Friday, January 14, 2011

The Basics: My Inviolable Rules for Beginner Marathoners

There are a lot of variables in how people approach running. You would think it would be simple. After all, this is one of the most fundamental of human activities and we’ve been doing it as a species ever since we spotted the first sabre tooth tiger staring at us after we fell out of a tree. However, like all other activities, you need to adhere to certain basic rules when you begin and then get fancy after you know what you’re doing. It’s all about learning your body’s abilities and testing its limits gradually. Your mind and spirit also improve exponentially, and stress, although it never disappears, is far more manageable when you run it off.

I want to point out some rules that I think are inviolable for the beginning runner to ensure that he or she successfully reaches a level at which he (or she) can make informed decisions that should not cause huge problems.
1.Go to your local running store (The Running Room is an excellent chain of stores in Canada). Get fitted for the correct running shoe for you. The salesperson will explain pronation, stability, and such terms related to how you step, and will give you the appropriate selection of shoes. This is critical; go for the highest quality shoe you can afford. Most expensive isn’t necessarily necessary, but I use the top of the line Nike (which I buy cheaper at Nike Factory Outlet).

2.Soccer shorts are for soccer, not for running marathons. Cotton is rotten. Microfibre is mandatory. The clothing you wear when running is also extremely important. Again, if you get outfitted at the Running Room you will be correctly attired. This, too, is critical.
3.Start reading Runners World. They have charts for mapping out your marathon training schedule. (The Running Room has that stuff too, excellent books, etc.) Learn tons. Read a lot; iRun and Canadian Running are two other excellent Canadian running magazines, and John Stanton, owner of the Running Room, has some excellent books out there as well. Adhere to a training schedule religiously for your first marathon at least. And don't neglect blogs such as Richard's blog for motivation and solid advice.

4.Join the free group running sessions at the running store if it fits your schedule. Join the training group that costs about $75 at the Running Room if you like training in groups and if it fits your schedule.
5.Pay close attention to your diet. Read everything that running publications say about nutrition. You need carbs, tons of them. Protein, less so. Eat fibre as though you were bovine. And drink water, lots of it; other drinks don’t matter, except that you want to drink Gatorade on runs to accustom your body to that form of carbs, and for energy on those runs.
6.Make sure you have a good crap early in the morning every day; make sure this happens like clockwork. Come race day, this is probably more important than anything else.

7.Stretch appropriately. It is possible to stretch too much. It is also possible to stretch too little. Either can cause painful injuries.
8.Stick with it. Run through pain, but don’t run through injury. Increase mileage gradually. Don’t expect to improve dramatically overnight; you WILL improve dramatically over time if you stick with it for years. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but once you get addicted to the high, you will find that quitting is really pretty much impossible.
9.Join to track your mileage. The other folks on that website will give you instant feedback and support. You will be awestricken and amazed.
10.Time your routes; depending on your geek level, go with expensive Garmin watches or the much less expensive Nike Plus or Adidas Coach stuff. More info is available at Running Room. It all works just fine, so take your pick. Hell, use a stop watch or just a simple watch if you like. This will, more than anything, get you to edge up that speed just a notch.
It’s all about acting on your impulses. See you on the road!

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