Preparing to Run

Dear Reader,

When I began running, I searched the internet for advice on how to begin.  There is a lot of vague advice, most of which you can recognize the writers disconnect from being a beginner within the articles. What I found, often, was a very vague plan, outlining the basic schedule of running.  Rarely would it include information on how to prepare yourself for beginning or how to eat for fuel.  Nor would it include any information on how to overcome any obstacles.  The articles also assumed the reader was already in good physical shape, enough to begin running 3 or 4 days a week.  Some of us haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years.

This article is for the TRUE beginner.  You can skip ahead if you’re a little more advanced, but you may want to look over this anyway.  When you are ready to move on, start with my post Run Coach: Preface.  It’s the first post of 10 in my Run Coach series that turns you into a runner in 8-weeks, beginning 4-weeks from today.  Spend the next 4-weeks getting ready.

To read a little about how I began, read Run a Mile in my Shoes.

As for right now, begin this 4-week preparation and you’ll be ready to start running in a month.  But your very first step before anything is to visit your health care provider to make certain you are healthy enough to begin this program.  You need to be cleared for cardiovascular activity!

Keep in mind, the number one reason for failing is going too fast.  So try to follow this and you will not be sorry.  I take it very, very slow and you’ll be less likely to fail and also, less likely to injure yourself.  Injury will stop you short.  So, let’s prevent that.

Also, running is a mindset: mind over matter.  Below, you’ll begin to learn some really good tools on how to overcome the mental barriers of can’t or fatigue.

First 2-Weeks:

Clean up Your Diet

If you’re not a healthy eater, take this slow, as well.  We are not trying to make you fail.  Try to eat healthier 50% of the time.  Gradually increase this percentage.  Spend the next 4-weeks omitting a few of your biggest diet blunders.

Like:

Omit fast foods entirely.  You cannot run on fast food, it will make you slow, lethargic and depleted.  Period.  Your body needs fuel, not processed card board.

Cut down the sugar.  Sugary foods give your blood sugars a roller coaster effect.  It will not power you and it will fill you with things that won’t serve as fuel.  You need fuel.  So, omit the sugar, if not entirely, mostly.

Just say no to sport’s drinks like Gatorade.  They are no better than Cokes.

Add in fruits and vegetables at each meal.  If you must have fried chicken tenders, at least have a serving of steamed veggies on the side.  Dessert should be a piece of fresh fruit.

STOP the soda drinking.  What can I say to make you actually stop?  I wish I knew. Read my blog posts: Let’s Talk About Diet Coke and Let’s Talk About Coke.  If you cannot stop completely, cut down to one serving per day.  It’s vital that you fill your body with water.  I can promise, it makes a difference.

If you are a mostly healthy eater already, step it up a notch.

Eat more of these foods to help hydrate and nourish: steamed spinach or raw spinach, kale, cucumber, celery, squash, oranges – any varieties, watermelon, melons, apples, pears, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and grapes.

Eat more of these foods to help maintain muscle fiber and repair damages: beans, beans, beans, yogurt (FAGE or Chiobani only), lean poultry, white fish, eggs, tofu or low-fat dairy – although, limit this.

Eat more of these foods to help maintain potassium: tomatoes, white beans, dates, raisins, baked potato, halibut, spinach, banana, oranges or salmon.

Replace bad fats with these healthier fats: raw almonds, avocados, pecans, olives and olive oil, peanut butter, salmon, tuna, soymilk or walnuts.

Avoid bad fats: beef, lamb, pork, skin on chicken, butter, high fat cheeses, ice cream, whole fat dairy, processed foods like donuts and muffins, packaged crackers or chips, margarine, vegetable oil, fried foods or fast foods.

Those fatty foods, listed above, will make a difference in a runner by slowing them down with feelings of lethargy and fatigue.

Eat fresh, clean and green.  Overall, you should be eating as close to its natural state as possible.   The fresh tomato vs. the canned tomato.  The fresh spinach vs. the frozen spinach, etc…

Do your best.  For more suggestions on foods and even recipes, peruse my blog.  And if you fall down, get back up, don’t give up.

