Ready to Transition from Walking to Running? This is What You Need to Know.
Winter might have seemed like it was never going to end, but it looks like spring is finally around the corner.
With warmer weather and longer days on the way, you might be thinking it’s time to switch things up. And what better way to get outside, get some fresh air, and build some serious endurance than to add running into your fitness routine?
But while pulling on your shoes and going for a run might seem great in theory, it can also feel pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the sport. And running has a ton of health benefits – it quickly burns calories, improves your cardiovascular performance, and can even decrease anxiety – but it can take some time (and some practice) to really start enjoying the process.
Don’t worry, though. You can absolutely pick up the pace and transition from walking to running (even if you’ve never run before). Here are a few of my favorite tips for new runners that will have you out and pounding the pavement in no time.
One of the biggest problems I see new runners making – and one of the top reasons they end up quitting – is that they try to do too much, too soon.
But while it can be tempting to push yourself as hard as you can during those first runs, it’s important to pace yourself. Remember, you’re trying to build a new habit, not qualify for the Olympics.
A better way to build your running endurance is to start with run/walk intervals. Try running for one minute and walking for one minute (and if one minute is too challenging, back the run interval off to 30 seconds). As your endurance improves, you can increase your run intervals and decrease your walk intervals.
Keep at it, and you’ll be running for your entire workout in no time.
Keep Strength Training.
Picking up a running routine shouldn’t mean trading in your strength workouts. In fact, doing so might have a negative impact on your runs.
Running is a great exercise option, but it involves a lot of pounding, which can be hard on your body. By continuing to focus on strength training, in addition to your runs, you’ll be taking care of the muscles and joints needed to keep you on the road.
Posterior chain exercises – exercises that focus on your back, hamstrings, and glutes – are especially important for runners. Think about regularly incorporating deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts, and walking lunges into your routine to keep your body in peak running condition.
Check Your Gear.
Your favorite sneakers might look great, or feel fine when you’re walking or lifting, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get the job done during your runs.
Running is a high-intensity activity, and it’s important to make sure your shoes provide the right support to keep you from getting injured. One of the best ways to do this is to head to your local athletic store to have them suggest some options that fit your needs. (Some stores even offer custom gait analysis to help you find the perfect pair of shoes.)
Some other gear to consider? Sweat-wicking fabrics help keep you cool and dry, high-impact under garments (like sports bras and compression shorts) to help keep you comfortable, and safety gear (like lights or reflectors) to help keep you safe.
You need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars to start running, but by adding a few strategic pieces of gear, you can definitely make the whole process more enjoyable.
Watch Your Cadence.
When we talk about cadence while running, we mean the number of steps you take in a minute. And while it might not be the first thing you’re thinking about as a new runner, it’s an important piece of the puzzle that you should be keeping in mind.
Why? Research has shown that increasing your cadence reduces the load that you’re placing on your hips and knees, which can significantly decrease your chance of injury.
Improving your cadence isn’t about working harder or running faster, it’s about shortening your stride length the number of steps you’re taking. Ideally, you should be taking between 160-180 steps per minute.
My favorite tip for improving your cadence is to build a playlist full of songs that have roughly the same beats per minute that you’re trying to achieve. That way, all you have to do is get in the zone and run to the beat, no thinking required.
Set a Tangible Goal.
Just like anything else, it can be tough to stay motivated to run over time (especially when that Spring weather isn’t working in your favor). That’s why it’s important to set achievable goals to help keep you focused and making progress.
Start out by setting a weekly mileage goal – anywhere from 2-5 miles, depending on your fitness level – that can be achieved in 2-3 sessions. Increase your mileage goals as your fitness improves (the general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week to avoid overtraining and injury).
Over time, you can add bigger challenges to keep your program fresh. Maybe it’s 50 miles a month, or completing a training program that ends with completing a local 5K. It doesn’t matter how big your goals get, the idea is to keep breaking them into small, achievable segments to help your stay motivated in the moment.
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