We all know the facts: running is great cardiovascular exercise. It also boosts one's energy and improves the mood. In the U.S alone, more than 64 million people went jogging in 2016 and over 17 million participated in a race and reached the finish line. There are numerous running books, blogs, podcasts, and apps; we have easy access to all the guidance, gadgets, gear and gurus we need in order to get started. But it doesn't mean it's easy. While runners can tell you it's worth the effort, if you haven't yet experienced the high of running, the thought of putting on your running shoes instead of spending a few more minutes in bed may seem daunting. So how do you cross that first barrier - the fear of running, the feeling that it is beyond the last thing you want to do?
1. Take your time and don’t stress over distance. Set time borders rather than distance goals. For instance, aim to run for 30 minutes and leave it at that, don't count the kilometers or your steps, just go, and go slow. When your body becomes acclimated to running, in other words when it feels easier, start increasing your running period gradually.
2. Stretch before and after. Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or weekend runner, stretching is key to a healthy and enjoyable run. Nothing is worse than leg cramps in the middle of your jog, and it's very difficult to muster up the energy to go out for a run when your whole body is stiff from the last one. So start every run with dynamic stretching and a brisk walk and end off with a few minutes of walking and static stretching.
3. Run in the mornings. It's quiet outside, the air is fresh and you are probably calmer than you will be later on. Statistics also prove that (a) our performance is usually better in the early hours of the day, (b) morning routines are the easiest to maintain, and (c) early morning physical activity enhances productivity and positivity throughout the day.
4. Alternate. A great way to build your endurance is to break up your running sessions with walking. Try running for one minute and then walking for one minute. Once this feels comfortable, add a minute to the running, and then another, and another. Fairly quickly you will find that you can run for longer distances without the need for walking.
5. Experiment. Once you have a routine going try different paces and see how they affect your body. Try sprinting at different points of your run, for example, or expanding the length of your stride. Listen to your body while you make these changes and learn which challenges work best for you.
6. Keep a positive attitude. Our thoughts really do rule us. And running, particularly long-distance, is totally mental. Positive thoughts will help you get over the hump that we all experience. Try using a mantra like "I can do this" or "I'm stronger than I think", or focus on the great progress you have made in your training.
7. Pump it up with music. Up beat tunes can be an amazing motivator. Make a playlist of the songs that will give you the inspiration and rhythm you need to keep going. Listening to a captivating podcast can also do the trick.
8. Head outdoors. As long as the weather permits, run outside. That treadmill may be convenient, but it allows your muscles to develop a use pattern and this may actually hinder your ability to meet your running goals. Many tend to hunch over the hand bar in reaction to the effort, which is bad for posture. Running outdoors better activates your hamstring and glutes, it increases endurance, speed and distance.
9. Find a running partner. One way to get over the mental block that stops you from going out the door is finding a buddy to run with, or even joining a running group. This way it becomes a social event, a great time to catch up and an opportunity to help each other. Besides, there's nothing wrong with some positive peer pressure if it helps you improve your health.
10. Rest up. Running three times a week is more than enough. Your body needs time to recuperate and prepare for the next run. From an emotional perspective, taking a break gives you an opportunity to reflect on your running routine, understand what you like about it and build up an appetite for your next run.
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