1. Don't think of running as work. I think we often think of running and working out as something we have to do and do a certain amount of which can actually be quite stressful. It's been my personal experience that when I make myself try to run a certain distance in a specific amount of time or if I say I have to work out x number of times per week, I get frustrated with myself if I don't do it (even if my reasons are totally legit - work and volunteer events at night, family or friend things, whatever - you get the point). Learn to enjoy it. When you run, think of it as doing something for yourself that's good. We all know that the standard thirty minutes of walking/running/jogging daily or at least 5 times a week is good for our bodies. Remember that just like your body needs nutrients it also needs exercise.
2. Start slow. If you're not traditionally someone who runs you shouldn't pressure yourself to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time on the first day you lace up your running shoes whether they be Asics (my personal favorite), Nike, Adidas, or Brooks. I suggest giving yourself a reachable goal of a desired amount of time you want to run on your first day. Start with something manageable like 15 minutes. If you start small, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you completed a goal which in turn will give you the motivation you need to continue.
3. Stretch. I am preaching to the choir when I say this because I am the world's worst when it comes to stretching. It's so important to stretch properly both before and after your run. Stretching helps to prevent injury.
4. Make sure you have comfortable shoes and wear comfortable clothing. It goes without saying that wearing good-for-you shoes is vital no matter how much you run. As a general rule, your running shoes should be replaced every 300-400 miles. That may seem like a lot, but if you run 50 miles a month (which is really not that hard to do!), you should replace your shoes every 6 months.
What type shoes are best? This really is dependent upon your personal preference. I run in Asics. I used to run only in Nike. I don't like running in Adidas (I find that the toe is too wide for me) or New Balance (too heavy). The type runner you are also determines the shoe you need. Make sure you try on different shoes and walk around in them. If you don't have the support and comfort you desire while walking, you definitely won't have it while running. You can also go to a store that specializes in fitting running shoes. If you're in SC, The Extra Mile (Charleston) and Feet Fleet (Columbia) are good places to start or so I've heard. I'd like to visit one of those this spring when it's time for me to purchase new shoes.
Tempo. I also wear the Nike Dri-Fit sports bra, but I picked up this one at Target a few months ago and liked it so much I've bought several more. I usually run in a t-shirt and if it's warm out, a tank top.
5. Have a good playlist. You will laugh when you find out what music motivates me as I run: Celine Dion, Michael Buble, and even some Sinatra. Of course, I also have some pump me up songs like "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas. Everyone is different. Some runners need something fast and loud to motivate them, others (like me) are totally fine with music that could put you to sleep.
6. Set goals. I like goals. A lot. I think setting a goal is a huge motivating factor that will ensure you will work to reach something (even if you don't). You goal can be to run one mile in 15 minutes, to work up to a 5K in a month, or to run a marathon this year (if that's your goal, you should be sharing your tips with me!). Whatever it is, having something to work towards will help you. My goal for this year is to run a half-marathon and for this month, it's to run 50 miles.
7. Eat right and hydrate. Ensuring that your body has the nutrients it needs and stays hydrated is essential to running and exercise. Think about the things you put in your body. Are they providing energy for hours or immediately which will then make your crash? Are you eating fruits and vegetables everyday? Do you eat more "fast food" or home-cooked meals? Do you drink Pepsi, tea, coffee and energy drinks all day and turn your nose up at water?
I'm not a dietician or even a "health food fanatic", but I do notice a HUGE difference in the way I feel when I eat out several days in a row and neglect to drink water. For the most part, I only drink water. I will have sweet tea (that's tea already made with sugar for those of you non-Southerners) when I go out to eat, but I don't ever make it for myself at home. I also have a love of Dr. Pepper with vanilla from Sonic that I get every now and then (I have to be "careful" with this though because I LOVE Dr. Pepper and if I let myself, I'll go to Sonic for one of these everyday!). One tip I have on ensuring you drink enough water is to get a Camelbak. I got one from PC for Christmas and I try to drink at least two bottles a day. My own observation is that if I have a bottled water on my desk, it gets room temperature before I can drink it all and I don't like room temperature water so I end up drinking maybe a whole bottle all day. With the Camelbak, your water stays cool longer and I drink it faster.
As far as food goes, I normally have oatmeal (Quaker's Instant Maple and Brown Sugar) or cereal (Basic 4, Fruit and Fiber, some Kashi - I don't like really sweet cereals) for breakfast on weekdays. If I can get it together in the morning, I'll have a scrambled egg. If I don't have an event or luncheon, I usually have leftovers from the night before or I pick up something from Chick-fil-A for lunch during the work week. If I take my lunch to work, I try to take some fruit (mandarin oranges in the individual cups) and eat a salad. For dinner, it really depends. I don't think where you eat (out or at home) is necessarily important as long as you're eating healthily and incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet. I also think anything you eat in moderation is ok. I LOVE Mexican food and pasta but eating those two things everyday is not good, but I certainly enjoy my fair share. :)
So, all in all, what should you take away from this or the condensed version?
- Make running fun. Lace up your shoes, listen to your iPod, and enjoy yourself.
- Have a goal. This can be a goal per run, per week, month, or even something you want to do during the year like run a 5K.
- Eat right and drink lots of water.
- Make sure your shoes fit and are comfortable.
Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer, dietician, former Olympic athlete ;), marathoner, or an expert on running. Rather, I am someone who enjoys working out, exercising, and making and attaining goals.