It takes a long time to train for (and pull off) a run successfully — could be weeks or even months. So don't immediately jump into a training program — do some research first and read suggested plans at sites like Runners World. Start at a slow pace, low mileage, and work your way up. You'll not only prevent injury, you'll also build a solid running foundation so your body can adeptly handle the stresses and strains of running.
It's important to invest in a proper pair of runners. Stop by a professional running store to get an expert fit. Your ankles, legs and body will thank you. And your running form will improve exponentially as a result.
Your body will tell you when it's done working out. You may feel light-headed, winded or even exhausted. You could even feel pain in your joints or muscles. Learn to recognize these signs and if you feel like you're pushing it, slow down or stop. There's nothing wrong with taking a break.
This should be a no-brainer but half of the people who admit to exercising on a daily basis, don't incorporate stretching into their routine. And it's especially important for a runner to limber up. It will prevent injury as well as energize your muscles before a run. Stretch lightly before running to help prepare your muscles and then move gradually into deeper stretches after a run when your muscles are really warmed up. And never stretch to the point of pain.
Weight training and cross training will mix-up your workout and help you train different muscles in your body (and it's the easiest way to ensure everything is tight and toned for run-day). It will also give your body a break from the repetitive motion of running.
Fueling your body with the right kinds of food is super important when training for any kind of run. So drop the chips, chocolate and pop, and reach for good carbs (like yams, bananas, apples and wheat) and healthy, lean pieces of meat (like fish and chicken). What you eat after a run is particularly key in helping you recover from training and be at your best for your next run and, most important, for race day. (Click for what to eat after exercise.)
Whether you run indoors, outdoors or in cold or warm weather, running will make you sweat. To replenish your stores, be sure to get lots of water before, during and after a run. If you're not hydrated, you'll feel sluggish, and running will be that much harder. Worse, in warm or hot weather, dehydration sets you up for heat stroke.
Some experienced runners drink coffee or shakes and sports drinks and gels infused with caffeine to get their day or training run started. Be judicious in drinking anything with caffeine since it can contribute to dehydration — as well as caffeine toxicity (Click for health warnings on caffeinated energy drinks!). In addition, despite recent studies showing a moderate amount of alcohol a day may be healthy for your heart, don't over indulge — running is hard enough, you don't need to try to do it with a hangover.
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