This article has ben written by me and first published on The Hindu on 15th May 2017.
What to avoid, how to pace yourself and when to simply push on
When you first start running it’s quite like falling in love. With yourself. You discover a little more about yourself on each run: “I can’t believe I ran five kilometres without a single break!”, “I never thought I could be so strong!” You might discover that you enjoy running on your own, either just being with yourself or the state of zero that you go into when the rhythm of the run takes over. There are many reasons to get addicted to running. And enough studies have proven that running can be one of the most addictive sports.
Little wonder that more and more people are taking up recreational running. I have run my share of different distances too, from a 5km to a 50km, on trails and road. While I have enjoyed the happiness of pushing myself through various distances, there are enough lessons I have learned along the way. Here, Delhi-based Dr Rajat Chauhan, sports physician and Ravinder Singh, who has coached several batches of the Couch to Half Marathon programme and is a race director, help us understand the typical mistakes newbie runners make, without guidance. Avoid the injuries, burnout and a lot of frustration by being cautious of these.
Not investing time in strength training
Dr Chauhan advises runners to spend 30-45 minutes every other day on strength training. The rationale: You don’t just run with your legs, you run with your whole body. You need strength in your glutes (buttocks), quadriceps, calves, hips, back and core. Light body-weight exercises like lunges, squats, calf raises and toe curls are a must.
Setting unrealistic goals
Now that a number of people are running marathons, it’s easy for new runners to be influenced and get caught up with what others are doing. While it’s good to have a bigger ultimate goal, it’s a lot to ask of your body specially if it’s not conditioned to running. If you are new to running, start with a walk-run-walk plan with a goal of not more than 5km and then slowly work your way up. Initially, your walking period will be greater than your running time, but build gradually.
Participating in every event
The good news is that there are loads of running events around every city in India. As a new runner, you may be tempted to participate in most. New routes, race tees, race pictures and medals are incentive enough. But that might lead you to crash and burn. Singh asks newbies to not only choose their events carefully but also space them well. Talk to experienced runners and find out which races are organised well and which can be avoided.
Running on an empty stomach or just water is not a great idea. You might end up feeling fatigued or even get a terrible headache due to lack of proper nutrition. Having said that, each body is different, so it takes a bit of experimenting to arrive at what works for you. But there are some tried and tested solutions. Singh recommends a banana, couple of dates or a slice of bread with peanut butter an hour or so before your run. If you’re doing a slightly longer one, you may need an energy drink through the duration of the run, and a simple carb with protein, after (like bread and egg).
Running on injuries
There is a difference between soreness, niggles and injuries. Runners take the phrase “No pain, no gain” a bit too seriously. If injuries are not identified on time and you continue to run despite them, then they can become chronic. RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is a principle worth applying to almost any injury. If the pain doesn’t disappear in a couple of days, don’t try to run on it. And if an injury hurts so much you can’t even put weight on it, it’s probably a serious one, and you should get advice immediately.