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rec.running Beginners' FAQ Part 1 of 2

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Archive-name: running-faq/beginners/part1
Last-modified: 10 March 2003
Posting-Frequency: 14 days

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Answers to REC.RUNNING  BEGINNERS' FAQ and Interesting Information

The following posting is a supplement to the regular rec.running FAQ. It
provides information of particular interest to people just starting out as
runners. It is organised in traditional FAQ fashion, as a series of
questions and answers.

Send me,Ozzie Gontang, FAQ maintainer  <>   any
corrections, updates, suggestions, or proper info of sources or holder's of
copyright.   Yonson Serrano is the previous maintainer of the rec.running
Beginners FAQ which was originally compiled by Steve Conway.

rec.running Beginners FAQ - a guide for aspiring runners

Once you've finished the beginners' FAQ, you can move on to look in the
main rec.running FAQ for more information.
or the web site:

* Index
0 Background Information
1 Why Exercise ?
2 Why running ? (practicality)
3 Why running ? (the other reasons)
4 Should someone beginning an exercise program get medical clearance ?
5 Shoes, socks and feet
6 Other equipment
7 The first few weeks
8 The next few weeks
9 Developing further
10 Training Schedules
11 When to train
12 Running alone or with others
13 How fast to run
14 Dissociation and Association
15 Getting out the door
16 How the body adapts - what to expect as you get fitter
17 Possible injuries for a beginner
18 Stretching and strength exercises
19 Fitting running into your life
20 Running and other sports
21 Satisfaction, enjoyment, fun and no fun
22 Where to run
23 Women and running
24 Good books for beginners to read
25 Good books for someone coaching beginners to read
26 Running and weight loss
27 Food and drink
28 Starting racing

====================================================================== * 0
Background information

We claim no special knowledge about how to start out on a running career.
This FAQ is the amalgamation of the ideas of a number of people. There is
no claim to definitive answers and in most areas of training there are no
definitive answers. You must find the techniques and approaches which work
for you. We have tried to give accurate physiological information.
Elsewhere we have tried to indicate the range of approaches that people
have used. Since much of what is said here is subjective, our personal
experiences and biases have inevitably had an influence. Humour creeps in
from time to time, often unannounced.

====================================================================== * 1
Why Exercise ?

Aerobic exercise will improve your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems
(i.e. your heart and lungs), improve your muscle tone, may give you more
energy, may help you lose weight and will help you look and feel better.
It will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Physical activity
probably increases longevity by one to two years.

People who exercise are claimed to be happier (R. Carter, "Exercise and
Happiness", Journal of Sports Medicine 17, 1977). Exercise reduces tension
and anxiety. Exercise is as effective a treatment for mild depression as
drugs. Exercise increases perceived quality of life.

Studies have claimed that healthy adults who regularly exercised had
greater energy, patience, humor, ambition, greater emotional stability,
imaginativeness, self-sufficiency and assurance, conscientiousness and
persistence. They are more amiable, graceful, good-tempered, elated and
easygoing than control groups. With benefits like these, it's a wonder
running isn't compulsory ;-)

====================================================================== * 2
Why running ? (practicality)

Running is the most natural form of aerobic exercise. It can be carried out
anywhere, in most conditions, with a minimum of equipment, by anyone. All
you need is some shoes, some comfortable clothing and the will power to get
out of the door and "Just do it !".

If you are active in other sports, running is an easy way of increasing
your aerobic fitness and stamina, with benefits to all your activities.

====================================================================== * 3
Why running ? (the other reasons)

In running you are ultimately dependent only on yourself. It is your own
discipline that makes you run, and that provides the benefits you reap.
Running will increase your pride in yourself, and improve your relationship
with your body. You will surprise yourself with your capabilities and
reserves, achieve more than you thought possible.

Running gives you time to yourself. Even running with others you are
essentially alone. You will be more in contact with the world around you,
in all weathers and all lights, and more with yourself. Running gives you a
space to yourself, a time to think, to muse, an active form of meditation.

People may start running for health reasons, they persist because they
become runners.

Running is the classical road to self-consciousness, self-awareness and
self-reliance. Independence is the outstanding characteristic of the
runner. He learns the harsh reality of his physical and mental limitations
when he runs. He learns that personal commitment, sacrifice and
determination are his only means to betterment. Runners only get promoted
through self-conquest.

Noel Carroll [as quoted by Noakes]

====================================================================== * 4
Should someone beginning an exercise program get medical clearance ?

The advice usually given is that formulated by the American College of
Sports Medicine (1976) - that anyone over the age of 35 should have a full
medical examination, including an electrocardiogram recorded before, during
and after maximal exercise. Persons under 35 who have risk factors for
heart disease (a family history of heart disease, a history of smoking,
high blood pressure or high blood fat levels) should also be tested.