Fill with Fluid

Start today.  Drink more water. Drinks are NOT created equally.  Water is what you need.  Increase your hydration over the next four weeks and build a habit of drinking a lot more water than you are used to.  If you are well hydrated with water, you will feel a lot better and be able to go a lot farther, at the same time, preventing injury.  Dehydration is a surefire way to fail.   Water makes up about 70% of the muscles, organs and tissues in the body and it is crucial to many bodily functions, including ENERGY PRODUCTION.  It’s vital that you drink enough water before, during and after you exercise, this we know.  BUT it’s just as important that you drink all day long to ensure nutrient absorption and muscle repair.  Bottoms up!

Make a Mantra . . .

. . . and stick it in your back pocket for the first attempt at running and all of your weeks of training.

I’m sure you’ve heard the word mantra.  Some of us have even used one to help us overcome bad moods, bad days or to motivate.  I’ve never had success with a mantra in my daily life, but it really has helped me in my running.  When I first began, a solid mantra is what kept me going through some difficult stages of a run.

First, you need to understand this: the body will ALWAYS give up.  It’s trained to do so.  Humans from long ago needed to save energy during down times and were propelled to run with adrenaline, when needed.  So, we are hard-wired to want to stop running with the absence of adrenaline.  Think about this the next time you want to quit an aerobic activity.

When it happens, try a mantra.  For instance, you’re running for the first time, ever.  You need to run an entire lap without stopping or for a set amount of time of say, 30-seconds.  Halfway there, your body is screaming at you to stop.  You know you are physically well enough to do the activity and you want to make it to the end.  Begin your mantra.  Repeat it in your head until you’ve reached the end of your time or distance goal.  I promise, the power of your mantra will astonish you.

Only you can think of the one that will propel you forward.  And, it will change throughout your training.  As you reach goals, your mantra will need to become more powerful.

Ask yourself some key questions to pinpoint a good mantra for now.  Remember, a good mantra is only a few words.

1. What is the reason I would like to be a runner?

2. What will I prove by accomplishing this goal?

3. What is my goal?

4. Who do I admire most because of their strength or endurance?

5. What quality in an athlete do I have the most admiration for?

Let me give you a few examples of mantras:

I am stronger than my body thinks.

I can do what I put my mind to.

I am not a quitter.

I am a runner.

I am going to overcome this moment.

I am strong and I am an athlete.

I am a trainer.

I am a fierce competitor.

I own this track, it will not break me.

You get the gist.

Memorize your mantra.  The best mantra is powerful, uplifting, short and motivational.  Mantras will evolve over time. They can go from “I am stronger than my body thinks” to ” I am a runner”.  You will need them throughout your running career, as you push yourself toward your next goal.  Marathon runners use mantras too.  Make yours count!

Walk

Train your sedentary muscles to move.  Start your very first day of week one, walking.  Walk as long as you can, but at the very minimum, for 30-minutes.  You need to walk fast enough to make your heart rate rise.  Don’t strain.  Your goal is to endure the activity for at least the minimum amount of time.  Ideally, walk for 1-hour, every other day for the first week.  If you need to, split the time.  Walking half hour in the morning and half hour in the evening.  Fit it into your schedule, somehow, someway.

Then during the second week, walk for 1-hour, every single day, except the last day.  Use this day as a full rest day to prepare for the next two weeks of training.

Your 2-week goal is to be able to walk at a brisk pace on a flat surface – 3.5 miles per hour for a minimum of 1-hour.  At this rate, you can walk one mile in about 17-minutes.  This is the minimum to move on to the next two weeks.  If you’re not at this stage yet, you should spend more time walking the plan above, increasing your speed until you can complete the mile in 17-minutes or less, before moving on.  This is key for injury prevention, take it slow.

But if you’re capable of this speed at the beginning, skip straight ahead to the next training plan and do it for all four weeks.

Last 2-Weeks

This is your training plan for weeks 3 and 4. You’ve already begun walking and have a good 14-day foundation under your belt.  You’ve also started cleaning up your diet and hydrating your body.  If you’re physically capable and have skipped ahead, just be sure you can walk at a very brisk pace of at least 3.5 miles per hour without becoming winded (about 17-minutes to complete a 1-mile distance).

