By Amber Goguen, health-conscious writer and published poet.
Let’s be completely honest: Runners are an intense breed of human beings.
There, it has been said. Not all of us were born with the lung capacity of an Opera singer and the zest to achieve maximum cardiovascular health. Many healthy individuals prefer the luxuries of lifting weights at the gym and performing a routine 5-minute speed walk on the treadmill to warm up. We are all aware of the magnificent health benefits that are bestowed upon the cardio-driven individual (sculpted legs, better posture and core, and expanded lung capacity…to name a few), but the question of where do I begin can keep us hurdled in the safety zone of bicep curls and crunches. As a newbie runner myself, here are the golden rules I have clung to in order to establish a foundation for running.
Every “body” has a different health history that can contribute to or hinder your running capacity. Factors such as diet, physical activity, smoking and medical conditions will become a factor as you take on running. There is a remarkable difference between “challenging yourself” and “killing yourself” – knowing what your body can handle beforehand will keep you healthy down the road.
"...where do I begin can keep us hurdled in the safety zone of bicep curls and crunches."
You may possibly become the fastest runner at some point, but don’t set your expectations so high that failure will cripple you completely. Are you absolutely knackered after 45 seconds of running? Bring yourself into a jog and carry on. If you have been a stranger to cardiovascular activity, there is a very slim chance that your lung capacity can handle an hour-long running excursion. Baby steps will carry you on your running journey.
There are loads and loads of running/jogging/speed walking interval schedules available to you online (Google magic, my friends.) These schedules aim to build your lung capacity and will gradually increase your running time as you move along. Again, you know better than anyone what your body is capable of doing at this point – as a basic guideline, many interval schedules follow a similar pattern:
Days 1 & 2: speed walk 4 minutes, jog/run 1 minute, speed walk 4 minutes
Days 3 & 4: speed walk 3 minutes, jog/run 2 minutes, speed walk 3 minutes, jog/run 2 minutes
Days 5 & 6: speed walk 3 minutes, jog/run 3 minutes, speed walk 3 minutes, jog/run 3 minutes
Day 7: rest
The pattern is quite blatant and can be adjusted to your level of running ability: increase and decrease the running portions as need be. A schedule of any kind will keep you accountable and motivated. You can download a free template here.
The topic of “optimal breathing technique” is often disputed by runners and experts. To sum it all up: Breathing is kind of important. Beginners can have the tendency to hold their breath while running, which leads to painful gasps for air and shortness of breath. A rhythm of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth (most commonly for two seconds each) is a widely used technique. A focused breathing technique is incredibly important, especially when your running sessions become more challenging.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that running will become less daunting because of these beginner steps – when we challenge ourselves in any aspect of life, it is a challenge. The important thing is that you push through the hard days when the couch is much more attractive than your running shoes. Best of luck on your running endeavours!