When it comes to torching calories and toning your entire body, there are very few better forms of exercise than running. Although it’s a terrific leg toner, running is truly a complete full-body workout. But if you’re new to running, it can seem intimidating to get started. Here are 10 steps for jumpstarting a summer running routine that will soon become a year-round habit.
Start with Baby Steps
When you’re a baby, before you walk, you crawl — and when you’re a runner, before you run, you walk. So ease into your new running routine by taking a walk!
If you’ve been completely sedentary, try building up to a one- or two-mile walk before starting to run. Then, once you’re ready, practice the run-walk-run method to slowly increase your running endurance. Try running for 90 seconds, then walking for 90. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend running. And as you build mileage, throw in regular walks to prevent injury and vary your workout.
Invest in the Right Shoes
Nothing can derail a new running program faster than a foot or knee injury. So be sure to invest in the right shoes! Everyone’s feet are different, which means running in the wrong shoes can lead to ankle injuries, knee injuries and even back injuries from running with poor form.
It’s well worth your while to visit to a runner’s specialty shop to have a professional measure you for the right shoes. For example, if you have high arches, you may need shoes with additional arch support. If you’re flat-footed, you may need shoes with additional cushioning.
Be Sure to Hydrate
The summertime sun can dehydrate you quickly, and by the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated enough to keep you from peak performance. So be sure to hydrate!
There’s no need to invest in fancy electrolyte mixes unless you’re doing a marathon — but a good water bottle that fits comfortably in your hand or that can be worn on a belt around your waist is a must. Drink up before your run and then take sips throughout at regular intervals, at least once every 15 minutes or so. And on hot days, be sure to hydrate even more.
Warm up Right
When most people think of warming up, they think of stretching — but this is actually not true. Stretching cold muscles can also lead to injury! Instead, warm up by walking briskly for several minutes or by running in place. The idea is to get the blood flowing and prepare the heart for the cardiovascular workout to come.
Learn Proper Form
Running should feel natural, first and foremost. Find your own gait that feels comfortable to you. But some tips that fit pretty much anybody include keeping your chin up and eyes forward with your neck in a natural curve. Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to swing in an easy rhythm as you run. Try to land on your heel first, gradually rolling through the foot with a light and easy spring to your step.
Vary Your Routine
Running the same route on the same surface day after day can lead to overuse injuries. Instead, mix it up by running on a variety of surfaces. If you normally run on the road, try a weekend trail run. Throw in a weekly treadmill run to give your ankles and knees the occasional treat of a softer surface. If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, a sand run can really give you a great leg workout!
Add Some Music
Music is a natural motivator, so tune in during your workout. Headphone wires can get in the way of your arm movement while you’re running, so invest in a Bluetooth headset to avoid the tangle. Make your own mix of energizing music to really get you going!
Grab a Partner
If you find the summer heat sapping you of your motivation, make a workout plan with a partner. It’s a lot more difficult to come up with an excuse not to run when you have someone there waiting for you. Having someone to converse with during longer runs can make the miles fly by fast, too.
Give Yourself a Training Goal
If you need something to really motivate you to take your running to next level, give yourself a training goal by signing up for a race. Just the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get from finishing your first 5k can keep you on track with your training goals. If you’re an advanced runner, try signing up for a mud run or another obstacle-based race to vary your routine and add some fun to your daily workout.
Don’t Forget to Take a Break
Finally, remember that your rest and recovery days are just as important as your training days. Remember to give yourself a day off now and then. This doesn’t need to mean becoming completely sedentary, either.
Cross-training with weights or by practicing yoga will benefit your running routine as well. If you’re engaging in fertility- or conception-friendly exercise, taking breaks regularly and not overworking your body are especially important.
Most of all, have fun with your new summer running routine!