10 questions of beginning runners

Everyone who started running faces difficulties sooner or later. The variety of problems and their scope is immense, and there is no way to tell everything in a reasonable time. Since we cannot “eat the whole elephant”, let’s break down a big task into smaller ones, considering individual obstacles and barriers to success, ways to prevent and overcome them.

Since the running community remembers itself (about 40 years, of which 10-15 years in a state of increasing intensity of information exchange on the network), questions from beginners and answers given by more experienced runners, coaches, professional and not very specialists in different fields of knowledge, have constant success. The short list of questions below is not exhaustive for sure, and we are not even certain that the most frequently asked questions are included in it.

1. How to start running?

Perhaps the most difficult question. The number of people who run more or less regularly is constantly growing, but even bigger is the number of those who would like to start running, but do not know how. Beginner runners can be divided into two categories:

  •  “Return of the Prodigal Son”. People who went in for sports in childhood / youth, then there was a break, and now they want again to be hardy, strong, agile, fast as they once were.
  •  “Revolutionaries”. Those who have decided to change their lives radically, and next Monday for the first time in their lives go for a run (and some do this not for the first time, because last time everything was limited to the first run).

 In both cases, the issue of motivation comes first. You must dare to do the first step – put on whatever sports clothes and shoes you have, leave the house (or stand on a treadmill in the gym) and run. It does not matter how it will looks from the side, how fast you run, and let the technique be far from ideal. Run 15-20 minutes at any comfortable pace, feel your body, feel deep breathe, hear your heartbeats – the joy of movement is natural and accessible to everyone.

 These first runs solve the most important problem – they create the conditions for the initial, physical and psychological, adaptation to a new life, initiate the creation of a new habit. Therefore, you should not make them tense and tiring, they should bring pleasure.

2. Which running shoes should I wear?

Unlike the previous question, this one does not have one simple answer. There is no doubt that running shoes are needed for running, but the rule “to each his own” applies here.

For the very first runs, any comfortable shoes are fine, but if you run several times a week for two to three months, you should take care to purchase running shoes. You need to buy running shoes in a specialized store, there are a lot of them in Moscow. Buying in a network sports super/hypermarket or in a mono-brand store of a large manufacturer is a risky move. A specialized store will definitely offer you more in terms of diversity and staff qualifications.

Buying running shoes should definitely take enough time: you need to try on several models and several sizes of each (on both feet!), make sure that the shape of shoes fits the shape of the foot, check the convenience of lacing, take a few steps, jump … It’s good if the store offers a treadmill where you can run. Sometimes can feel discomfort only after a few minutes – do not rush with the choice.

You should not order your first running shoes in an online store – you will not have  the opportunity to try on many models and sizes and will lose the wealth of choice. In the same way, it makes no sense to buy shoes that fit someone else well – everyone is different, and what is perfect for one can be a disaster for another.

Important! The size of running shoes should be 1.5 – 2 sizes more than your usual size! When running, the foot constantly slips forward, that’s why you must leave at least 1 centimeter free space in the toebox, otherwise you risk losing your nails!

3. Can I run in non-running shoes?

The law does not prohibit it. People run in all kind of footwear – in football boots, and in beach slippers, and in army boots, and even in felt boots. The main thing is not to get discouraged after the first running session. Running in running shoes that are specifically designed for running is more comfortable, faster and – the most important! – safer.

4. And what about running barefoot or in shoes that simulate running barefoot?

There are two aspects to take into account while answering this question:

First, the surface which contacts the foot must not hurt it (unless the skin of the foot is rough enough to resist the damage, or the surface is smooth and soft).

Secondly, the redistribution of the load on the foot during such a run should not overload it. Therefore, even the most active fans of barefoot running admit that it is necessary to start running barefoot very, very gradually, so that there is enough time for the skin of the sole and for the muscles of the foot to adapt (their first adaptive mechanisms start acting after a few weeks), as well as to adapt the ligaments and tendons (here the changes are usually  significantly slower, months are required).

5. What is running clothes?

Running clothes must meet several requirements:

  •  protect from cold and wind;
  • cover from the sun in summer;
  • “breathe”;
  • dry quickly;
  • allow free movement;
  • do not rub;
  • to be nice and attractive, finally.

The vast majority of today’s runners wear the clothes made of synthetic fabrics – they are stretchy, lightweight, non-rubbing, durable and do not shed. The lower layers should “breathe” – it means that they have to remove sweat and heat well.

For outdoor running, it makes sense to dress so as not to overheat. Even if it’s chilly immediately after going outside, after 10-15 minutes of running the body will warm up, and you will be able to stay in the thermal comfort zone till the end of the run.