Keep in mind, you should NOT be holding onto the bars if you are using a treadmill.  Keep training with the first two-week plan, if you have to keep holding on, until you are able to let go.

Day 1:

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6 -miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk a hill or incline your treadmill at number 3 for 20-minutes at 3.5-miles per hour (about a 17-minute mile).

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.8-miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Day 2:

Walk for 1-hour on a flat surface at 3.8-miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Day 3:

Walk for 10-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6 -miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk for 10-minutes on a flat surface at 3.8 -miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a hill or incline your treadmill at number 3 for 20-minutes at 3.5-miles per hour (about a 17-minute mile).

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6-miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Day 4:

Day of rest.

Or take a yoga class or something to promote flexibility.

Day 5:

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6 -miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk a hill or incline your treadmill at number 3 for 20-minutes at 3.5-miles per hour (about a 17-minute mile).

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.8-miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Day 6:

Walk for 1-hour on a flat surface at 3.8-miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Day 7:

Walk for 10-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6 -miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk for 10-minutes on a flat surface at 3.8 -miles per hour (about a 16-minute mile).

Walk a hill or incline your treadmill at number 3 for 20-minutes at 3.5-miles per hour (about a 17-minute mile).

Walk for 20-minutes on a flat surface at 3.6-miles per hour (about a 16.40-minute mile).

Walk a 5-minute cool down on a flat surface at 3-miles per hour (about a 20-minute mile).

Stretch.

Repeat this schedule for the last week.  Day 8 is Day 1…and so on.

A few tips:

If you are having trouble with maintaining the hill incline for the full 20-minutes, break it up differently, within the hour.  Give yourself 10-minutes of walk, followed by 10-minutes of hill and repeat until you’ve finished the hour.  Try to work up to the 20-minutes.  USE your MANTRA!

It’s important that you find the time in your schedule.  It’s important that you commit to the goal.

If you can, do this with a friend for motivation.  If you need help motivating, read How to Rally.

If you fall down, get back up.  If it takes you longer, so what.  Go at your own pace and use my timing as a guide only.  Do not get discouraged!  The important thing is move forward, even if it’s slower than expected.

Why I Discourage Couch to 5K

I am not a fan of the mindset of training for a 5k when you begin to run.  There are many reasons, but the biggest is this:

When you go from sedentary to running a 5k, you are more likely to quit running once you’ve completed your goal.  A more effective way would be, to try to become a runner first, training at a slower speed and establishing a routine.  Start with establishing reasons you want to run and use those for motivation.  Make a list. Even if it is to lose weight or maintain your weight.  There is a very powerful motivation in knowing running burns more calories than any other activity, except cross-country skiing.  Cardiovascular health and overall fitness are other great reasons.  What are yours?

The 5k training is a great tool for increasing your speed or endurance, once you’ve established yourself as a runner and once you’ve incorporated the activity into your life and you know you want to continue.  Running a 5k and then quitting is more detrimental than it is beneficial. In my opinion.  Metabolically and mentally detrimental.  If you need the race to motivate you, maybe you should try another activity that excites you more or motivates you easier.  Not all of us are meant to run.  In order to make it a lifestyle, you truly have to want it. And I’m not saying to not try to make yourself like it, that works too.  Some of us don’t even know we like it because we’ve never gotten beyond the pain of it.

I’m only saying, please don’t begin with a race.  Try a 5k after you can successfully run the race without training for it.  Run your first 5k with ease and then choose a race that will actually challenge you, afterward.

A Word on Shoes

Don’t rush out to purchase a pair, just yet, if you already own an athletic shoe that provides cushion and some support.  More on this to come in my future posts.  For now, lace up what you have, unless, of course, they have no tread and are old or broken down.  Then, you’ll need some new shoes to even begin walking.  You don’t want to purchase “the pair” for a few weeks, unless you have to.  First, allow yourself to establish a running style before you visit the running store.  If you have NOTHING to begin with, go ahead and visit your running store and they will be able to get you fitted with a good option.

Just know, you will need to purchase a good pair before running more than a few miles regularly.

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11 thoughts on “Preparing to Run

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