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Ready to Run?

Spring is in the air. Today, at least.  Right now, I’m looking out of my window at blue skies and temperatures in the 60’s.  It’s the kind of day, deep into this cold winter with everyone suffering from cabin fever, when the weather beckons you to be outside and to leave worries of work behind.  

If the temptation gets you just a single step beyond your door, an immediate reward of fresh air will fill you lungs.  Start walking, and before you know it you’ll be down the street and feeling great.

Hopefully, this taste of warmer weather isn’t a cruel joke.  Even if it is, the high we will all have after this warm spell will start turning our mental wheels and we’ll all be thinking about warmer weather and outside projects and hobbies.  Hopefully, that walk down the street will turn into a regular part of your routine.  And maybe, if you’re like the millions of fitness minded folks across our nation, that interest in walking will grow into jogging, and eventually you’ll call yourself a runner.



Perhaps running was your hobby before and you let it go.  Maybe you’re a seasonal runner and are just waiting to get it to the swing of things with warmer weather.  Maybe, you’re a full-blown couch potato who thinks running is impossible.  If this is you and you’re out of shape right now, then looking at the hundreds of runners in the photos of the Woodstock 5k could be very intimidating.  Seeing images of young, fit 20-somethings in running gear may make the sport seem out of reach.  Don’t let this deter you.  Don’t forget the high that comes from the fresh air and that long walk up the street on that first nice day of the year.  As the commercial says, just do it.


Preparing You and Your Closet

Before you begin, from a medical standpoint, it is recommended that anyone 35 years of age or older who is going to start an exercise program for the first time get a physical from a physician.  There are serious medical conditions that can go undetected without exertion that exercise can exacerbate.  Don’t make the mistake of damaging your health in the process of trying to improve it.  Get a physical.  

Next comes gear.  Running clothes and running shoes are available at all price ranges and in many stores in our area.  For someone starting out or getting back into running, only basic shorts, T-shirts, and sweats are needed.  Sure, you can spend $100+ to look the best, but it isn’t necessary at all.  

As for shoes, this gets complicated quickly.  Shoe manufacturers and retail stores have kept pace with the growing number of runners in our nation by creating a full spectrum of shoes for every foot type.  This is great -- IF you know your foot type.  Picking the wrong shoe can spell disaster.  [NOTE: Do not pick your running shoes based only on how they look.]  Finding your way into the right running shoe can be a journey of it's own.  There are so many things to consider that it is impossible to include more than a very general summary in this article.  

In general, runners with high arches need lots of cushioning, and those with low arches (or flat feet) will benefit from motion control.  This is widely known information and shoe sales people at every local retail outlet can tell you this much.  Specialized shoe stores for runners can offer greater assistance in shoe selection, but this is usually not needed for a beginner runner.  

[The Anniston Runners Club is hosting a quarterly meeting at the Tyler Center in Anniston on March 1st at 5:30pm.  The speaker, Chad Prince, will cover shoe selection with a presentation titled: “A look at foot mechanics and footwear choices for runners.”]

Dietary considerations can get just as complicated as shoe selection.  But for the beginner, the main thing is to stay hydrated.  This begins well before you step into your new running shoes.  The recommendation of drinking eight glasses of water daily will help get your internal water table where it needs to be, and as you sweat be sure to replenish quickly.  More details about food choices--from carbohydrates to Gatorade--is easily found in monthly runners magazines.  You can always ask your physician at your physical about your specific needs (remember, you need a physical if you’re 35+).  

Getting Started

Injuries can happen if you start to quickly.  Be smart and take it slow.  There’s no one-size-fits-all regimen for beginner runners.  What’s best for you is dependent on your age, your weight, your general level of fitness, etc. Certainly, if you have great concerns, you can talk about your specific program with your physician (at your physical), or there are other fitness professionals at your preferred fitness center who can help.  

While it may not fit every case, here’s a basic outline of how to go from the couch to jogging:

Walk first.  Three to five days per week.  Get to the point where thirty to forty-five minutes is easy.  Then gradually transition to a run-walk (walk for five minutes, then jog for a couple of minutes as you can tolerate, then walk until you are ready to pick up a jog again).  Always include a walking warm-up and walking cool down.  Gradually increase your jog times and decrease your walk times until you can jog continuously for thirty minutes.  

If this still seems impossible to you, just know that this is the exact recipe my mother-in-law followed with great success.  She is in her late fifties and a school teacher at Ohatchee Elementary.  She stretched the program out over fifteen months, walking only for nine months, then doing the run-walk for another six months, and now she can jog for thirty minutes or so nonstop.  

Last year, she entered the Mardi Gras run at the Oxford Civic Center on March 13th.  The level course was a great first race for her.  Naturally, she was nervous, but once she saw she wasn’t the oldest female in the pack that eased off.  After the first mile she even started passing some of the other runners!  She talked with seasoned vets and other beginners like her after the race was over and that made her feel even more comfortable.  The biggest thrill came when her name was called for 2nd place in her age group!  She was hooked, and has now logged over ten races, placing either first or second in her age group in most of them.  Beyond the fun, she’s lost over forty pounds and no longer takes blood pressure or cholesterol medication.  And she’s never had an injury.  

Today’s warm weather and sunshine surely won’t last, but Spring is just around the corner. Go ahead, take a walk.  Breathe deep.  Think positively about a new you.  Get a physical (that’s the forth and last time I’ll mention it).   Start getting in shape, but take it slow.  Join the Anniston Runner’s Club and enjoy the fellowship of folks just like you who enjoy the outdoors through walking, jogging, and running.  

Now, you’re READY TO RUN!