If you’re thinking this is the year you take up running, don’t let fear stop you: “I think there are a lot of misconceptions,” says Dr. Vijay Vad, the author of “The New Rules of Running.” “Excessive running can be pretty bad for your joints, but moderate running is actually good for you.” Vad collaborated with two-time NYC marathon champ Tom Fleming to come up with rules that all runners — beginners and elites — need to know. Ready to pound the pavement? Read on for their five essentials:
1. There’s no one way to run. Your form is specific to your body, so don’t worry about what you look like out there. There are, however, ways to improve the form that’s specific to your body. Every runner can benefit, for example, from using the arms more and pumping through the hips.
2. Speed is strength in disguise. If you train at a pace that you can easily maintain for a stretch of time, you increase your fitness level and, therefore, your ability to go faster. “I never talk about speed,” Fleming says of his first days coaching a new athlete. “I might talk about endurance and progression. [Speed] eventually comes gradually through you building confidence in yourself.” Dr. Vad adds that if it’s your first race — be it a 5K or your first marathon — you shouldn’t even focus on the clock. “You should be in it just to finish it,” he says.
3. You must learn to endure. Fleming says training your body to be on its feet for longer stretches of time can help you get ready for races, especially long-distance ones, because they improve your aerobic capacity (the amount of oxygen you can use in one minute). He recommends “a consistent, gradual increase of total long run workouts over a period of four to six months.”
4. Hydrating and eating properly stimulate recovery. “Hydration and nutrition really improve your performance and enhance recovery,” says Dr. Vad. So what’s best? Hydrating before, after and even during your workout. And don’t wait until you’re already thirsty; that means you’re already dehydrated. About 30 minutes after you finish running, go for a mix of protein and carbs. Fleming likes pretzels and peanut butter, or straight-up chocolate milk. The night before a race, don’t go crazy on the carbs, they say. You don’t want to overdo it.
5. Rest is essential for recovery and improved performance. The No. 1 mistake newbie runners make, the authors say, is overdoing it — that’s how you get injured. But rest is not just about days off. Adequate rest also means sleeping enough to rebuild the muscle fibers that tear when you run (that rebuilding is what makes you stronger and faster). “You need deep, REM sleep for repair,” Dr. Vad says.