With marathons taking place every weekend across the country, fall is (unofficially) running season, and with good reason: The weather’s bright, the temperature is cool, and there’s no better feeling than the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.
As such, now is the perfect time for non-runners to strap on some sneakers, hit the road, and embrace the pleasures of a great run. Still on the fence? We asked Leanne Shear, a Lole running ambassador and co-founder of Uplift Studios in NYC, for her tips on how (and why) to start a new running regimen right now.
“First and foremost, [running is] nature’s antidepressant, anti-anxiety medication, and de-stressor,” says Shear. “It’s empowering and a confidence-booster. It makes a person stronger (especially if he or she sprinkles in some hills and speedwork!). And nothing beats the cardiovascular benefits: it keeps the heart pumping story and healthy.” Bad day at the office? Fight with the spouse? Nothing clears your mind (and adds perspective) like a run. Plus, it’s a real calorie killer. On average, just one mile of running burns about 100 calories!
The Ideal Beginner Run
When starting out, the last thing you want to do is over-extend yourself, which often leads to injury. Instead, start short and slow. “For someone new to running, I would suggest something very simple: go out and determine how long you can run without stopping,” Shear recommends. “Whether it’s one minute or thirty minutes, that’s your baseline. You can then add small bits to that every time you run (from one to five minutes depending on how you feel).”
Unlike most other sports, runners need one piece of equipment: sneakers. Finding the right pair is essential to preventing injury. “Sneakers are very specific to each individual and body type. If possible, go get your gait analyzed by professionals at a local running or sporting goods store.” Then test, test, test to find the right pair. “One rule of thumbs in terms of size is that running sneakers should fit about half a size (or sometimes a whole size) larger than your regular shoes.” For clothing, you want something fitted. Anything stretched out will cause chafing on the arms and inner thighs. “The key is a good mix of compression and breathability. I highly recommend the Lole brand Run Capri ($75, lolewomen.com) for a great fit. Their Twist Tank Top ($48, lolewomen.com) is also the best and has an iPod holder built-in.”
The Soreness Factor
You should expect to be sore in the beginning, but you also need to be able to gauge soreness from injury. “There is a ‘good’ sore and a ‘bad’ sore — starting and building slowly, along with plenty of stretching, will ensure a small amount of ‘good’ soreness. Going out too hard or long will threaten you with injury and/or ‘bad’ soreness.” If you do feel ‘good’ sore after a workout, don’t rest the next day! Head out for a short and easy recovery run. Shear explains that this flushes out the lactic acid that builds up in your legs after a hard run. The next day you’ll be feeling as good as new!
Treadmill vs. the Outdoors
“Whenever possible, running outside is preferable to a treadmill. For one thing, it’s harder — and makes a person a better runner that much faster.” Plus, treadmills get boring fast. New scenery and having that feeling of accomplishment when you reach a new destination keeps you motivated for longer. That being said, treadmills aren’t all bad. “A treadmill is a perfectly fine substitute or a great option for things like quick intervals or other speed work, especially if you happen to be short on time.”
Those Killer Side Stitches
A side cramp, caused by dehydration, can ruin a perfectly fine run in minutes. Shear recommends drinking plenty of water a few hours before a run. “If you still get hit with a stitch mid-run, circular breathing helps a lot. Breathe in and puff out your belly at the same time for up to ten breaths.”
There are races galore all over the country. Finding one isn’t the issue, but knowing when you’re ready to test yourself is. “You’ll know you’re ready on two fronts: physically, you will be able to run at least the distance of the race (and ideally at least a little longer) without stopping … and feel good afterward,” Shear says. “Mentally, you will be confident and feel ready.”
Pre and Post-Run Eats
Never run on an empty stomach. For a light pack of nutrients, Shear recommends a small handful of almonds. The fat slows down digestion so its just enough. “If you need more fuel, try the good carb, good fat, protein combo. For example, try a whole-wheat English muffin with almond butter and banana.” Within 45 minutes of a tough workout, you should eat a similar combo. Pasta parties may have been fun back in the day, but packing in the carbohydrates just isn’t necessary, according to Shear. “Carb-loading the night before a race really isn’t necessary and, in fact, has been proven somewhat ineffective, especially for women.” Instead, before a race, Shear recommends that runners “eat a healthy dinner and a solid breakfast, including a good fat, like nut butter, protein and good carbs, such as brown rice or a sweet potato.”
Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Spinning