and shoes are optional
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Learn to run safely and correctly with this training program and these tips for choosing the right gear and shoes.
My favourite childhood movie Cool Runnings tells the story of four Jamaican sprinters who trained to become Olympic bobsledders. They named their sled Cool Runnings, which means “Peace be the journey.” Cool Runnings is the inspirational credo of my running philosophy and it can be yours too. Every time you lace your sneakers up for a jog, you should feel peaceful, enthusiastic, and ready for the challenge.
The first tenet of the cool running philosophy is to outfit yourself with the proper gear so that you can run in comfort. Different clothing is required for running in dry weather versus wet weather, so allow your environment to dictate your choice of apparel.
Jogging in the refreshing rains of spring demands layers. To ensure you don’t get cold, wear a light shell to repel moisture on top and dry-fit material against the skin to remove moisture. You may also want to consider wearing dry-fit leggings to keep your lower half warm.
On hot summer days, sweat-wicking fibres are desirable. Fabrics should be lightweight and breathable to prevent your body from overheating. To further reduce fatigue, wear a hat or sunglasses to shield your eyes and protect you from the sun.
Dress to be seen
Make sure to wear a reflective vest, armbands, or lightweight LED headlamp to increase your visibility if you run in the early morning or evening.
Get shoe savvy
When choosing runners, it is essential to consider three things:
Superficially speaking, there’s a running shoe style for everyone. Every colour of the rainbow is represented (sometimes on one shoe). Styles include neons, glow in the dark, and opaque (if you’re really excited about your socks).
Functionally, you’ll want to be clear about purpose. Weather and surface conditions, plus the need to be visible to vehicles, will determine what to wear. For instance, if you live in a dry rural area and jog by the side of the road, a lightweight thin material, a thick soft-sole and bright-coloured runners will suit your purpose best.
For trail running, you’ll want shoes made of a slightly thicker material to protect your feet from roots and rocks, harder but thinner soles for uneven terrain, and a darker colour to mask mud and dirt.
Likely, your ideal running shoe will fall somewhere in between. Helpful staff at stores that specialize in running shoes will be able to advise on the right shoe for your runs. Simply let them know what type of surface you’ll be running on and in what weather conditions.
Before you get too excited, minimalist running is not the latest and greatest exercise fad from the nudist community. Minimalist, or barefoot, running embraces the natural mechanics of the body and is focused on footwear that offers the least support possible (or none at all), allowing for maximum movement in the feet.
A word of wisdom from personal experience, even to those who have been running for years: If you’re going to try minimalist running, start at a distance of no longer than 1 kilometre and work your way up. You’ll find some initial stiffness and/or soreness from the extra work your calves must do.
Take it easy
Because of the duplicative nature of running, repetitive stress injuries are not uncommon. If you feel any pain before or during a run, don’t try to soldier through it. Instead, choose to foam roll your muscles or gently stretch that day. Running on an injury will only make it worse.
Running does not have to be a solitary act. In fact, there are many running clubs that meet one to three times per week where like-minded people will offer the motivation for you to stick with it. In the unlikely event there are no running clubs where you live, simply grab a friend. Everything is more enjoyable when experienced with someone else—and running is no different.
Don’t run on empty
Not to be overlooked is the fuel for your runs. Running on raw emotion alone will only get you so far. First and foremost, water is your best friend. For proper hydration, drink a half litre of water about 2 hours before your run and another third of a litre about 10 minutes before. Depending on how much you sweat, and the length of your run, you should drink 1 to 2 litres of water over the 4 to 6 hours after completion.
For longer runs, consider sports drinks or gels with electrolytes and energy bars with carbohydrates to refuel your energy stores. Your local natural health store will have the answers you’re looking for. The proper nutrition may take some added time off your personal best and help you recover faster for your next run.
Plan of (running) attack
Now we’re ready to run 5 kilometres. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? We can’t simply wake up one day, lace up our shoes, and decide to run a marathon. Like assimilating skills for any new activity, we must first crawl before we can walk, and train before we run. By following this 6-week plan, we’ll increase our stamina and be able to run 5 kilometres safely and enjoyably in no time.
Throughout the entire six weeks, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are rest days. That is, you won’t run on these days, but you are encouraged to stretch and hydrate.
Don’t wait until you’re exhausted to take your 1-minute walk breaks, and remember to pace yourself!