Running Advice for Beginners: Finding Your Running Style

Man running in city park

The great thing about running is that it is a sport for everyone. Running doesn’t require you to invest in a lot of gear (golf and skiing come to mind) and it can be done almost anywhere. The fun thing about running is finding your niche and developing your fitness to truly do well at a specific type of running whether it is distance or terrain.

You may be a sprinter, a middle distance, a long distance or even a marathoner or ultra-distance trail runner. By taking running from just a workout to a hobby or even a competitive sport finding your inherent abilities is essential to not only success but having fun with the sport.

What type of running is right for me?

Running has tons of benefits, and finding your running style is important.

After personally running every sort of race over the course of 7 years from the 100m dash to the 5k all the way to a 140.6 mile Ironman distance triathlon I can safely say finding the distance that works for you is vital to enjoying the sport over a great length of time. Finding your distance and terrain can all be worked out by training first off for easily the most popular race in America; the 5k. This race not only sets a good base fitness for those just starting their running career but it gives a good sampling of both speed and distance as well as variable types of terrain. Most 5k races held throughout communities are done on trails or roads. However, while training for your 5k it’d be good to do some workouts at your local track to get a feel for what the distance feels like. Also in preparation for your 5k you’ll want to have a good digital watch in order to track your pace at various distances. As the 5k is both an Olympic track event and a launching point for almost every beginning runner the 5k is definitely the best sampling of both worlds and is the right step in finding out your strengths as a runner.

Once you’ve gone through the fitness and training plans needed to do a 5k (there is a wealth of highly detailed information about 5k training out on the web) and you’ve run your first race you should now be at least a bit more knowledgeable and confident about the vast world of running. Now comes the fun part.

Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses

Depending on whether you’re a male or female there may be a few slight differences (mainly concerning time). A decent time for a first timer who is male would roughly be in the 22:00min — 27:00min range and 25:00min — 31:00min for females respectively. Granted these times are for the true beginner but also for one who followed a standard 5k prep program. If your times are better than those listed than that is a great start! If they are a bit slower than the maximum times listed then it is nothing to worry about, those times are just meant to be generalized times that most people would fall in.

Now if you are the far outlier for these time ranges then either this guide isn’t for you or you just need to wait and build up your fitness a bit more and try another 5k a different time, don’t worry though you’ll eventually get your running form! It is a bit too hard to tell what kind of running style you’ll excel at if you haven’t yet reached at least a moderate level of fitness.

You can break down your 5k results in three ways. The beginning, the middle and the end/finishing kick. For example let’s say you ran a 25:00min first time 5k. Now granted you used a digital watch and tracked your pace and you understood the mile marker or kilometer markers throughout the course you can breakdown your race. A 5k translates to a 3.1 miles. For simplicity we will round this down to 3 miles. You’ll want to look at each of your miles separately in order to see how you performed. Taking our 25:00min example time, let’s say mile 1 was 7:25min, mile 2 was 8:35min and the final mile was 9:00min. Now your results probably won’t be this evenly distributed but taking a look at the times you can notice a decline in the pace. Now this analysis is again meant to be broad but can offer a bit of insight into your individual performance. In noticing a pace decline we can suggest that either 1) Due to a lack of prior training your endurance level may not be at a high enough level to maintain a 7:25min pace for three miles 2) You ran out of the gates too early, this commonly happens due to excitement or excess energy/adrenaline and it just takes some self-control and adjusting of pace in order to fix this early “overly-quick” pace issue to slow down your first or second mile to create an even pace throughout the race 3) The 5k distance may be a too long for your running style and you’re better suited at attempting distances like the 1500m — 3k.

Now if you had a very fast 1st mile time and it gradually faded but perhaps you felt a little surge of energy at the end to give the final 100m a good kick then it might be wise to keep at the 5k distances or perhaps longer and just adjusting your pace accordingly and increasing your endurance threshold. If you felt fast in the beginning and by the end you were completely worn out then maybe your running style could really shine if you limited it to just focusing on say the 1500m or 1 mile race. Personally as an 800m runner I enjoyed 5k races but I always felt by around 2500m or half way through the race I would always fade back a bit and I just came to accept that I was meant to run lower distances because my speed was greater than my endurance. Now if you were an individual who maintained a steady pace throughout the race but you weren’t very fast perhaps half marathons and marathons could be your strong suite. A steady pace is often a good indicator of someone who can put down a lot of mileage even if it isn’t at a fast pace. As they say, slow and steady wins the race, but in the world of running slow and steady often gets you through those grueling 26.2 milers without too much damage.

