I remember the feeling of running effortlessly and carefree with my sisters and neighborhood kids – playing tag, relay races and even the dreaded mile test in PE class. Most of us have been running our entire childhood. The bizarre part is no one ever taught us how to run.
Learning to run? Seems second nature to most. A random combination of crawling, some stumbling, a little walking, and eventually running. As adults we would never try to learn a new skill without doing a massive amount of research, getting the right equipment and seeking the help of a professional. Since we have been running for as long as we can remember, we are all self-proclaimed experts.
I was more of a crawl, walk, run person (although never particularly fast), followed by years of contemplating running, sprinkled in with some extensive excuse making. I finally joined a running club, did my due diligence and actually learned how to run. It changed my perspective, my stride, my ability to endure long distances and, most importantly, to enjoy it.
Running is a combination of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and a tactical, mental game plan. There are lots of theories and techniques to proper, injury-free running. The Pose method of running helped me see the importance of learning how to run. According to Dr. Nicholas Romanov, proper technique is the cornerstone of every sports discipline or any other activity that involves human movement: dancing, ballet, martial arts, tennis, etc. Running is no different. Learning the correct running pose is just as important as having a stable position for an overhead squat, or proper asana in yoga.
It can be overwhelming to think about where to start. Here are five simple steps to get you started in the right direction.
1. Shoes, shoes, shoes: No matter how much money you think you are saving by buying cool-looking sneakers or the pair on sale, it is not worth the potential injury or residual limping the day after a run. Get fitted by a professional for shoes that fit your feet and your pronation. Runners Alley has people eager to get you fitted with the proper shoes for your feet and running goals. Check them out on North Main Street or at runnersalley.com.
2. Plan your route: Choose a route with enjoyable scenery or run to a destination and back (or, if you’re like me, I have to get dropped off far away where my only option is to run home).
3. Stay hydrated: Bring a camel back, a handheld water bottle or for longer runs, pre-stash water in the woods so you don’t have to carry all that weight.
4. Playlist or not?: A good beat can help keep your cadence. If you’re not experienced creating playlists, you can find great ones on Spotify or YouTube that have a BPM for the pace you’re aiming for (and don’t be afraid to sing out loud). If you are looking to enjoy the sounds of your environment, ditch the earbuds and be one with nature. Either way, keep your music at a low volume, be aware of your surroundings, be respectful of other runners and stay safe.
5. Find your rhythm: To run faster, run longer, avoid injuries and reduce impact on your body, you need to have (or improve) your own technique.
Since I have had so many people guide, mentor and influence me, I asked my running family to offer their best pieces of advice to get you started and keep you going.
Local multisport athlete and wellness coach Sherri Ferns recommends: “Go slow if you must, but you must not quit.” She found success by using what you learn during one race for things to focus on for the next race. She reminds her clients that they are constantly improving.
She shared her experience as a later-in-life runner. Her first race was the Bill Luti 5 miler, a staple in the Concord running community held in the blazing heat of July. She described how the race volunteers were literally cleaning up the cones as she crossed the finish line. She used that experience to make her a better runner and competes against her previous race time each summer. You can register for this race held July 20 at runcarsnh.com.
The problem is basic – it is easy to not run. New England weather has its challenges from icy wintry mix to humid scorchers. Ultra-marathoner Kate Fleming says she is always signing up for her next race. She schedules shorter-distance 5Ks in between her longer races. She said it helps to keep her focused and on track. The key to her running success was finding friends who liked to run. Kate shares her passion and expertise with the community by leading a weekly Run Squad at 43 Degrees North Athletic Club. This is a free running group for all levels (you do not need to be a member to join in) on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. You will find first-time runners, 5K-ers, leisure runners, ultra-runners and marathoners who want to help newbies feel comfortable and feed on their excitement.
Accomplished ultra-runner Marek Telus, who is an active member of the Run Squad, enjoys helping new runners find their passion. He believes that in running, consistency comes first. Speed is an added element that can be mastered over time as needed. Consistency gives endurance an added benefit of injury prevention. He reminds us staying healthy is the reason why we all started running in the first place.
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner of 43 Degrees North Athletic Club in Concord and is a fan of Brooks sneakers, and uses running as an excuse to eat pasta.)