September 22, 2010

Tips on easing into a walking / running routine

Two months ago I was part of a relay team in the Squamish triathlon. Our team was sponsored by the woman who happens to be my dentist. A busy woman with a full-time career and young children, she had decided a few months ago she needed a little time for herself and had begun swimming. A friend of hers who has done the bike leg in this triathlon in previous years suggested that they team up, and find a runner.

My dentist did the swim and did fantastic in her first triathlon, as did our team. Not that it is about results, but it was nice to walk away with second place among the all-female teams. When it was time for my six-month check-up last week I asked my dentist about her swimming. She said she wasn't able to do any as our local pool is closed the entire month for maintenance.

She said she'd like to try some running, as it would save her the time required to drive back and forth to the pool and would be easier  to fit into her schedule. Yet she was worried about her knees. I told her that the best way to start running is to begin walking and that I'd be happy to send her some ideas, if she wanted. She said she'd love that.

I thought I'd share the email I sent her. Of course always check with your GP first before embarking on any exercise program.

A general truth is that you start running by walking. You want to ease into a running routine so that it is enjoyable, mentally and physically.

If you like, you can do daily walks. However, do not do daily runs. So if you were to do daily walks, mix in stretches of running on three or four of those per week.

Make sure you're comfortable, i.e. invest in a proper pair of running shoes that are suited for you sooner than later. For example, I have high arches and a `neutral gait', so I always look for `neutral shoes' with plenty of forefront cushioning. It's a good idea to go to a reputable running store where someone can advise you on the type of shoes that are right for you.

Make sure your walks/runs are fun! Choose a nice route, always be proud of yourself for having made the effort to get out the door, even if only for 15-20 minutes. If possible bring your kids, spouse, friends along on some of your outings. On others, enjoy the peace and quiet, and let your mind wander.

If time is an issue, and that is the case for most of us, a great way to guarantee that you create the time for your walk/run is by getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal and heading straight out the door. It's helpful to get your clothing, socks and shoes ready the night before, and have a banana (or something else light and easily digestible) to eat if you feel you need a little something to get going.

A morning walk/run guarantees a great and energetic start to the day, and avoids frustration if something else comes up during the day that prevents you from going later.

While I've learned a lot from my own experience as a runner, I am not a coach (though I am considering getting formal training in that area). Therefore here are three links to online suggestions on how to get started, and ideas on how to mix up walking and running.

Last but not least, I recommend you check out my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend. In this book, 53 women (aged 26 to 59) talk about the reasons they run, and the ways they have made it part of their busy lives. Two coaches provide guidance and encouragement in two separate chapters.

I love running, and am very excited when someone else is thinking of taking it up, so I am always happy to chat about it.

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