A Beginners Guide to Running

We are fast approaching the time when the weather starts to get warmer and the roads lose the layer of ice and snow that has been covering them the past few months. Early Spring is the perfect time to start running. Both the mornings and afternoons are cool enough to keep you comfortable as your body warms up and Japan becomes an absolutely breathtaking place to experience as cherry blossoms come into bloom.

This time last year I couldn’t run more than 10 minutes without getting winded and feeling like I was going to die. Everything would hurt. I hated running, but I don’t have a gym in my town and it is one of the easiest forms of exercise available so I decided to give it an honest try.

I am not going to lie, as I started training it was a difficult process. But one thing that kept me going was setting a goal at the beginning of my training. I wanted to run a half marathon in July and a full marathon in October.

Step 1: Set a goal. Without a goal you will have nothing to push you on the days when it would be easier to sleep in or watch another episode of whatever television series you are marathoning (for me it’s Mad Men right now :) ). Pick a race that you want to run, any distance is fine! There is a half marathon coming up in July that a few of us are planning on running already, many of whom are first time runners. If a half-marathon feels too ambitious there are many 5 and 10ks in the upcoming months. Whatever you decide, tell people about your goal. You are much more likely to stick to it if other people know what you are planning.

I started running with an old pair of running shoes that I had brought with me from home. It was mostly a run walk routine, I would run a few minutes, and then walk a few until I caught my breath. Repeat. Each week I set myself up with 3 run days and each day I would push myself to run a little further, just one more minute. Once I got to the point I could run 30min without stopping I felt confident that I could begin the real work of training for my half marathon in July.

Step 2: Start slow. When you begin running don’t focus on how far you can go, focus instead on time. Find out what your starting time is by taking a jog and see how long you can go before you have to stop and walk. It may only be a few minutes. From there you start increasing your time, slowly. Let’s use an example of 10minutes. For your next run try and go 11, and the following 12. This is total run time. If you need a walk break take it, but as soon as you feel ready begin running again until you reach your goal time. What you want to be able to do eventually is run for 30minutes comfortably with a limited number of walk breaks.

It took me a couple months of running before I was able to comfortably run for 30min without having to take a walk break. At this point I was running a few days a week for at least 30min per session and I knew that my running shoes weren’t going to cut it. I was getting blisters and knee pain and despite knowing that I needed new shoes I kept putting it off. Finally in April I bought a new pair of shoes for my birthday. In hindsight I wish I would have bought the new shoes earlier.

Tip 1: Invest in a good pair of running shoes as soon as you can. A good pair of running shoes is going to cost anywhere from 9000yen to 1.5man. It is well worth the investment. You also should replace those shoes every 300-500 miles depending on how much use they get. Buying running shoes can be very confusing as there are many different brands available and they are all designed for different foot types. I would recommend that you go to a specialty running store and have the staff aid you in your shoe selection the first time. I went to the Asics store in Tokyo. They have a box that scans your foot and the staff there can recommend the best shoe for you based on these results. This is a free service. They also have a treadmill which can measure your gait if you want a more extensive test but I believe this costs some money.

I followed an 18 week training guide to get myself in half marathon shape. This included 3-4 runs per week with 1-2 days of cross training. Cross training can be any other fitness activity. Some examples are riding a bike, swimming, yoga, weight/resistance training, etc… It’s during this 18 week period that you find out what works for you during your runs and what doesn’t. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening runner? How long before your run do you need to eat? What kind of sports drink works the best for you? What kind of food can you eat during a run? These are just some examples of the things that you need to learn about yourself. I will list what I have learned works for me, and I encourage you to find out what works best for you.

1)    Time of day: The best time of day for me to run is right after work. I find that I have the most energy at this time. I am not really a morning person so it is difficult to get up for morning runs. In the summer when it gets super hot outside I found it best for me to run at night. Try running during different times of the day and see what works best.

2)    Food: I would recommend eating something small 30min to 1hour before your run. This is going to vary for everyone so you will need to experiment. It doesn’t need to be much, probably just 100-200 calories. An example would be an apple or banana and some peanut butter. On longer run days I try and eat 300-400 calories before, but that was only for runs lasting longer than an hour. If your planned run does go over an hour, try and eat something about every 45min if possible. Experiment with different foods. Half a banana works perfect for me. Try and keep it around 100-150 calories. Popular foods at races include bananas, apples, melon and I have even seen pastries.

3)    Hydration: For water you want to keep yourself well hydrated. It is extremely important, especially during hot days. Throughout the day you should be drinking 2-3 liters of water. If I run on hot days I could drink as much as 5. Try to drink around 500ml of water 1-2 hours before your run, and then another 150ml right before you start. Once you begin try and drink some water every 2-3miles (3-5km). Be careful that you aren’t gulping water down though, keep yourself hydrated but not bloated. After your run you should drink another 500ml within a half hour or so and then continue to take small sips after until you have recovered. If your urine is a dark yellow color you need to be drinking more. Other signs of dehydration could include headaches, light-headedness or an upset stomach. If you sweat a lot it is also a good idea to try and take in 300-500ml of a sports drink to replace electrolytes that have been lost. This is really only necessary on runs that last longer than 45min or if you are someone that sweats a lot.

