The sun is out and the snow is finally gone – it’s time to get outside! If you’re looking for an effective, affordable, approachable mode of exercise to help you make the most of the spring weather, why not try running? It’s a great way to condition your heart, doesn’t require much equipment and you don’t have to be an expert to reap the fitness benefits.
“The great thing about running is that no matter where you start, if you keep at it, you’re guaranteed to improve over time,” says Kerry Copeland, executive director of the Kids Run Club, a free school-based running program for kids.
Still not convinced? We’ve debunked a few myths about running in an effort to remove some hurdles from your path.
Myth: Runners don’t walk.
Busted: The saying “walk before you run” is a cliché for a reason – it’s true! Alternating intervals of brisk walking with periods of running is the perfect way to build up your fitness and endurance levels. You might start out walking for four minutes and running for one minute; over time, shift the ratio so you’re eventually running more than you walk, then running the whole way. Make sure to take the time to check your running form each time you’re out – it helps you run efficiently and reduces the risk of injury.
Myth: Runners need special gear.
Busted: Although you could easily spend a week’s paycheque on specialized running gear, you really don’t have to. Your top priority should be a pair of running shoes; ask the sales clerk for help choosing the right shoes for your feet. Make sure there’s enough space between the end of your longest toe and your shoe – about the width of your thumbnail should do it. Wear comfortable clothes and dress in layers so you can easily adjust according to the weather conditions.
Myth: Runners need special food – energy bars, gels, lots of pasta.
Busted: If you’re adding running to your fitness regimen, your best bet is to focus on eating a healthy, well-rounded diet (emphasize lean protein and colourful vegetables) and staying hydrated. Beware the temptation to eat more because of your running workouts; unless your training involves several long (10 km or longer) runs a week, you’re likely not burning enough calories to justify lots of extra snacks or bigger-than-usual meals. And forget the pasta – although “carb-loading” used to be recommended for the night before a big race, it’s no longer recommended to stuff yourself with spaghetti before you head to the start line.
Myth: You’re only a “real” runner if you’re fast.
Busted: The key to being a runner is to run – it’s that simple. You’re a real runner if you lace up your shoes and run – fast or slow, on a treadmill or on the trail, 200 metres or 10 kilometres at a time.
Myth: Everyone experiences a runner’s high.
Busted: Lots of people talk about experiencing a runner’s high, but the reality is, not everyone does – especially new runners who are still building up their strength and endurance. Runners are most likely to experience a runner’s high on an “easy” run, which might be few and far between if you’re a beginner. Think of it as a reward that you’re working toward. And remember: even experienced runners sometimes have runs that feel awful, or have a hard time just getting out the door. If you’re struggling, try one of these tips for dealing with a hard run.
Myth: Only competitive runners should enter races.
Busted: Entering a running event is a great way to stay focused – it’s easier to stay motivated when you’ve got a goal. It’s also a great way to tap into a community of like-minded people. Enter a community fun run, a charity race or a signature event like the Blue Nose marathon and you’ll find every type of runner at the start line, but chances are, they all value being active, supporting other athletes and being outside.
Think before you run: If regular vigorous exercise isn’t currently part of your life, make sure to visit your doctor for a physical exam before you start training. Your doctor will be able to identify any potential health issues or existing conditions that could affect your running plan. Once you get the thumbs-up, lace up your shoes and hit the track!