Running is an easy way to get in shape if you need to lose a few pounds, or an excellent activity if you want to maintain a healthy body. It requires extraordinarily little financial investment, just some good shoes! Unlike many other ways to stay fit, running does not require big exercise equipment like rowing machines or folding treadmills. If you are thinking about starting to run there are some important things to learn and consider before you take the first step on the open trail.
Running Terms & Vernacular
Learning the language is always the first step before jumping into a new activity like running. Like many other sports and hobbies running has its own set of words and phrases that are specific to the sport. You will hear other runners talking about these things and you will read articles with these words in them, so it is time to cover the basics! Please note that there are many more phrases and words than the ones covered here, but these will give you a solid basic vocabulary.
Different Kinds of Runs
- Easy Run- This is exactly what it sounds like, a run that is just a quick and easy one where you do not need to be concerned about any numbers or pacing. Just have fun and go for it.
- Road Race- Actual racing events where the road is closed just for the race. These are usually bigger events and as a newbie, you are not likely to be involved in one of these.
- Trail Run- Fun nature runs that are best enjoyed in nice weather. This kind of run is one of the most popular due to the mind-calming aspect of jogging through nature.
There are many more, but these are probably the top 3 if you are measuring by popularity.
Running Gear Words
- Roller- This is a great tool used to increase circulation. It is a padded foam cylinder that you roll against your muscles to increase the blood flow
- Wicking Clothes- Clothing that is designed to soak up sweat and keep you dry during a run. You will probably end up with a lot of this stuff if you start running regularly.
- Tights- Yes, runners do wear tights! These are basically leggings that will fit snug against your legs and keep your body temperature even on a run.
There is an entire universe of gear if you want to explore it, but you need extraordinarily little of it to get the benefits of running. One of the best (but totally optional) pieces of gear that you may want to consider is a fitness tracker.
Physical Body Terms
- Hypoxic- Lacking oxygen. This is what happens when you overdo it and end up gasping for air.
- Runner’s High- The amazing feeling you get sometimes after a good run (or even during one). This is something that keeps runners addicted.
- VO2 Maximum- The max amount of oxygen you can use during serious exercise. Your max will increase as you run more, and your body gets used to it.
Ah yes, the annoying acronyms. Every hobby and sport have their own host of these irritating abbreviations we use because we are too lazy to say an entire word (really?). These are common and you will have to get used to them, there is no way to avoid it (sorry).
- DOMS- This is what happens when you work hard during a workout or run intensely, and your muscles are in pain the next day. The letters stand for delayed onset muscle soreness. Not sure why they cannot just say ‘sore muscles.’
- BPM- Heart rate measured in beats per minute. This is something seasoned runners are semi-obsessed with. Have you ever seen them running in place at a stoplight and putting their finger on their neck? They are calculating their BPM counting the number of times their heart beats.
- CR- The fastest time a runner has completed a given course. CR stands for the course record.
- PB- Persona best time on a given trail (I guess personal best is just way too many words to get out).
This list of running terms could go on for days, but these are some good ones you will hear and should be familiar with.
Pre-run and Warm-up Stretches
Before you start running it is always a good idea to do some warmup stretches to make sure your muscles are ready for some serious work. Most runners who are just starting out really do not want to warm up or stretch, it seems annoying. Runners just want to run for god’s sake. However, warming up and stretching will help your muscles avoid the DOMS the next day.
Lunging is when you stretch one leg out in front of you, bend your knee and sink your body down low. Alternate which leg goes out front. Ideally, you would hold a lunge for 5 seconds on each leg.
Hip Flexor Stretches
While standing up straight bend your leg bringing your heel up behind you and grab your ankle. Pull your ankle toward your glute and you will feel the muscle in your hip start to stretch out.
Spread your feet far apart and point your toes forward. It is a good idea to fold your hands in front of your chest to help with balance. Shift your weight from one leg to the other while bending your hip on the leg opposite the stretching leg.
Quick Jump Rope Session
Jumping rope for a few minutes before an intense run can loosen up all the right muscles and prepare your legs for serious exercise. If you are considering getting into running it may not be a bad idea to pick up a good jump rope to keep yourself limber.
Before getting too deep into the world of running, you should do some reconnaissance. Look around on the internet and check for local trails and long stretches of road with little or no traffic. You may be surprised how many places there are nearby that are being utilized by runners (and those annoying cyclists).
Make a note of where these spots are so when you are in the mood to go running you know exactly where to go. If you spot a trail that is designated a cycling path, just be aware of bikes and if you see one coming, yield the right of way to the oncoming cyclist. Some of the best places to run are not considered trails or paths at all but are actually just small side streets with hills where there is not much traffic.
Set Your Running Goals and Boundaries
This is not required but it is a great idea to do before you start taking running seriously. Know what you want to get out of running! For some people, they want to lose weight. If this is your goal, write down your target body weight. If you want to reach a certain BPM, make a note of it as a goal so that you will know when you reach it. Knowing your goals and writing them down somewhere is an effective motivational tool, not just for runners but for anyone doing anything.
Boundaries are also important. You should prepare yourself mentally for each run. Do not try to do too much too soon, keep an eye on your heart rate. You can easily push too hard if you are just starting out. Just be aware of your body and how you feel, dehydration or hypoxia can sneak up on you quickly and lead to passing out. Passing out on the trail is not only dangerous but it can be extremely embarrassing.
Get in the Running Mindset
Running is not always your preferred activity, and sometimes you will hate it while you are running! This leads to a bad experience which nobody likes. Training your mind to run is just as important as stretching, warmups, or any other part of it.
Running is an extremely mental sport. The right mindset will enable you to go for longer distances, sprint much faster, beat your best old times, and enjoy yourself while doing it. Mentally training yourself to become a good runner is just as difficult as doing it physically. Read up on the sport. Find books that do deep dives into the mental aspect of running. This will familiarize you with some of the different opinions and philosophies out there surrounding running.
Yes, meditate. Meditation is the key to many professional runners’ success. Get your mind clear and focus on your breathing for a few minutes before or after your stretching or warm-up session. With a clear mind, you will be much more able to run efficiently. There is nothing quite like a good meditation session to start out your workout. This has been used for millennia to prepare athletes for intense sports.
While there is no way to explain all the intricacies of how to start running in one short guide, the tips and information here will get you started on the right track. Remember to have fun with it and if you start to burn out, just take a break for a few days and get back to it with a fresh outlook later in the week when you are in the mood!