Once you’ve looked at your times and seen whether you were either fast at certain parts, had an uneven pace or perhaps felt the distance wasn’t long enough to challenge you at least now you have a good understanding of what running you may enjoy.

Man running down rural road

I would recommend if you felt comfortable with the 5k and just want to improve it then go right ahead! If you felt the beginning and speed was more of your result perhaps going to the track and practicing some speed work will better cater to your style. If you were someone who finished the 5k and didn’t feel a bit of fatigue then setting your sights on upping your mileage will definitely appease your running style. Again, this guide was just to inform people that the 5k is in general regarded as a great launching pad for your running career and looking closely at the results may direct you into a world of running you didn’t know you would enjoy. Don’t take racing results for what they are, whether they were really fast or really slow, looking at your pace and remembering what you felt during certain parts of the race at certain distances may be a clue that you should be running a specific type of race and in figuring this out you’ll find the venue that you can truly excel at.

Reasons to Add Equipment Like a Treadmill to Your Running Routine

Every runner knows the joy of running outside. The air is fresh, the breeze cools your back, and the scenery is delightful. It is a time out of the house or the office and a time to think. It’s simultaneously energizing and relaxing.

Using gym equipment like a treadmill

But what happens when you can’t run outside? Perhaps the weather is way too cold and wet or too hot and humid. What if your schedule is too hectic for a long cleansing run that day? What if you are a stay-at-home mom who cannot get babysitting for a run outside alone?

Bring in the treadmill.

The treadmill can be a bit controversial. Some people love it and some people hate it. There is no doubt that it can be boring and mind numbing, if overused. But, used properly, a treadmill can totally enhance your workout routine.

Consider these reasons:

New Equipment Gets You Excited

Let’s face it: having new equipment gets you excited to work out. Consider a mother trying to get her daughter into gymnastics. What would get the girl more excited to practice gymnastics at home other than buying her a cool piece of equipment to use? Nothing in the world. For example, say the mom decides on getting her a bar. while it may be slightly stressful for the mom to have to scour the web for good home gymnastics bar reviews and then buying it, the daughter is going to be excited to use it and will be able to do so whenever (like the convenience of having a treadmill at home).

For the Run/Walk Method of Running

For people who use the Run/Walk method of running (a.k.a. Jeff Galloway) the treadmill can be a dream. It can be cumbersome to constantly check your watch to keep tabs on your intervals. If you are using a nicer model treadmill it should have an interval timer option. Just set that interval timer for your walk/run splits and how long or how far you want to go and you will not have to worry about keeping track of the time. Just set it and go. Be sure to stay alert, though, because you do not want to be caught off guard by a running interval and fall off the treadmill.

Hill Training

Some avid runners are not blessed to live in an area that has rolling hills perfect for hill training. Some runners live near sea level and the ground is flatter than a pancake. What should they do to train for hills that are bound to be present at some important race. Treadmill. Just about all treadmills have the option to increase incline. Give your legs a good workout by boosting up the incline a few times during your indoor run. Try a few of these hill workouts on Running Planet.

Speed Training

Speed training can be a challenge also if you do not live near a running track or just do not have access to one. The road could work if you have a good length of straight road but you still have to watch out for traffic. Having to dodge on coming cars can really mess up your concentration when running a fast drill. Consistent pace is also important in speed drills and that is hard to maintain on the road or track. The treadmill to the rescue. You can increase your speed throughout your workouts to simulate the drills you could do on the track. Push the speed button to the speed you want to run whenever you need a boost of speed or program the interval function with an entire workout of speed drills. The treadmill also offers the consistent pacing so important for speed training.

Watch a Movie or Favorite TV Show Series

Maximize the time you spend watching a movie or a favorite TV series by running on the treadmill at the same time. Think about it. Not only do you get to enjoy the entertainment but you also get the cardiovascular benefit of running at the same time. You just redeemed that time spent watching the TV. Running on the treadmill does not have to be a time of mind numbing wall staring. Next time the weather is too cold or hot for an outside run pop in your favorite movie or TV show, turn up the volume, and jump on the treadmill. The time will fly by.

