Guide for Starting a Running Regime This Spring
Spring is definitely in the air and that means it’s running season again. Of course, the hardcore runners have been out all winter – and good for them – but many of us can’t bring ourselves to head out for a jog in wintertime, whether it’s because of the cold winds, the icy ground, or the dark early nights. Spring is the perfect time to start working on your fitness again and there are some great tips for anyone hoping to avoid injury and make their runs as enjoyable and safe as possible.
Invest in quality running gear
For many of us, running gear consists of that old t-shirt we got at a team building exercise at work and whichever baggy shorts we can find in the bottom drawer. This is fine, and for some people the gear they use makes little difference to them and they don’t want to spend the money on more expensive clothes or footwear. But buying the right gear can make you lighter, warmer (or cooler, if overheating is your problem) and a good pair of running shoes can make all the difference to your gait and whether or not you develop an injury, such as the infamous Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). It’s a good idea to do a little research into your own running gait and what kind of shoes might help you.
Another advantage of investing in some high-quality running gear is that it can make you feel prepared and more enthusiastic about your fitness regime. Having better gear will make you excited to get outside and start running.
It is also a good idea to invest in a foam roller if you haven’t already. A foam roller is used to massage your legs, working out any problem areas that are tightening and causing you pain. If you are having problems with your knee, for example, it might actually by an IT band issue, like ITBS, and the way to address it is to use a foam roller along your IT band, tenderising it, allowing it to elongate. This article from Active.com provides great advice for anyone with IT band issues. Keeping on top of any aches or pains before they get worse is absolutely key to a successful running regime.
This is something that is often overlooked, but protecting yourself from the sun is a necessary precaution all year round. Whether it’s the low, eye-level sun in the winter and early spring, or the more powerful sunlight during the summer. Wear the appropriate sun cream and look for a brand that doesn’t wash off too easily when you start sweating.
It’s just as important to protect your eyes from the sunlight, but this is seldom emphasised as much as skin protection is. The UVA and UVB radiation in sunlight can cause all kinds of problems in your eyes and has even been linked to blindness later in life. If you require prescription lenses, then it’s also a good idea to get a good pair of prescription sports sunglasses, as it is useful to be able to spot cars and other hazards when you’re out running. For the best value, look for online retailers like Red Hot Sunglasses, as they buy stock from the top brands in bulk and can offer the cheapest prices. Ill-fitting sunglasses can bounce around and cause runners to change how they run in order to keep their head still or to go up and down less; this can cause back and neck problems down the line, so look for sunglasses that wrap around your head a little and have a well-fitting bridge so that they do not shake around when you run.
Set yourself realistic targets
For many runners who were stuck inside over winter, the biggest problem is that they are in such a rush to regain their fitness from the previous year that they overexert themselves in the first few weeks and give themselves an injury. So perhaps the best piece of advice for any runner is for them to pace themselves carefully at the start and to build up their run times and distances gradually. If you rush into things then you’re in danger of developing IT band syndrome, as we mentioned earlier – so be very careful! Start off with a small, safe distance for your first few runs in order to gauge your fitness levels. Make a note of how many miles in total you run each week. As you progress and begin adding on more distance, add a maximum of 10% of your overall weekly mileage. This is generally agreed to be the right rate to avoid injury and give your tendons and ligaments enough time to catch up with your cardiovascular fitness.
Eat the right food well in advance of your run
As running uses a lot of energy and shakes everything about in your stomach, it’s important to eat right. In the several hours running up to your run, avoid fibrous vegetables (onions, beans, broccoli, etc) and foods that are high in fat (chips, ice cream, etc), as they are harder to digest and might spend too long in your belly. About an hour before your run, it’s a good idea to eat a small energy-rich snack that is easy to digest, such as wholegrain toast with nut butter, or a banana and a few cashews. These foods will give you a little charge of energy without clogging up your stomach. If you want to eat a few hours before your run, then a meal with carbs, protein and healthy fats is ideal; tofu, avocado, and eggs are all your friends!
I hope this guide proves useful to a few readers who are getting ready to start their running regime this spring. Good luck and remember to have fun.