Road Running + Training
Webster's defines running as "A faster, more serious form of skipping." Running as exercise can be extremely healthy, running from a fire can be even healthier. It's super beneficial when you're looking to get in shape, stay in shape or when your house is settling and makes a creaky noise which you're 100% is actually the sound of a vengeful ghost and you need to get out of your house ASAP. In this guide I'll take you through a lot of the info which you'll need to get out on the road so you can start eating up miles.
Having the right gear will make you look cooler than everyone else.
Road running shoes are designed and built for flat, solid surfaces
• Lightweight so they don't impede your stride
• Breathable to keep your foot cool and dry
• Cushioned to lessen impact
• Designed for running (not cross trainers)
You might have a comfortable pair of cross trainers, sneakers or tennis shoes lying around somewhere that you like to throw on when you do something active. While they probably work great for some sporty endeavors, you'll want a pair of running shoes for road running. Cross trainers (and the like) are designed for movement in all directions and frequent stop and go. They'll have extra support which will make them heavier. Running shoes are specialized for, well.... running. They'll give you just the right amount of cushion and support and nothing extra.
There are some basic qualities that make up a good running shoe for beginners. Look for something that fits and that's comfortable. For road running, it's a safe bet to go with something that's lightweight and breathable with a decent amount of cushioning. The pavement is an unforgiving surface, so a little impact resistance goes a long way.
If you do know beforehand that your overpronate (run on the inside of your feet) or underpronate (run on the outside of your feet, also called supinate), then you probably already know to look for a pair of shoes that corrects and stabilizes your step. If you're not sure how you pronate, you can always check out the tread of the bottom of your running shoes to check the wear pattern.
Be sure to adequately break in your running shoes before you jump to conclusions about there being something awry with either the shoes or your stride. And as a rule of thumb, you'll get about 400 to 500 miles out of a pair of running shoes before they need to be replaced.
Anatomy of a shoe
I just want to take a second to familiarize you with some shoe anatomy that you'll come across as you shop for running shoes. This will be boring but painless.
• Uppers - Gotta love the person who named the pieces of a shoe. The upper refers to all the material that goes on top of your foot. It holds everything in place and gives your foot protection. This is where you'll want a breathable material.
Insoles - This refers to the part of the shoe that the bottom of your foot contacts. This can offer a bit of cushion as well as tons of comfort and support. These can be removed and replaced if they become too worn down or really, really smelly.
• Midsoles - This is the cushiony part of the shoe, between the insole and outsole.
• Outsoles - The outsoles are the tread of the shoe, the stuff that comes into contact with the ground. It offers traction and protection from rough terrain. It'll also be a good indicator of when you need to buy a new pair of shoes.
I've heard running naked is STILL frowned upon. For some reason.
Your clothing can help keep you cool and dry while you run.
When road running, there are a number of clothing factors to take into account. First of all, it's important that you have the correct warmth for the weather, in terms of short sleeve, long sleeve, and jacket. So check the weather and get to know your body's comfort levels when running in all conditions. It's always good to layer if you have any uncertainty. And make sure you have the appropriate rainwear if the weather is looking crummy. There are a buncha features that you might see when shopping for running apparel, so I'll go through some of the most important ones real quick.
Moisture Wicking - Clothing that wicks moisture will grab any sweat or moisture from your skin and spread it out over the face of the fabric where it will evaporate faster.
Reflective - Reflective clothing isn't exactly what you might think it is. Jk, it is exactly what you thought it was. It reflects light and keeps you visible to drivers at night and into the wee hours of the morning.
Quick Drying - A fabric that is listed as quick drying won't hold onto moisture. Synthetic materials do a great job of shedding any wetness to keep you comfortable.
Sun Protective - I'm starting to realize how self-explanatory all these features are. Oh well. Sun protective clothing will keep you protected from the sun. It can be integral on long runs over exposed terrain.
Water-resistant - A water-resistant fabric will keep rain off your skin, preventing a cold rain from chilling your core for as long as possible.
