Running Techniques for Beginners

When you decide to make the transition from walking to running, it’s important to check with your doctor first. Get the go-ahead before you start a running program. Make sure you have the proper shoes as well. A specialty running store can help you find the best shoes for your feet.

Every runner has a unique style and it’s not a good idea to stray too far from the form toward which your body naturally takes, but below are some tips to practice.

Make sure to warm-up. Start out slowly and gradually build up. Make it a goal to eventually run for thirty minutes. You can start by walking the warm-up, then alternating running for one minute and walking for one to two minutes, and walking the cool-down at the end. Each time you run, try to lengthen the running segments and shorten the waking segments. Run until you feel tired out and then push it another thirty seconds. This will get you out of the habit of stopping the minute running becomes uncomfortable. Remember to stretch post-run!!!

While running, look ahead, not down. This will help keep your posture erect and allow you to breath easier. Your center of gravity should be up and forward. The hips are your center of gravity so don’t lean or hunch over or your pelvis will tilt forward as well. This could cause lower back pain. If you feel yourself start to slouch, take a deep breath and feel yourself straighten up.

The back should be erect and straight and the shoulders should be relaxed. Don’t hunch them forward or up towards your ears. Your hands control the tension in the upper body and the arm swings work along with the stride to propel you forward. Hold your hands in a loose, unclenched fist. The elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and your arms should swing no higher than your chest, in a back and forth motion, not across the body.

You don’t need to lift your knees in an exaggerated motion. Just a slight knee lift is fine. When you’re running with proper stride length, the feet should land directly under your body. If the lower leg extends out in front of the body, the stride is too long.

Your foot should hit the ground lightly. It should strike somewhere between the heel and mid-foot and then quickly roll forward. As you roll onto your toes, try to spring forward. Your feet should never slap loudly. Try to stay light-footed.

Some say to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but just do whatever works best for you. It is a good idea, though, to try to get into a rhythm with your breathing and steps. Try this: breath in, step, step, step breath out. Once again, do whatever works best for you.

Most importantly, relax. Sometimes we have a tendency to clench up. Relax your face, relax your shoulders, relax your hands, etc.

Take it slow in building your time and distance. Don’t run on consecutive days when you’re just starting out. Give your body a break. If you over do it in the beginning, you’ll be less likely to stick with your running program. Once you can run for thirty minutes straight, look for a running club to join or local organized race. The excitement of it will motivate you in your everyday runs.

Set your own pace and have fun!

Written by Genie Bianchi

Carbohydrates for Runners

In my favorite episode of The Office, the company is holding a 5K run for rabies. In one scene, Michael Scott is stuffing his face with a plate of fettuccine alfredo. He is “carbo-loading” about five minutes before the race. Later in the show, he is shown getting sick and can’t finish the race. Yes, carbo-loading is a real thing…just not done the way Michael did it.
 Many new runners may be intimidated with the term, carbo-loading. All the low carb diet fads can make anyone feel like all carbohydrates are bad. Well, all carbohydrates are not bad and actually our bodies need them for energy.
The USDA new dietary guidelines suggest eating 6 ounces of carbohydrates per day. That is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Among those 6 ounces, half or 3 ounces should consist of whole grains. The whole grain contains B vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium and fiber. Don’t be fooled…check the labels. Make sure it says whole grain.
Carbohydrates are the top choice for fuel and the best energy source for working muscles. Runners require more than the average in their diets, especially in the days leading up to a marathon or endurance race. Choose ones like whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and air-popped popcorn.
How do you choose healthy carbs? Look for ones with high fiber. The more fiber it has, the more slowly it will be digested and the more nutrient-dense the food will be. Whole grains and whole fruits offer slow burning energy. These are best eaten the days before and the morning of a big run.  During a race, go for quick-burning carbs like jelly beans or sports gels to get a quick burst of energy. Within an hour after the run, it’s a good idea to get a mixture of slow and fast-burning carbs such as a bagel and a banana. A glass of low-fat chocolate milk post-run is a great alternative to a sugary sports drink. It offers the perfect carbohydrate/protein combination to replenish spent glycogen stores.
You may think that just because you are a runner you have a pass to eat endless amounts of bread and pasta. But the key to truly utilizing the energy benefits of carbohydrates is all in choosing the right ones. And skip the fettuccini alfredo!