In fact, running clothes today are a separate topic for an article, but in order to start running, any comfortable sportswear that meets the above requirements will be enough.

6. Where to run?

The first part of the question to be decided on: to run indoor or outdoor?

If you choose the former, a treadmill in the gym or a sports hall (track and field arena) awaits you.

Running indoor has a number of benefits:

  •  the treadmill guarantees a comfortable environment (warmth, light, no wind and rain);
  • sometimes makes it possible to watch TV or listen to the music on the go (see below);
  •  shows speed, distance passed and a lot of other information;
  • allows you to set up the speed and adjust the slope of the track.

On the other hand, the treadmill limits the space for movement, this often leads to a distortion of the technique, which is rarely perfect in beginners. In addition, the treadmill in the gym deprives you of contact with nature, with a variety of surfaces and weather conditions.

The track and field arena is ideal for the first one or two workouts, when runner is still not confident in his/her abilities, and later, when you need to perform hard high-intensity workouts – regardless of the time of year, the weather outside and the time of day, in the sports hall it is always warm, light and good surface under your feet. In addition to limited space and crowded people, many who come to the sports hall complain about dry air and a sore throat. In addition, when running in a circle of 200 or 400 meters, the right and left legs are loaded unevenly: according to the rules in the sports hall, you must always run in one direction – counterclockwise. If you run in the sports hall significant volumes, then after 3-4 months there is a risk of injury associated with asymmetric loading of the legs.

For those who went for a run from home to the street, there are also plenty options to choose from. Despite of the scarcity of Russian sports infrastructure, there are stadiums with track and field arenas of different quality – run until you get bored of winding circles.

Finally, there are enough green spots on the map of Moscow – these are parks, forests and recreation areas, which over the past few years were covered with asphalt, tile and gravel roads in addition to a dense network of dirt paths. That’s where you can meet amateur runners. Some run on their own, others run in groups. The running community is well-represented online—there is a lot of information and a lot of sharing, so you can easily find like-minded runners in your area.

7. Can I run with music?

You better don’t. By plugging your ears with headphones, you are depriving yourself of an important source of information about the world around you, it can be dangerous. In addition, the rhythm of the music may not match the rhythm of your movements – do not complicate your life.

But if you really want to listen to an audiobook or a foreign language course on the run, use only one earphone, and leave the other ear free to hear in time the car or bike catching you up.

8. How to breathe while running?

The answer is simple: breathe as you breathe. The mechanisms of breathing regulation are built in us from birth, any physical activity involuntarily causes an increase in the depth and frequency of respiratory movements. Over time, every regularly running person finds his own rhythm and breathing pattern for any intensity of exercise – from slow light crosses, when you can calmly speak in full phrases, to the most difficult intensive workouts, when a painful lack of air makes you breathe heavily for a few more minutes after stopping.

Deep, rapid breathing during exercise indicates that the body is working in conditions of increased oxygen consumption. If you lower the pace, breathing will become easier. Thus, breathing is a reliable indicator of the intensity of the workload.

It is important to understand that any attempt to change the speed, depth and frequency of inhalation-exhalation by voluntary effort leads to an increase in total energy consumption due to additional muscle tension and reduces the efficiency of running. Trust your body — a person without severe lung disease, has more than enough capacity of pulmonary gas exchange to support any level of exercise.

Moreover, there is no convincing evidence that any “special” way of breathing (through the nose, “belly”, with forced inhalation or exhalation, etc.) is better than any other.

9. What and when to drink while running?

At the initial stage, for a run lasting up to one hour and a half, it will be enough to start running without feeling thirsty and drink as needed after the end. In hot weather and indoors, when fluid loss is greater, it may be necessary to drink a little during the workout.

There is nothing better than plain water to replenish normal fluid losses during sport exercise. Beginner runners rarely bring themselves to a state of significant loss of water and mineral salts – for this you need to lose much more water with sweat and breath than the vast majority of amateur runners can do under normal conditions.

10. What and when should runner eat?

It is better to start running training without feeling hungry and not immediately after meals (follow the link to read the article about running with an empty stomach). Usually, 40 minutes to 2 hours between a meal and the start of a workout is considered comfortable, although some people prefer to eat something 15-20 minutes before the start of training. Before training, you should avoid foods that cause a feeling of heaviness, belching, and increased gas formation.

There is no need to eat during the running  session, if it lasts less than 2 hours.

After the end of a hard and long workout, a feeling of hunger may appear – this first hunger is better to satisfy quickly (banana, sweet bun, etc.), but always with a sufficient amount of liquid.