Do lift weights–but do it gently
You probably already know that cross-training is a good idea for runners–I mean, you did see the amazing abs of the Olympic track athletes, right? But exactly how hard and how heavy to go is subject to some confusion for a lot of newbie runners.
A basic rule of thumb, Levin says, is not to ”take exercise to failure.” You’re not trying to do so many or so difficult of biceps curls you can barely you hands afterwards.
“You’re not building bulk,” Levin says “you’re strengthening muscles.” Do enough to feel a little fatigued, but if you’re really hurting to grind out the last rep, you’re doing too much.
Learn from children
“Have you ever watched kids run?” Levin asked me. “Children naturally have perfect running form, but we put them at desk jobs and then they lose it.”
What he means is that, when kids run, the lift their knees high into the air. Which seems really awkward and difficult, but overall, it helps to streamline your whole body and reduce the amount of unnecessary exertion you put out. Head to a park or pee-wee football game and watch the kids run. Then, take a lesson. Lift your knees to a 45-degree angle (Levin says that’s the perfect height). It could take a while to get this new gait down, but, says Levin, it can shave time off your race and help you go longer.
Find your glass slipper…but maybe don’t stick with it
“Your running shoes are very important to get right,” Petrella told me, “which means going to a store that specializes in running gear and which has staff that is trained to analyze your gait and recommend the best fit.” Translation: Don’t just walk into Payless and pick up the first pair you see. Depending on how you run, you may find yourself more prone to injury if you make a bad choice.
However, Petrella points out, much like Levin said, your form may change–and that may change your needs.
“What worked for you at the beginning of your training may not feel as good later on, as you log more miles and your preferences develop more precisely…But this is an evolution that works best when you start with the most accurate fit possible.”
After you’ve been training for a few months, reevaluate your shoe needs. Then consider revisiting the same store you went to the first time, with your current pair to see if they’re still working for you.
You dont’ need a coach…but you may want one
“No,” he answered, and quickly added “I mean, I’m a coach, so that may seem strange. You don’t need one, but it can be really helpful.”
Coaches can be pricey, and they may also make it difficult to work a run into your schedule. A book like The Complete Idiot’s Guide can be just as helpful for learning about what kind of stretches to do, and what kind of corrections you may require to your form, Levin says.
However, having an actual person “tell you when you’re doing something wrong,” Levin told me, can be really, really beneficial. Especially if you’re a stubborn runner who needs someone to crack the whip when you start to charge ahead, or lose your pace, or stop lifting your knees.
It should be fun
“If it’s not fun, chances are, you’re doing something wrong,” says Levin. There’s not much more to it than that.