Media Pocket – This is a safe place to store a media device like your phone or mp3 player or maybe even a Walkman.
Anti-bacterial – This means that your clothing will fight bacteria. It's all very sciencey, but all you need to know is that anti-bacterial (and anti-microbial) clothing will fight stinkiness.
Thumbholes – Thumbholes will keep your sleeves in place as well as offer additional warmth and coverage on colder days.
Your fitness watch will capture a lot of data. Maybe TOO much data.
Use technology to maximize your training and fitness routines
Fitness watches are cool. They're useful for runners of all skill levels, whether you want something that just does the basics, like steps, distance and calories, or a high-tech watch that can measure your heart rate and probably refinance your mortgage. If you're curious at all about any data from your run, then I highly recommend picking up one of these puppies. The alternative to getting a watch is just downloading some apps for your phone that can record a good deal of data, but then you always gotta carry your phone around with you and it isn't nearly as accessible as simply glancing at your wrist.
Advanced watches with heart rate monitors (HRM) are able to track your heart beats and learn more about your fitness level so you can set up more strategic training routines. It's like having your own personal trainer with you on runs but you don't have to make awkward conversation. The HRMs are either wrist-top (integrated into the watch) or on a chest strap. The straps tend to give a more accurate read, but wrist-top HRMs are continually improving and have greatly closed the gap in accuracy. It's all a matter of personal preference at this point.
Water = we stay alive
Plain old water is great, and mixes with added electrolytes are even better
Gotta stay hydrated. That's a fact. Your body runs smoother when it is hydrated. Water, obviously, can hydrate you, but there are also drink mixes that can take it one step further. Sorry I'm saying hydrate so much. Drink mixes can better maintain both water and electrolyte levels. Electrolytes help you retain more water which is then absorbed back into your muscles. Sports drinks that you can find in a gas station aren't the idea solution, as they often contain too many calories, which require your body to use water to dilute, essentially dehydrating you before rehydrating. Performance mixes are finely tuned to keep your body… well, also finely tuned.
Your body will tell you when it's thirsty, so if you're miles and miles from home, you'll want a water bottle or hydration pack to top yourself off. Most of them come with pockets for snacks and gels and whathaveyous. Is whathaveyous a word? I can't seem to find any evidence that it's a word, but I swear people say it.
Handheld bottles – For short to mid-length workouts where you might need just a bottle or two of water, this is an easy solution to staying hydrated. It's kind of a personal preference as to whether you mind holding stuff when you run, but this is my go-to option for most training.
Bottle holsters – Using a waist belt or vest, you can always have a bottle or two handy without having to hold them. Again, this comes down to personal preference. Some people don't like having stuff on their hips and prefer a vest. And vice versa.
Hydration pack/vest – This is your best option if you know you'll be running for a long time and will require a lot of water. Look for a volume that suits your needs and get ready to sip on the go. You can get one with a bit of extra carrying capacity to store an extra layer or two (or to place a layer you remove).
Don't be that guy who runs just so he can eat more pizza
Take care of your body before, during, and after runs
Eating right is pretty important for runners of all levels. Even if you just go on a run every now and then to burn some calories and to feel good about yourself, it's easy enough to fuel your run with the right nutrition so you get more out of it. There are tons of all-encompassing guides all over the internet, but I just wanted to let you know that it's something you should look into. I'm not trying to give out medical advice, but here are a few quick notes about keeping yourself fueled for your run.
Carbohydrates – Running track growing up, I'm talking like 5th and 6th grade, my coach would always tell us to eat pasta the night before a meet. I'd always do it (well, I'd have my mom make pasta), but didn't exactly know why. I figured, "Hey, coach was right about how many laps are in a mile, he probably knows a bit about pasta, too." And he was right, complex carbohydrates will give you a steady and prolonged release of energy. Oatmeal, spaghetti, brown rice, and bananas are all good pre-run foods (just give your body enough time to digest them before hitting the road).
