Time to start running

Zoran runningThere’s no better time to start a new activity then the beginning of a new year.

I am not going to urge you to make a resolution. They don’t stick anyway. Numerous statistics show that gyms are filled with new year’s resolutioners in January, and empty of them by March. Instead, I am going to urge you to commit to – running.

If you’re already doing it, you have my utmost respect. Don’t let the cold weather discourage you. The resolve to go out for a run usually plunges with the temperature, but all it takes is what I call “will over ass” – the will to lace up and get out should be stronger than the pull to sit down for another cup of hot coffee or tea. In five minutes your body’s warmth will banish the shivers and you will feel great. Once you’re back, reward yourself with a cup of hot chocolate – it’s an amazing recovery drink, and a well deserved treat for the run well done.

My intention today isn’t to encourage the runners to do what they like; it’s to influence those who aren’t running yet to start. I know you’re rolling your eyes and looking at the -16 C on the thermometer scale this morning, but like with every commitment there’s no better time than right now. If you don’t mind being hot later, layer up until you’re warm enough not to shiver when you step outside. Personally, I prefer being comfortably warm on my runs, which means I slightly underdress and am cold for the first few minutes until the furnaces of my own muscles release enough heat to keep me pleasantly warm. We’ll talk more about what to wear next time. For now, let’s focus on a few important things to get you started.

Start slow

If there’s anything going through your mind, let it not be “brrrr, I’m so cold,” let it rather be “slow down.” Especially in the cold, you’ll have the urge to start fast in order to warm up quicker. Resist it! Start barely faster than your walking pace and just keep shuffling those feet, while the mind is repeating the mantra “slow down.” You need to bring your muscles from near dormant into working state. Starting slowly will give them time to unclench, relax and extend, making them more elastic and efficient, and thus greatly reducing a chance of an injury.

Walk and run

If you haven’t ran for a very long time, or you’ve never ran before, I strongly recommend you to heed this advice. To make your body used to the activity, you need to do it gradually. Start with a slow run until you feel warm enough, then walk for 2 minutes to catch your breath. Run again for 2 minutes, recover with the walk. Don’t stop, and never sit down or bend over – it’ll make you dizzy. Start with 3-5 walk-run intervals, always ending with the walking part. When you can comfortably run five 2-minute intervals, shorten the walking parts by half a minute. Keep shortening the walking part as your endurance grows, until you can do the full time running.

Remember – there’s no such thing as too short a run. Even if it’s only 2 minutes, it’s a great start. Slowly, you’ll build up to 20 minutes, or more. And, when you’re done, don’t forget to treat yourself with that hot chocolate (or a smoothie, or another drink of your choosing). You deserve it!

A parting tip: if you’re just starting running, you’ll be sore. That’s your lazy muscles rebelling against the extra work. It hurts the worst the third time around. After that, it gets better each time. Once the soreness is gone sometime after the run number 5 or 6, you’ll feel like you’re flying. The trick is not to leave too much time between the runs – start with 2-3 times a week, and work toward 4-5.

Zoran Bozicevic is a journalist, kinesiologist and a marathoner with multiple Boston, Berlin, New York and Chicago marathons, among others, under his belt. He wrote as a contributor for Canadian Running Magazine and National Post.
(*Zoran is also a co-founder of Markham Social)

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