Perfect for Stay-At-Home Mothers

The treadmill can be a life saver for stay-at-home mothers. It is hard to find someone to watch your children while you go running outside. Your husband is gone all day and when he gets home it may be too late to run or you might be too tired from watching little children all day. Once again, the treadmill to the rescue. It is ideal if you have a treadmill at home. Schedule your day so that there is time for your children to watch a favorite cartoon or movie and you can run on the treadmill. Your children will be entertained and happy and you can get a run in. Or you could run during your children’s nap time if you are not needing a nap yourself. If a home treadmill is not an option you can join a gym that offers childcare service. Drop the kids off in the childcare room and run on the treadmill for thirty minutes. You can listen to music or watch the TV’s. Whatever the case the treadmill at home or at a gym solves the childcare problem for Stay-At-Home Moms. When the husband has more free time go outside for a long run.

Bottom line: Treadmills aren’t perfect, and they should not be the only way you run. But when used properly and combined with other types of running workouts, they can be a very useful piece of equipment.

Five Keys to Successful Barefoot Running

Barefoot running on the beach

With a new year upon us, many of us have made a decision to get more healthy for the new year. And, one of the easiest, most efficient, and best ways to stay healthy is to simply get outside (or to the gym) and run. It doesn’t take that much equipment and the return on the investment for your body and mind is substantial.

A recent movement in the sports world has been a movement to doing the activity more naturally through barefoot running. The idea behind running without shoes is to allow the body to teach itself better form from the ground up. With better form, a light landing, and a proper gait both the impact and the chance of injury is substantially reduced for the athlete. Based on the research, findings, and recent barefoot running book written by Dr. Craig Richards of Australia and myself, here are some key pointers to keep in mind as you attempt to transition to barefoot and minimalist running.

1. Transition Slowly

Give your body plenty of time to adjust to barefoot running. It is best to start out walking without shoes around the house, driveway, and even your yard before hitting the roads bare. Once you can walk a long while without shoes, begin altering the terrain on which you walk. You might even discover how barefoot hiking off road can really awaken the 250,000 nerves of the feet.

2. Think Ergonomics

This is a strange thing to thing to think about but if you want to run for the long haul, meaning until you are well beyond old and gray, think about how you can move more naturally. When running, always keep your body’s posture in line with the rest of the body. Barefoot running will teach you to keep you feet beneath the body with a forefoot strike (landing on the heel is just too painful). When you keep an aligned torso and the feet below your center of gravity, the knees will always stay bent. Throughout the entire running cycle, the knees should always be bent, the feet below the body, and the leg never extended out in front of your hips.

3. Count Your Steps

Running barefoot or even in minimalist footwear will allow you to land more lightly because the weight of the shoes (or your feet) allows the body to monitor how hard your feet hit the ground. When you run, count your steps. This is called cadence. When you run without shoes, aim to have your feet patter along the ground at 180 beats per minute. This might be easier if you count only one foot’s landing at 90 times per minute. Such a cadence ensures that you are taking enough steps to lessen the impact transient absorbed by your lower legs and body.

4. Take Days Off

One of the most important things that you need to do when first starting out with barefoot running is to take days off between barefoot outings. This does not mean that you cannot workout at all, but try to avoid running one day barefoot without taking the next day off. This day break is important for the body as the smaller tissue of the feet and legs heal and adjust to your new venture. It takes lots of time. Do not be impatient and augment your time without shoes gradually, even as slow as one to two minutes per week. Such small investments with rest will ensure a safe transition.

5. Listen to your Body

Essentially, barefoot running is a way that you can really listen to your body. By figuratively putting your ears to your feet, you can feel how your body, form, and emotions change when you toss your trainers aside. Listening to your body should help you gauge your workouts and help you limit pushing yourself too far (as the ego is wont to do). Be mindful of your body and patient with your feet and the rewards of a more natural running style, less injury, and more joy for your runs will transpire.

Overall, barefoot running is more than a fad or trend. People are discovering its benefits every day. Be sure to follow these pointers and if you need help with transitioning. And, if you want to have an idea of the entire movement and how you can adapt it to help you meet your running goals, be sure to check out our guide, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Barefoot Running (Penguin), which is a part of a best-selling series on sports.

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