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Running - The Quick Start Guide

Running is better than drinking alcohol and I dribble a lot less. The problem with running is, well, me! I don't really like it, but I like what it does! It's my private place, and don't share too many of the thoughts that I have out there... well except the person that let their dog crap on the sidewalk in front of the Middle School; that person I am hunting down and DNA has already been sent to CSI (Vegas of course!)

I didn't like running, hell, I didn't like getting up the front steps. In my book, gasping for air was for pearl divers, not for me!

There are three aspects to running: aerobic capacity, mental fortitude and physical stamina. All three must be trained for. The purpose of training is to force your mind and body to adapt to longer and faster runs.

The most important thing to remember in running is DON'T GET INJURED! OK - maybe to have fun!

----------------------------------------------- PLEASE NOTE -------------------------------------
If you have never run before, I suggest the following for 2 weeks prior to running so that you don't get hurt. This is especially true if you are older or very obese like I was. You probably should check with your doc too.
4 times a week:
- Warm up with a short walk.
- Do some simple strength training and stretching. Squats lunges, high-knees and planks. Stretching can be simple things like touching your toes, laying on the floor and pulling your knees close to your chest. You should feel a stretch, but NO PAIN!
- Walk the distance you want to run. Say a mile in 20 minutes. Even a 5K in an hour.

- Shoes: Shoes are your best protection against just about every possible runner’s injury. (Please note they do not protect against pregnancy or STDs.) After you have had a gait analysis and are properly fitted for running shoes at a running store, then you can start running. A gait analysis will help you determine your running mechanics and find shoes with the proper combination of arch support, control, and cushion. Your shoe size/width, weight, whether you intend to run trails or on the street, your running experience, arch height, foot strike and pavement contact are part of the analysis - oh, and your favorite color. I am going to name some of the more popular brands simply to help you do some research. Adidas, Altra, Asics, Brooks, Hoka, Karhu, Merrell, Mizuno, New Balance, Newton, Nike, Reebok, Saucony, Skechers, Under Armour and Vibram. Please be aware that some running shoes are not avaiable at all specialty stores. Others are available at outlets. One more thing; running shoes are not for walking and walking shoes are not for running.

You need to know all this so that you can select the right brand/model for you.

I like this shoe site. It will help you begin to understand to complexity of picking the correct running shoe.  (Did I say people who recommend brands and models make me mad?) I also went to a podiatrist because I got plantar fasciitis from steep inclines on the treadmill. Then there was the chiropractor who is a runner. Both were very helpful in shoe selections. One of the docs said wine and a hot tub would help. How can you go wrong with that sort of medical advice?

- Training Plan: Couch to 5K (C25K) is very popular. There are others, but for most of the newbies, you probably can't run to the mailbox. Intervals will help you begin the aerobic capacity training and begin to build the confidence you need to achieve your goal.

I believe the basics of a good run are posture, running form, pace, and breathing.

- Posture: This is the skeleton of good form. It should remain unchanged in your run, so taking some time to learn it is essential. Strength training is very helpful for maintaining good posture and form throughout an entire run. I recommend 20 pushups a day (nothing touching the floor but hands and feet!), 20 lunges, 20 squats, 50 jumping jacks and few 1-minute planks. (Google them if you need to. All are easy, at home sort of stuff.) It takes about 10 minutes with some light pre-run stretching.

- Warm-Up & Stretch: I do a 5-minute warm-up where I walk, walk faster, do a loosening up bounce with exaggerated knees up and kick backs - on my toes. I rotate my torso and let my arms flop around. LOOSE is what you need to do. It looks like you are the happiest running drunk on the planet but my neighbors already know I am an aberration. I follow up with some easy stretching of the leg muscles. Side-to-sides to A-frames, lunges, calf leans, and back leg lifts. I hold each one for 10 seconds - just an easy stretch with no pain. I just stop along the roadside by the pond and enjoy the view for a minute. You need to warm up first!

- Form: It's simple, but it makes a difference. Posture is constant during your run. Form is controlling the variables such as arm swing, forward lean, foot-strike and stride.

Good posture starts with standing tall (loose) extending your spine up, and making room so that you can breathe from your diaphragm (why planks are important!).

Lean forward at your ankles, not your waist, until you need to take a step to keep from falling. That is the proper position. You'll be looking ahead about 30 feet, have your chin up and your neck in line with your spine. If you are looking down in front of you (bending at the neck), you'll probably be in poor posture.  (Try a school track for practice - looking well ahead and running the street can cause you to trip at curb cuts and the like.) Imagine a straight line from your ankle to the top of your head. Do not bend at the waist! Many runners need to concentrate on pushing the hips forward a little.

