From Couch Potato to Runner

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couchmanAre you ready to get off the couch and get your body moving?  Some of us have forgotten what it’s like to move the body.  As kids, running came naturally.  Somehow when we became adults we lost that natural motion.  It’s time for you to tap into that forgotten child and learn to love your body in motion. 

Get Your Mind in Gear!  At first running can be uncomfortable.  Your lungs will gasp for air, your heart will pound, and your muscles will complain.  That’s okay, you are not going to die.  Say that out loud when this happens, “I am not going to die.”  You just have to retrain your body to move and your mind is going to play a huge role in this.  Your body is going to try and give up too easily and your mind will need to override the untrue statements.  You may think, “I can’t do this” or “maybe I should just walk.”  Your mind is going to have to be the “bad guy” for a while and tell your self to “SHUT UP and KEEP GOING.”  Obviously I’m not talking about going out and running 5 miles if you are new to running.  You will need to build up to that distance.  At first you may only be able to run for one minute.  Granted, this minute of running may seem like an eternity.  That’s okay, you have to start somewhere.  You are slowly building toward your goal of becoming a distance runner. 

As you are building up your running base it helps to have some type of fitness friend or accountability partner.  This may be a family member, friend, someone you meet at the gym, or someone with similar goals online.  Sharing your challenges and successes and having someone else encourage you will push you farther than you could push yourself.  Becoming a runner will change your life, so don’t let anything stop you.

All these years later, the first three miles of a run are still the hardest for me.  This is when my body complains and my mind asks, “why are you doing this to yourself?”  When I push past those first three miles I loosen up, my confidence returns, and the runner’s high kicks in.  Suddenly I feel powerful, like I could take on the world.  Don’t be afraid to push yourself.  We all have bad days and things in life can get in the way of your running.  But don’t let those things stop you.  Shrug off the setback and keep pushing forward.  Think about why you started in the first place and how far you’ve come.   Becoming a runner will change your life, so don’t let anything stop you.

Basic Equipment Before you Start

Running doesn’t have to be an expensive sport.  Yes, there are tons of cool and pricey gadgets out there.  Just keep it simple at first.  You will want to purchase a good pair of running shoes.  This is not the time to get all fancy and buy the most expensive pair you can find.  If you’ve never done so, go to a specialty running store and have your feet and gait evaluated by a professional.  A pair of good fitting running shoes is going to prevent some of the possible injuries that come from the wrong shoes and greatly increase the comfort of your running. 

Now let’s talk about socks.  You are not going to want to throw on a pair of cotton socks and hit the road.  First, cotton doesn’t breathe very well and will cause heat to build up inside your socks.  This heat combined with friction can leave you with some nasty blisters and have you hobbling around for days.  There are many types of technical fabrics used to make good running socks.  Look for an acrylic, polyester, bamboo, or wool blend.  There is a huge variety of great inexpensive socks out there, so find some that you like. 

A third important item is a watch that has stop-watch capabilities.  I found mine at a dollar store three years ago and it’s still going strong.  You can get fancy and get one with a heart rate monitor, GPS, and all the bells and whistles for $100 and up, but only if you have money to burn.

Lets talk about running clothes.  I would definitely recommend slowly investing in a wardrobe of running clothes made of technical fabrics (polyester, spandex, wool blends).  This may not be vital as you build the first few miles.  But, if you sweat at all you are going to be unpleasantly weighed down by cotton.  Cotton may work fine for a 3 mile run, but if you plan on going long cotton is not your friend. 

At the St. Jude’s Marathon in Memphis this poor guy was running in a cotton sweat suit.  Granted it was December, but he was really sweating and it looked like he had wet his pants (and this was just at mile 10).  I definitely don’t want this to be you.  Budget friendly clothing options can be found online and at many of the large retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s). 

Now Get Your Legs in Gear!  Visit the “Beginner” tab above for a 20 week running schedule to help you building your running base.

Let’s talk a bit about running form.  Having the correct running posture is going to save energy and prevent injuries.  Focus on the following:

  1. Keep your head up and eyes looking straight ahead.
  2. Torso up and shoulders relaxed, arms bent comfortably by sides, hands should not cross the midline of your body.
  3. Body should lean slightly forward from ankles to shoulders.
  4. Your landing foot should be just under hips.

When you first begin running expect a little soreness and tenderness.  This is usually only temporary and doesn’t lead to injury.  Like I said earlier, even though you may feel like it, you are almost certainly not going to die.  In fact,  runners have a 50% less chance of heart attacks than non-exercisers.  It is more dangerous to sit in front of your television.  Your heart is a muscle and if you don’t exercise it you will have a weak and flabby heart.  Your heart will be strengthened along with your skeletal muscles as you run.  WARNING: if you experience unusual shortness of breath, arm or neck tightness especially on the left side, nausea, and a cold sweat call 911 immediately.  These are signs of a heart attack.  Thankfully this is very rare, but your non-exercising friends will be sure to point out all the cases of people who have died while running.

You will want to start your training out slowly.  Each person gets in shape individually so don’t compare yourself to others.  Remember your correct running form and be sure to follow basic running safety.  Always run facing traffic (left side of the road) and make eye contact with drivers if possible.  Wear reflective gear if you will be running in low light.  Make sure you find a running schedule and route that works for you.  You may want to begin by running three days per week at first.  If you are new to running, first make sure you can walk continuously for 30 minutes. 

Action Steps from Episode Two

  1. Get your mind in gear.
  2. Get proper running shoes and clothes.
  3. Get your feet in gear.  Download the 20 week running schedule from the “Beginner” page.

3 Responses to From Couch Potato to Runner

  1. Delores Danzer March 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Angie. This is some very good information. I learned a lot. I hope to run the 5k in April and there’s a lot more to running then I thought. I see I have some changes to make. Thanks for all your help.

    • Angie March 7, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

      No problem, I’m glad you like the site. We look forward to adding more podcasts, articles, and videos as time goes on.

  2. Stephanie July 8, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    hi, Angie. i am currently just starting the couch to 5k program that you have on this site. I was checking in today to print out the pdf file but I can not find it anywhere. There seems to no longer be a “beginner” tab at the top of the site. Could you please direct me to the pdf file? Thanks, I love you site!

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