Running: The Beginning Woman’s Guide

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If you want to feel like you’ve actually gotten a workout that’s beneficial, then running may be the activity for you.

Running as a disciplined workout option can be very rewarding, not only from a health standpoint, but also from a mental one. If you’re considering running as a means to being physically fit, there’s a few things you should know before starting.

The first thing you should do is to get your doctor’s clearance before you start, especially if you’re 45 years old or over. This stage will bring any cardiovascular or other underlying health issues into the light. If you’ve also been inactive or are overweight, a doctor may be able to give you some insight into your abilities and suggest some alternatives. Muscular and skeletal problems including shin splints, back problems and mini or micro tears can arise if you’re not careful.

The best way to actually start your running program is simply by walking. Dedicate yourself to walking normally, then build up to a brisk pace for about 45 minutes. Keep on this regiment, three to four times a week, over a five to six week period. After you’re able to walk very fast regularly, alternate between running slowly and walking for the duration of your workout. You may start out walking more than running, which is fine. Over a period of another few weeks, you should slowly be increasing the time that you run, versus the time you walk. The important thing is to listen to your body, and be aware of your limitations. Remember that building up to a more rigorous activity is wise, as opposed to diving right in and increasing the risk of health complications.

At this stage, you should be ready to increase the time you spend actually running, and so it’s probably wise to get some information on equipment. Your biggest investment will probably be a good pair of running shoes, and there are a lot of choices. The right shoes for running are those made specifically for running. You should visit a running store where the staff can recommend shoes based on your anatomy, ability and goals. The staff can also watch you run so they can get an idea of how your foot strikes the ground, and recommend shoes based on this information. A good, sturdy sports bra is also a must, and those made of wicking material will keep you cooler and drier.

Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is important for your physical safety as well as for your success as a runner. Stay hydrated throughout the day — before, during and after your exercise. Don’t wait till you’re thirsty. Drink water throughout the day.

Prevent injuries. With running, you involve the whole body equally, so warming up and cooling down are going to be very important in preventing injuries. A good way to warm up and cool down  is to walk briskly for about 10 minutes. Stretching is also critical to good overall health and can prevent common injuries such as shin splints, ankle sprains and runner’s knee. You should stretch the primary muscles — the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, shoulders. A yoga routine along with your running program will be a great addition.

Remember, don’t overdo it. Let your body and mind ease into your running program slowly. Change your route so you don’t get bored. Try running uphill, on different surfaces, and different times in the day to stay motivated. Most of all, have fun!