- Lean: Part of your running form. It is the gear shift. More lean, more speed. You want lean enough so that you are striking your foot flat but towards your toes. (Heal hits actually slow you down and often mean that your stride is too long.) It takes practice to control it so that you hit flat (mid-foot) with your weight on your toes. Some shoes will cause you to be even more on your toes with a toe strike. If you overdo the lean, you'll take off, keeping the lean too far back and you'll drag your heals. I like to practice on the treadmill at 3 degrees incline or a hill. This way you can go slower and focus on leaning from the ankle without having to go too fast.

- Arms: Keep your arms loosely swinging with your forward momentum. It takes practice to give them enough push to swing so they actually pull you forward but stay loose.  You want to use the rhythm of this energy, not just expend it swinging them. Exaggerating the swing is a waste of energy you'll need later on. Keep your forearms parallel to the pavement. I practice on (up) hills where it is most apparent. Arms need to be loose - don't run with clenched fists! That may work for sprinting, but not long distance. Your back will love you for this! Keep your hands relaxed, open and loose with your left thumb at 1 and the right at 11 o'clock.

- Breathing: This one is tough for many runners. It needs to be done with a rhythm. For my first year, I ran to very specific music and my breathing was "in time" with the beat. I can't breathe well through my nose, so I do both in and out with my mouth. Others breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. You need to practice on a slow jog. Breathe in over a left-right step combination, and out of the next left-right combination. You can also try it with just one set, but you need to be moving along pretty fast.

Breathing to capacity is essential to supply oxygen as part of the metabolic process which powers the legs. But for the longer distances, you need to increase (through training) "volume oxygen max" or VO2Max for short. If you are breathing deeply you'll have more O2 and as your V02Max increases, you'll see gains in distance and speed.

The problem for many of us who have been sedentary is this: we have shallower breathing and it will take focus to change that. The aerobic adaptations with take time, but using your lungs to full capacity will have immediate results.

- Pace: This is a tough one and everyone has an opinion. Here is what I do. I practice my pace on the treadmill with music that fits the tempo. Do 2 miles at an even pace with music that is that same tempo for the pace. IE: Tom Petty's "Breakdown" at 6 miles per hour. Get a few faster songs to practice faster paces.

Pace is also directly linked to V02Max which is a large part of the cardiovascular puzzle. The other one is heart rate. I recommend a heart rate monitor, not just so you have statistics about your running performance, but so you can see the improvement in your VO2Max and efficiencies of changes your running form.

Miles and minutes are the building blocks of running. You build miles and add them together. Run a mile, walk a minute, run a mile, walk a minute, and run a mile. There's your 5K. If you can do a 10-minute mile you'll be done in 33 minutes.

- Variation: I run for pace 2 days a week. These are shorter and faster than my weekly long slow runs. Each run has a training purpose. For now, just mix it up.

- Practice: Break it down. Practice breathing in "time" to your stride. Go run with solid form as far as you can. Keep the pace slow and even and focus on LOOSE, lean, and a slight arm swing.

When you have the form and breathing down, then work on the faster runs. Better to get the technique down now, and then ramp up the speed. Muscle memory will begin to free you up to focus on other aspects of your running. I promise the lean (at the ankle) and using your lungs to capacity will increase your time in one day.

- Sex: Good sex makes lots of things better. When the kids are around, waffles is adult code for sex.

55 votes + -


jmnicholas wrote 79 months ago:
I am going to send this on to a 'new runner' friend. I am still working on some of these. God bless
Kamnikar64 wrote 79 months ago:
I love your blogs and I will never hear the word "waffles" the same way again. :)
LinOtt wrote 79 months ago:
Amazing how idiots can hijack even such a great blog such as yours David - to plug their wares!

Thanks for this article - I have been trying to run for about 2yrs now and am still struggling to increase my speed and lung capacity. Had a bad lung infection this winter which seemed to just linger in my lungs for ages.

I think your observations are well thought out and based on your own experience. I'm going to try them starting today. Just after having some waffles...

Thanks for sharing your learnings!
punkrockgoth wrote 79 months ago:
I struggled for years to make progress with my running. What finally catapulted me further was going to a running specialty shop and buying proper shoes. Now I'm training for my first marathon in June and reading as much as I can (in between runs of course).
mk2fit wrote 79 months ago:
I guess I didn't know there were so many rules to running. I just get out and go! Usually run for 45 minutes to an hour - about a 10 minute mile. Breathe in 2 counts, out 2 counts, military style. Oh, I'm a 57 year old female.
Quaters wrote 79 months ago:
Well written for us all thankyou so much for taking the time to put so much into it, i have learnt so much from just reading, now i will have to put it all into practice, cheers and a happy healthy new year.
DayOneVB wrote 79 months ago:
Great blog! Very good information.
taco_inspector wrote 79 months ago:
Is it OK to run to "Waffle House" ? (thanks for the pain-free way that you approached this; very helpful!)
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