Monday, October 17, 2011

How You Can Become a Runner - Part 2

Runner's World Quote of the Day
Every time I go out there, I win. Every time I finish the task that I've set before myself, I win again.
- David James Elliott, actor
David James Elliot (Netflix)

Last week, I talked about building up a good base and running at a good heart rate.  Today I'll finish up with three more things that I feel are important.

Don't forget to rest
Proper resting!

Even elite runners know you need to have rest days when you run.  You might be inclined to think that the more often you run, the better you become.  There is some truth to that as far as building up mileage, but it's important to let your body recover as well.

Most training schedules include days off.  Some have up to three days off of running.  As with any form of exercise running breaks you down a bit in order to build you back up.  That's why regular rest days from running are important.  Does that mean you can't exercise?  Not at all!  You can do something different, even walking is usually okay because the way you use your leg muscles walking are different than when running.  Other popular ways to cross-train are weight lifting, biking and yoga.  I often use rest days to work on my core strength.  Keep your core strong and you can prevent a lot of problems down the road.

Don't go all out every run
Usain Bolt

You might be tempted to think that the harder you go on every run, the quicker you will improve.  I found in previous attempts at running that doing this leads to an eventual burnout where you break your body down and are forced to take a break from running.  Unfortunately that break can be for years as I found out.

Just like you should have rest days, some of your runs will be "easy" runs.  What this means is you don't push it on these days.  Your pace and heart rate need to be slow.  Often an easy run is the first run after your "long" run.  An easy run helps your body work out some of the stiffness or soreness from either longer miles or from speed work.

"Long runs" are also usually runs that you have to back off a bit.  Your goal on a long run is to build up endurance.  It just won't be a good experience for you when your mileage picks up if you start out too quick.  You need to hold some of that extra energy for the last part of the run.  Ever heard the term "negative-splits"?  That is where the first half of your run/race is slower that the last half.  You know you have done it right if you reserve some of that energy for the last part of the run.  It's harder than you might think.  It is great training for a race as well.

Good form
Good running form cannot be over-emphasized.  Make sure you are not hunched over.  There should be a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips down to your ankles.  Keep your arms at about 90 degrees and keep those shoulders relaxed.  Lean forward from your ankles so you are letting gravity help propel you forward.

Heel Striking (Image from
Don't be a heel striker!  Heel striking occurs if you let your foot land too far in front of you.  Why is this so bad?  It's because it causes your heel to absorb a lot of impact which transfers to your knees and hips.  It also slows you down because it causes a bit of a braking action when you land on your heel.  Make sure you keep your feet underneath your hips and let the natural action of pushing off propel you forward.  You should be landing somewhere from mid-sole to the balls of your feet.  There is a big push towards bare-foot running.  I won't get into the pros and cons here, but just be aware that if you were to run barefoot, you probably wouldn't land on your heel.  You would naturally run further forward on your foot.  Being aware of this one fact will probably save you a lot of injuries.  I find I do better at the first of my run.  When I get tired or push my pace, I tend to get sloppy and land further back on my foot.
I hope these little tips I've learned help.  There are pretty fundamental, but when you are first starting out, you just get out there and try to move.  Keep these thing in mind will keep you running longer and with better results!

A quick shout-out to Mark for running 6 miles!  Great job Mark!

Hang in there and I will too!


  1. Those are some great tips. It is nice that you are willing to share with those of us who have no idea how to run properly. It all makes good sense though. Love you and keep up the good work.

  2. I think the first tip applies to many forms of exercise. I know I am mindful of making easy and harder cycling rides. But, because our season of riding is so short here (MN) I tend to not rest as much in between. Your thoughtful post was a good reminder to rest. Thanks!

  3. This is a great post. Wow. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Bruce, thanks for the tips! This is great. I'm definitely above your 250, so I don't think I'm ready for big runs, but I'm mixing in some short spurts of running on long walks and I like it.