Quick bursts of carbs (in the form of gels, dried fruits, jelly beans, etc) can be helpful during longer runs to make sure you've got enough fuel to get you through to the finish line. Simple carbs can be beneficial right after a longer run. You need fuel, even after you're done.
Protein – Protein helps your body repair muscle damage. It's beneficial to consume proteins before and after a run. After a long run, your muscles need to be repaired a bit, and they're more receptive to repairs within half an hour of finishing. So have some snacks ready to chomp on when you cross the finish line. Snack on some almonds, or have some yogurt, for example.
Fat – Your body relies heavily on burning fat for low intensity endurance running. You should try to match your intake of fat to your usage of it so you don't run out of fuel. Some healthy fats include peanut butter, avocados, nuts and fish. In fact, just throw all those in a blender together. Jk, please don't do that.
Pro-tip: Don't make any drastic diet changes before a big race because you won't know how your body will react to the changes.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Could be your porch. Or my porch.
Just put one foot in front of the other and you are on the right track.
Treadmill vs. Outdoors
Treadmills are boring. I run on mine occasionally, but I'm always bored. Even with a TV right in front of me playing Chariots of Fire, I still can't help but want to be done with my miles. Running outdoors you get the benefit of scenic views and the additional drive of visible gains. On a treadmill, with all the numbers right in front of you at all times, you also don't get as much of a mental feel for your pacing, which can be important if you're training for races. Plus treadmills can't fully simulate turning, running downhill, wind resistance, uneven terrain or dodging angry Canada geese. However, if you read anything about treadmills on the internet, somebody did some science at some point and determined that if you set your treadmill elevation to 1%, it will compensate for wind resistance to some degree in terms of extra effort, in addition to being a little easier on your joints.
Long story short, treadmills are definitely useful to use in the winter, or when the weather is crummy or if you're binging a show on Netflix, but most of the time you might enjoy your run more if you just go outside.
I touched on it above, but one of the most important safety precautions is being visible to every driver. Wear bright clothing with reflective accents and even beacon lights in poorly lit areas. When you do have to cross roads, make sure you look both ways (you might remember that from being a child) but also make sure you make eye-contact with any driver you're passing at stop signs, crosswalks or even traffic lights. You need to know that they know you're there before it's safe to get in front of their 2 ton bulldozer.
Resting is part of training. Your body needs time to recover before you hit the road again. It's in your best interest to keep eating a balanced diet with the right mix of carbs, proteins and fats to optimize your recovery and prepare for your next run. I don't have a set formula for how often you'll need rest days, everybody's body and training are different, but if you're new to running, you'll most likely want to enjoy one about every other day. As to what to do on your rest day, that's up to you. Personally, I'd take the opportunity to
Running to Lose Weight
First of all, I want to state that you shouldn't look at running as a weight loss scheme. It's not like a "lose inches in days" fad. Yes, running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and lose weight, but it's better for your body if you ease into it. As you lose weight, your body will be changing and it needs time to adapt to all the changes. It will differ depending on your starting fitness level, but it's best not to try to drastically push your limits with every run. Just take it easy, rest on your rest day, be patient and soon the pounds will drop and the miles will come easier and easier.
Set a Goal
If you're new to running, setting your sights on a goal can keep you motivated. A local 5k is a solid goal. Make sure it's pretty far in the future so you don't feel pressured to push your limits too hard. Start your workout with some walking to warm up your body, maybe some power walking if you're feeling powerful. Then ease into a nice steady run stride. Switch back to walking every now and again if you need to catch your breath. Remember, it's not about your top speed, but about endurance.
Don't set your sights on a marathon (or half marathon) right off the bat. It can be mentally and physically unhealthy to go from running 0 miles to trying to run 13.1 miles in one stretch. I know, I know, you want that sticker on your car, but you should be patient. You'll get there. Plus I'm pretty sure you can just buy those on Amazon.
NOW GET OUT THERE ALREADY
So that's about all you need to know to get going. Or wait, I forgot one thing: to run you put one foot in front of the other, but like kinda quickly. Repeat as often as necessary. There. Now you know all you need to know. Hit the road.