As a personal trainer, I get a lot of questions from my clients about how to get started with a running program. I tell them that if they’re generally healthy they should be able to start a running program. Like learning any new skill, it can take some time to learn how to run.
Running is something that humans are designed to do. From a young age, we naturally could move our feet and just start running without a second thought. As we age many of us give up things we used to do like running.
It doesn’t take long for us to get this skill back. Here are our guidelines to get you started with a running program.
Don’t push it too hard
When you first start running it’s important to not push it hard. Many people go all in when they start running and this sets them back or pushes them away from the sport all together. Running is basically jumping from one foot to the other over and over. Just like you wouldn’t put a ton of weight on a squat rack you shouldn’t be going out and running at a fast pace until you’re ready. A simple way to see if you’re pushing it too hard is that you’re getting out of breath while running or your running form starts to break down.
Ways you can push too hard.
Pace: Running fast is one of the ways you can cause an injury when you’re running. If you’re running outdoors this is most likely to happen while you’re running downhill. This is because there is shearing force on the joints from the breaking that you need to do while running downhill.
Tips for running downhill:
When running downhill it’s important to allow gravity to take you down the hill rather than landing heel first. Allow the hill to assist your pace down the hill instead of forcing it.
Look down the hill:
Keep your eyes on where you’re going rather than your feet. This will allow you to maintain good posture while running downhill.
Engage the core:
When running downhill it’s important to make sure that the core is engaged. This will promote good running form and help to absorb some of the shock from downhill running. A great way to ensure that your core is engaged is to pull the belly button back towards the spine or tighten the core like you’re about to brace yourself while catching a ball.
If you’re new to exercise and your core is weak you can do some simple exercises to make it stronger. Here are a couple things you can do to improve core strength.
Doing a plank is one of the best ways to build core strength because it trains the core to do what it’s designed to do which is stabilizing the trunk. Sit ups focus on the rectus abdominis which is not the main muscle when it comes to stabilizing the spine.
Side planks are a great addition to the front plank because it helps to isometrically strengthen the core in the frontal plane of motion. The side of the core consists of internal and external oblique muscles. This muscles will help keep the trunk stable while running down the hill reducing the chance of injury.
Running too far
When you first start running it’s important to keep runs short. When you run to far running form will breakdown from fatigue and this can lead to injury. Try keeping runs around 30 minutes or 3 miles when starting out.
If you ran competitively in high school or college you may feel like you can pick up where you left off and this is a big mistake that will lead to an injury. Stick to the 30 minutes or 3 miles for at least a month to let your body become adapted to running again.
Too much volume:
Overall weekly running volume is a factor to consider when you first start running. Many people jump right in and try to run every day but doing so is a mistake and may lead to injury. When getting started It’s best to do 3 runs per week for your first couple weeks, then you can work up to 4-5 runs per week when you’re no longer getting sore.
After going over how to avoid pushing too hard we will dive into things that you can do to improve your running form.
How to improve running form
When you first start running, it can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you improve your running form.
Run up hill
Running uphill forces the body to be in proper running form. It will require you to run upright and put most of the stress on the glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. You can practice running uphill on a treadmill or outside. If you’re on a treadmill set the treadmill to 5% incline and if you’re outdoors try to find a modest hill that you can run up for 30 seconds.
Here is an example of uphill training.
Tread mill 5:00 minute warm up, 8-10x 30 second sprints with 2:00 minutes at a brisk walk pace, 5:00 minute cool down. Because you’re just starting with running makes sure that you’re not pushing too hard when doing the sprints. You should just start getting out of breath at the end of each interval.
Doing strength exercises will help build the muscles that you will need to keep your body in proper form while running. Some of the best exercises to try are: Squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows and planks. These exercises will work the posterior chain which is important for runners.
What is the posterior chain?
“The posterior chain is a group of muscles on the posterior of the body. Examples of these muscles include the hamstrings, the gluteus maximus, erector spinae muscle group, trapezius, and posterior deltoids”
Here is an example of a strength training workout.
Lunges 3×8 per leg
Rows using a bar or TRX system 3×15
Deadlift using a barbell 3×12
Planks 3×30-45 seconds
If you’re an experienced weight lifter you can focus on doing compound barbell lifts. Pick a weight that you can do for 5 reps. Focus on barbell squat, barbell deadlift, barbell row and barbell shoulder press.
Cues to keep improve running form
When you’re running make sure to focus on these cues to keep your form in check. Keep your shoulders back, head up, body relaxed and lastly try to keep your foot strike under your hips. Doing this will help keep your body from slumping over causing poor running form.
Check out our guide on strength training for runners
If you’d like to try our virtual personal training services visit us at www.onthegofitnesspro.com