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I recently got into running because I wanted to lose weight, and began hitting the treadmill, religiously. I stayed consistent for about a year and a half, until a car accident made things more difficult. I wasn't injured too badly, but fitness certainly wasn't the same for awhile. I fell off the wagon.
Fast forward another year, and then there's me—wishing I had the will power to just get out and go. I couldn't afford a gym membership, and it was too hot outside to get motivated for running, until I stopped making excuses. In the mirror was a version of myself that wasn't doing all I could do to stay healthy, so I just decided to pick up where I left off.
From experience, I have compiled a list of things that every new runner should know:
Professional/expensive clothing is not necessary, but do invest in some shoes that provide proper support that will sustain repetitive use. For women, find a bra that provides a level of support that best suits the occasion. The only articles of clothing you really need are shorts that allow movement and a t- shirt. After working up a sweat, it is best to change quickly, and to wash your work-out clothes often, both for hygienic and health reasons. Shower often if you sweat a lot, and avoid going to bed sweaty (your skin and your mattress will thank you). Lastly, try not to get too caught up in what you'll look like to others—this is about your journey, and not theirs.
Running on an empty stomach will not provide any additional benefits, so do eat a snack or small meal before embarking on the quest. In order to see the best results for weight loss, take some factors into consideration when choosing how to nourish yourself:
- Have I eaten enough fruits and vegetables to fuel my body?
- Am I choosing something healthy?
- Am I full?
- How often can I afford to eat what I crave?
- Cut out as much additional sugar, carbs and sodium as possible*
- Water is #1 (alkaline water tastes better than acidic water).
*Drinks with caffeine tend to pull water from your system, so be careful when choosing tea, coffee, energy drinks, alcholic drinks and fruit juices—because of the sugars.
The bottom line is not to starve, or overindulge—but rather, set your own boundaries and use your best judgement. Some foods and beverages are simply not worth setting yourself back for.
How to run for weight loss
An unfortunate fact for anyone that does not like to sweat: sweating is essential to weight loss (if you sweat easily, be sure to replenish your water supply, or suffer the consequences of a nasty headache or a heat stroke). The secret to breaking down fat cells is the combination of breathing and sweating, as a result of physical activity. The C2O we exhale during exercise, and the H2O expelled from our sweat glands can lead to gradual weight loss. Don't expect to see results in a week, and whatever you do—do not be discouraged if you aren't making as much progress as you believe you should. Chances are, you're doing everything you can do, but you will not drop 50 lbs in a month. When the time comes, you will feel like any progress made was well-earned.
Have realistic expectations
If you are like me, and decide to take up running for health reasons, just be aware that it will require a lot of time and patience. Once you start running a few times a week, it is perfectly normal to feel out of shape at first, but consider this period, motivational. You know what you're capable of, so when you feel tired, switch to walking, and when you feel out of breath, again—walk until you feel another burst of energy. We tend to judge ourselves far too harshly, but this is the time to grow, and be positive in our efforts. The runner's high is real, and after awhile, with practice—you might experience the joys of running.
Begin and end every session with a good stretch or two to keep from getting too sore. The proper breathing pattern consists of coordination between steps and conscious breaths, so run in smaller strides if you want to conserve energy. No matter what, try and find a rhythm that works for you. Run from heel to toe, and become aware of the muscles that move you. Your lungs and leg muscles will ache at first, if the body is not used to running, and this is normal.
Keep your body centered, and avoid wasting momentum by not knowing what to do with the arms. Keep the elbows bent, and the body in motion for as long as you can until you run out of breath.
When you need to slow down, begin the transition from a run to a jog, and then keep walking, in order to keep the heart beating at a steady pace, as opposed to stopping abruptly and letting the heart race down. Take breaks, and give yourself room to improve on your personal best. This is not a competition, unless it is with the version of yourself from yesterday.
Running in the Sun
Now, I'm not usually a morning person, but during the hotter months, it's essential to outsmart the sun, and get an earlier start to your routine, or run when the sun goes down. It's never a bad idea to invest in some sunscreen, and if you anticipate being in the sun for an extended amount of time, stay hydrated. The same goes for exercising on a treadmill; you never want to underestimate how much water you will need to stay healthily hydrated. Might I suggest opting for a reusable water bottle to cut down on plastic waste? (: If not, recycle when possible, of course! Drinking plenty of water, before and following a run will get you in the habit of craving water on an everyday basis.
Safety is the #1 priority
If you choose to run outdoors, always always, always be aware of your surroundings! If you have a bad feeling about the environment that you're in, use your instincts to stay safe. I often get paranoid when on a secluded trail, so I am constantly looking over my shoulder—just in case. Get familiar with the trails around your town, and soak in the sights along the way. Hills and inclines are great for building stronger muscles, but always remember to proceed with caution. If snakes and other wildlife are commonly seen in your area, be prepared for the possibility of running across some critters, and exercise attentiveness.
Water is everything in this lifestyle, so drink as much as possible and listen to your body. Unbeknownst to some people, it's not recommended to drink water from plastic bottles that have been exposed to direct sunlight, so spring for BPA free, reusable water bottles, or hydration packs that strap to the body.
The goals in this game are set by you, and you may quit whenever you feel satisfied with your efforts. Seeing as that consistency is key, though, be sure to make time for the things that matter in your life, and then add running to the list.
In order for these tips to take effect, health has to matter to you, and a crucial step to success in running is to accept that your lifestyle may warrant a change or two.
I hope this information is useful to anyone looking to make a change for the better. When a new runner discovers the extent in which they can control their own destiny, they reaffirm the belief that "I can, and I will do this for myself." This knowledge effectively increases levels of self-efficacy and self-esteem, as well as improving the overall quality of life—so I ask you: What have you got to lose?