The Mental & Emotional Benefits of Running for Women

Exercise, especially endurance-oriented activity, can elevate moods in both men and women. But the benefits of running for women seem to surpass any endorphin buzz. Running creates healthy, strong, confident, independent, and courageous women.

Running is a great stress reliever and fitness booster. It improves energy levels and increases feelings of well being as well as a better body image. Through running, a woman learns to appreciate her strengths and abilities. This is done with setting goals and accomplishing what she thought was never possible. A woman learns just how much courage she has. A female runner is less depressed, less anxious, has more energy and greater self-esteem than her sedentary counterparts. She is stronger physically and mentally. Running gives her a sense of accomplishment. When she finishes a run, it was her and her alone that did it.

Running gives her strong feelings as to who she is. It separates her from other roles as wife, mom, etc. It gives her courage to make changes in the rest of her life. She can use running as meditation, as a time to think and solve problems. It gives her empowerment to handle the problems life throws at her because she is strong and has a determination that running has taught her.

Running can fill voids in a woman’s life. She can be assertive and do it at her own pace. She can enjoy everything that comes out of running and doesn’t have to rely on someone else or a man to give it to her.

Women can find the more spiritual side of running. They understand the concepts of courage, companionship, and cooperation.

In addition to all the mental benefits, running boosts health in women as they age. Regular runners retain greater range of motion as they get older. Weight bearing activity actually improves bone strength and bone health in female runners is superior to sedentary women.

Running was once a sport where female runners were the exception. But today, millions of women have redefined the sport and it has changed them as well. These women enjoy the benefits that go so far beyond burning calories.

Running Injury: Plantar Fasciitis

This nagging, painful problem is usually the top foot complaint among runners. Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from the heel to the toes. The symptoms can feel like a dull ache or bruise in the heel or arch and are usually worse in the morning. People with very high or low arches are most prone to the condition. Both types cause the plantar fascia to be stretched away from the heel bone.

Other Causes:
-Extreme pronation (foot rolls inward excessively) or extreme supination (rolls outward excessively).

-Increasing mileage too quickly. Remember, do not increase your mileage more than ten percent per week.

-Standing long periods of time without supportive footwear. You may find that your foot hurts worse when walking barefoot.

-Weak core muscles. A weak core can lead to subtle changes in the stride that will affect the feet.

If the pain is chronic, a complete break from running may be necessary. Pool running and swimming can help you keep in shape while taking pressure off the feet.

Some Remedies:
-Roll your foot over a frozen water bottle several times a day. This will help with any inflammation and act as a massage as well. A tennis ball also works well to massage the bottom of the foot. Roll your foot back and forth over it several times a day. The tennis ball works great when traveling or when using ice just isn’t convenient.

-Stretch the plantar fascia several times a day. Because it usually hurts the worst first thing in the morning, start by flexing the feet a few times before you even get out of bed in the morning. Sit with one ankle resting on the opposite knee, grab the toes and gently pull back. Or, sit on the ground with knees up, feet flat on the floor, grab toes and pull up towards yourself.

-Use Epsom salt soaks. If soaking your foot in the tub is inconvenient, look for an Epsom lotion. It works the same way as the salt, only in a lotion form. It also feels great to massage it in to sore muscles.

-Stretch the calves. Tight calves can sometimes lead to a tightened plantar fascia. Using a foam roller is another great way to loosen tight muscles.

-Do core work at least twice a week. Include front planks, side planks and back extensions.

To prevent a relapse, make sure to wear the proper shoes for your feet and continue stretching and massaging several times a day.
"When all else fails, start running." -Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathoner