Running is not particularly complicated. True, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, do not fall prey to all those complicated social media posts and articles, which would have you believe that running was something akin to rocket science. This article aims to debunk all of the online myths and to simplify your understanding of both, the art, as well as the science of running. If you are looking to start your journey as a marathon runner in the near future, you are likely to find this article particularly useful. In short, the focus will be upon impressing the need of taking your guidance from the right sources, and to apply your common sense — rather than browsing through the mountains of literature that is available on the Internet — while preparing for your initial running forays.
What to wear, during your first running ventures!
To start off, there is the all important question of what to wear while participating in a run. Now many novices make the mistake of wearing cotton clothes, particularly during marathon runs. This is an easily understandable choice, considering that cotton is one of the most comfortable clothing materials around. However, it turns out that cotton is actually not a particularly good idea with respect to long runs and marathons.
Wearing cotton clothes during long distance runs is a bad idea, mainly because it cannot prevent body contact with sweat. This has the potential to give severe body rashes to the runner. And I am sure that is something that no one, runner or otherwise, desires. Thanks to science, however, we have other materials at our disposal. Today, running T-shirts made of polyester fabric are available in many different knit designs and apparel companies market them under different brand names such as dri-fit, clima-cool etc. Any good store has them in various price ranges depending on the quality of the fabric and the treatments given to the fabric. These clothes have widely varying sweat absorption capabilities and thus, varying prices as well. This huge variety means that someone preparing for a run can easily pick a T-shirt that suits your needs, and budget.
Footwear, the tools of the trade:
Having sorted out what to wear on your body, we come to the all important task of picking up a suitable footwear. Today, there are many companies manufacturing specialized running shoes and each of them, claims to have shoes most suited for running. Some of these companies invest heavily in R&D and have even patented technologies, that they deploy to give their footwear an edge over others. Extra rubber cushioning on the heels and toes and the use of gel or air in between the layers of rubber soles are some examples of the most commonly used technologies. However, If a new runner asks my opinion regarding which footwear to choose, I always advise them to go to a multi-brand store and try all the different options available before choosing the one which fits them well and in which their feet feel happy.
A new entrant to the field of running may often get confused by the different options suggested by fellow runners, which are usually based upon their own experience with a particular shoe, or a brand. However, it is worth remembering that all of us have feet that are of different sizes and shapes, as such, there is no one-size that fits all. You can find out more about choosing the perfect shoe for yourself by clicking here
Posture, the key to running well!
Once you are ready and equipped to start running, you may face the all-important question of whether you are running correctly or not! Most people find running as simple and natural as eating, or breathing, but some might have issues with what is called the running form. However, allow me to assure you that achieving a proper running form comes naturally to us, and can be consciously achieved by standing straight while facing the direction you are to run in. You should try to bend the body forwards from the ankles, with rest of the body remaining perfectly straight. Immediately start running once you lean forwards from the ankles, and as the gravity starts pulling you forwards.
Once you start running, you should keep the following things in mind:
- Your body should be straight except for the forward lean at the ankles.
- Your shoulders should be loose.
- Your arms should swing forwards and backward, not sideways
- While you are swinging your arms, your fists should be closed loosely and must not go higher than the level of your chest during the upswing
- Your eyes should be focussed on a point about 40-50 feet on the ground in front of you.
- Your pace should be such that you can hold a comfortable conversation with a fellow runner. If running alone, you can still check it by saying, happy birthday to you five to six times and see if you can speak without panting.
- Your stride should be easy with the length of each being neither too short nor too long.
- You should preferably land in the middle of your feet for an efficient running experience.
- Your running should be such that it feels as if you are pushing the ground backward and using it to propel yourself forwards, all the while maintaining the minimum contact with the ground.
If, however, you do not want to get too involved into the nuances of the running form, just try to observe how a five-year old child runs and try to copy him/her.
How to start, and then keep running!
Once you start running regularly, the next question on your mind would be how to keep yourself motivated. These days, there are a number of running clubs, groups or communities all over the social media especially Facebook. You can join one of them and keep in touch with other runners who run regularly and post their progress on social media — they are the most likely to inspire you.
If you are a complete beginner, it is always a good idea to join a mixed group of runners of all ages, and from all lifestyles. If you think you have made some progress in your running journey then you might try to find out running partners in the group who you think are at the same, or similar level as you are and start running with them.
Last but not the least, once you become an intermediate level runner, the next point on your mind would be the diet. Whether you are eating the right food or not, and whether the time you are taking it at, is proper or not, are likely to be the two biggest doubts.
Although I would recommend a balanced diet for everyone, whether they are running or not, runners need to keep especially strict eye on their food. Without going into much detail, there are broadly two components of food, the carbohydrates and the proteins that need a mention here. Since the proteins are required to give strength to muscles, you should take them in larger proportions while training for a run.
You should start taking the carbohydrates (often referred to as just carbs in some literature) in larger proportion a few days prior to a registered event or a planned long run. This is done because the carbohydrates quickly convert to sugars and give the energy required to fuel your run. In technical parlance runners often refer to this process as carb-loading.
You may find more information on maintaining the perfect diet, right here.
Well, so much for the basics of long distance running. You are now equipped to take the first steps upon what I hope would be a long and enjoyable journey. Meanwhile, the forthcoming articles will cover different aspects of running, in much detail.