4)    Pacing: You should be running at a speed comfortable enough that you would be able to hold a conversation with a running partner. If you are constantly out of breath you are pushing yourself too hard. At this point speed is not important, being able to finish is what counts.

5)    Misc: I usually run with an ipod. If you want to run with music that is great, but be safe. If you are running next to the road keep one earbud out so that you can hear traffic. For guys, you may experience nipple chafing. It hurts, it sucks, but it is easily preventable. I find that I am ok on shorter runs, but on long run days (especially hot ones) I use bandages. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen too.

6)    Injury: Don’t push through pain! If you experience pain stop. If you are just uncomfortable or tired, by all means push through it and get your miles in but don’t push through actual pain. An injury will set you back much longer than cutting a run short to avoid hurting yourself. If you experience cramps it is sometimes possible to run through them if they are mild. To fix a cramp while running try inhaling on each step that you take on the opposite side of your cramp. So if for example you have a cramp on your right side, try and inhale whenever your left foot strikes the ground and exhale on the right step. Blisters are another common injury. To prevent blisters make sure your shoe is fitted properly, you aren’t wearing wet socks, wear sports socks that are designed for running, and if it’s a consistent problem you can also try applying lubrication or a small band aid to the area.

7)    Stretching: Don’t stretch cold muscles. There is a lot of information on the web about stretching and when it should be done. One thing that they all agree on is that you shouldn’t stretch a cold muscle (one that hasn’t been worked out) and that you should stretch after your run. Personally I don’t stretch before running, but I know some people that do. If you feel that stretching before a run is necessary, I would recommend that you do a light 5-10min jog first and then do some light stretching. After your run you want to stretch as soon as possible. Here is a good article on stretching from Runners World magazine: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/staying-healthy/the-rw-complete-guide-to-stretching/484.html

Here is the 18 week half marathon training program that I used. You want to be at a point where you can comfortably run 30min before you begin.

Week

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

TOTAL

1

Cross

5km

REST

5km

REST

6.5km

REST

16.5km

Training

2

Cross

5km

REST

5km Quality*

REST

6.5km

REST

16.5km

Training

3

Cross

5km

REST

5km

REST

8km

REST

18km

Training

4

Cross

5km

REST

5km Quality

REST

8km

REST

18km

Training

5

Cross

6.5km

REST

5km

REST

6.5km

REST

18km

Training

6

Cross

6.5km

REST

5km Quality

REST

9.5km

REST

21km

Training

7

Cross

6.5km

REST

5km

REST

9.5km

REST

21km

Training

8

Cross

6.5km

REST

5km Quality

REST

11km

REST

22.5km

Training

9

Cross

8km

REST

5km

REST

11km

REST

24km

Training

10

Cross

8km

REST

5km Quality

REST

12.5km

REST

25.5km

Training

11

Cross

8km

REST

5km

REST

12.5km

REST

25.5km

Training

12

Cross

8km

REST

5km Quality

REST

9.5km

REST

22.5km

Training

13

Cross

8km

REST

5km

REST

14.5km

REST

27.5km

Training

14

Cross

8km

REST

5km Quality

REST

14.5km

REST

27.5km

Training

15

Cross

8km

REST

5km

REST

16km

REST

29km

Training

16

Cross

8km

REST

5km Quality

REST

18km

REST

31km

Training

17

Cross

5km

REST

3km

REST

10km

REST

18km

Training

18

Cross

5km

REST

3km

REST

REST

Half Marathon

29.1km

Training

This is based on a 3 day a week running schedule with 1 day for cross training. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to complete the runs. This is just an example; you can adjust it for whichever days work best for you. I would recommend keeping a rest day before your long run day. You could also put in some more cross training on the short run day (Wednesday in the example). You could also remove one of the rest days and incorporate another short run or cross training.

If you are ambitious you can do this program in 12 weeks by removing weeks: 2. 4. 6, 10, 14 and 16. If you have the time though spreading it out over 18 weeks is more comfortable.

* Quality means that you change the short run up a little bit. Do interval training such as sprinting for short distances on the run. Find a hilly area and do hill work. Maybe push yourself to run faster than you are usually comfortable with. The point is to challenge yourself.

If you do make adjustments, make sure that you don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% each week. Give your body time to adjust to running further distances.

One last thing I recommend is to keep a run journal. Keep track of your runs and write down how you feel after each, even if it’s only a sentence or two. This can be a very useful tool. It helps you to remember what works for you and what doesn’t. It is also fun to read back at the beginning and mark your progress. Dailymile http://www.dailymile.com/ is a great online resource for this. If you don’t feel like writing anything you can simply just use a smiley face or a sad face for how you felt. Plus it allows other people to track your progress and offer encouragement.

I know that anyone can become a runner; all it takes is stepping out the door and trying. Good luck everyone!

About JD

FuJET President
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