me tired, sweaty, cranky and sore. And we’re talking the first five minutes here. Today I run 10ks a couple of times a week and I revel in how fun and how meditative runs can be. So take it from a non-runner – there’s no such thing as a non-runner 😉

As a health writer for a popular women’s magazine, I’m constantly asked the same questions: how can I lose weight quickly and how can become a runner. I’m assuming you already know the answer to the first two (+ exercise, empty calories, sat fats, – red meats, + lean proteins + healthy fats + complex carbs, loss @ 1 to 2 pounds weekly; done.) Let me share the answer I always give to the second question instead. We’ll have you looking like a beast in no time.

First of all, there are a couple of things you can do to make running more comfortable:
Invest in a good pair of running shoes. Don’t skimp. Think of how much you’d be willing to spend on that fab pair of heels that you only wear a couple times to the club. Don’t be silly by skimping out on sneakers you’ll be running in ALL the time. I love my asics, but go to a running store to find a pair that work for your arch/stride/exercise level.

Buy a sports bra. Buy a freakin’ good one so that you don’t knock yourself out or gather a fan club while you bounce along.

Before you run, make sure that you’re fueled.

I like to grab a granola bar, an apple with a bit of peanut butter something. When I’m under fueled every single movement is an effort. When I’m fueled for a run it sometimes feels like I’m just watching my body do its thing on autopilot. The difference can be enough to make me quit a run altogether. Don’t stress about the calories in a pre-run snack. You aren’t “negating” the exercise – you’re fueling it. There’s a huge difference, and your body will thank you for it about fifteen minutes into the run.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Give your body a chance to get your heart rate up and your blood pumpin’ before you kick it to overtime. On the flip side, give your poor heart a chance to play catch up: the big muscles in your legs and arms that were helping move that blood along when you were running help your heart a ton. Stopping cold is seriously stressful; run, jog, then walk it out.

Breathe.

Take a really deep breath. Right now. Do it. Feels good, right? Focus on long deep breaths when you’re running rather than shallow pants. I find timing my breathing to the music I’m listening to helps keep me on task. Whatever you do, don’t HOLD your breath. This is something I used to catch myself doing all the time when the road got tough. Bad breathing = cramps.

Cramps

That twinge in your lower side that turns into a full on oh-my-god-I-didn’t-know-I-had-muscles-there spasm? That sucks. Want to know a trick that seriously works? Alter your breathing so that you are exhaling fully when your left foot strikes the ground. You’ll feel the tension ease and then gradually dissipate.

(Something else that helps – but, disclaimer, looks really funny: lift your arms up high over your head to pull your rib cage open and help expand those lungs. You’ll look silly, but who cares? Sometimes I pretend that I’m just hcore like that and stretching WHILE I’m running – nbd.)

Streeeeetch

When you’ve finished your run, dedicate a couple of minutes to a seriously good stretch-fest. It’s so good for your muscles and a great opportunity to reflect on the experience of your latest run. I have a stretch track on my iPod to make sure that I do it for at least 10-15 minutes.

Last but not least? Build up to it.

You aren’t going to become a marathon runner overnight. Try a minute of running, a minute of walking. Easy peasy, right? Up it to two minutes, three minutes. Try running for a full song, then taking a breather, two songs, a quick pause you get the gist. Never, ever feel bad about taking a walk-break. Walking is a seriously sexy exercise in its own right. It’s a win-win situation. (ps: Many of my marathon-running friends take a walk break every ten minutes.)

And while you’re out there, please, please take a minute to admire how awesome your body is. Everything about you works together perfectly on its own: feel the strength in your legs; the deep, powerful pull of your lungs, the grace of your arms.

And you thought you were a non-runner