More recent guidelines from the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood
Institute (1981) say that you should consult a doctor before beginning an
exercise program is you meet any of the following criteria:

1. You are over age 60 and not accustomed to vigorous exercise. 2. You have
a family history of premature coronary heart disease
(under 55 years of age).
3. You frequently have pains or pressure in the left or midchest
area, left neck, shoulder or arm (distinct from the "stitch") during or
immediately after exercise.
4. You often feel faint or have spells of severe dizziness, or you
experience extreme breathlessness after mild exertion. 5. Your doctor has
said that your blood pressure is too high, or you
do not know that it is normal.
6. Your doctor has said that you have heart trouble, that you have a
heart murmur, or that you have had a heart attack. 7. Your doctor has said
that you have bone or joint problems, such as
arthritis .
8. You have a medical condition that might need special attention in an
exercise program.

[the above taken from Noakes]

Use your common sense. Go to your doctor if you are in doubt.

====================================================================== * 5
Shoes, socks and feet

A good pair of shoes is the most important item of equipment to a runner.
You need a good, basic well-cushioned pair of shoes that fit well. You
don't need motion control shoes unless you already know that you have gait
problems (over-pronation or over -supination). You DON'T need expensive
shoes with flashy gimmicks, unless you are just going to wear them to look

Don't go to a general sports goods store, especially one of the chains.
Find a real running store. You can recognize one by the flyers for upcoming
races posted in the window or ask some runners where to find one. Go in the
afternoon when your feet are at their largest. If possible go on a week
day, so you avoid Saturday staff. Tell the staff what you want the shoes
for. If you belong to a running club you may get a discount.

If your neighbourhood doesn't have a real running store, you could try mail
order [see main FAQ]. Some of these will give advice over the phone, and
may let you exchange shoes. They may be a better bet than a mall sports
store, have a wider range of stock and will probably be cheaper. Don't go
to a running store for advice then buy from mail order - buy from the

Look in the main rec.running FAQ for more information.
or the web site:

If you find that you get blisters, try out some of the running socks sold
by the running stores. Double-layered ones work well. They are more
expensive than cheap "sports" socks, but if you have blister problems, then
they are well worth it. Another good trick is to apply Vaseline to your
feet before running. Vaseline also works well if your nipples get sore.

====================================================================== * 6
Other equipment

You can wear anything comfortable. Depending on the climate - t-shirts,
sweatshirts, thermal tops, shorts, leggings, lycra tights, tracksters or
warmup pants, windproofs or rainproofs. The chances are that you already
have what you need, for the moment at least. The important thing to
remember is not to overdress (a common beginners mistake) as you will be
much warmer while running.

Look in the big rec.running FAQ for more information.

====================================================================== * 7
The first few weeks

The most important thing early on is to get into the exercise habit. You
are (hopefully) embarking on a lifelong path, so taking it slowly shouldn't
be a problem.

If you haven't been doing any kind of exercise, start out by walking. Walk
at a comfortable speed for 20 minutes, 4 or 5 times a week for several
weeks. Then you can move onto the next stage.

Walk and run for 15 minutes or for a mile, 4 or 5 times a week. Run when
you can and walk when it gets too uncomfortable. Run slowly, what counts at
the moment is time, not speed. Don't try to do more, even if you feel you
can. If you force the pace you may progress faster, saving a week, or you
may get injured and be out for six weeks.

Walk for the first and last part of the sessions, to get your body warmed
up and to ease down at the end. Look in the main rec.running FAQ for
information on stretching and warming up.

If you are already fit from another sport, such as cycling or swimming,
then it is important that you go a little easier than you might want to
while you are building up the miles. It is very easy to push yourself past
what the connective tissues can stand at first, and hence get injured.
Chuck Amsler says that going for an abbreviated bike workout before running
worked well for him (good warm up too).

====================================================================== * 8
The next few weeks

You should now be running with walking only to warm up and down. Start to
increase your weekly mileage. Do this by lengthening one of the runs. The
next week you can increase one of the other runs as well. After a few weeks
you should consider making one run per week your long run - up to half as
long again as the others.

Only increase distances by small amounts - the usual rule of thumb is not
to increase by more than 10% per week in total distance. Increase either
the long run or the shorter runs, not both in the same week. Some weeks do
the same as the previous week, or even do less.

====================================================================== * 9
Developing further

Fitness increases dramatically between the first 10 and 20 weeks of
training. You will probably find this to be the most rewarding period of
your new running career, with each week yielding greater achievements than
the week before. However, you should continue to gradually increase your
training, but not too rapidly, since you will be particularly prone to
injury in this time (see the Injuries section). You should still be aiming
to increase distance, not speed.

After several months you will no longer be a beginner and will have to
decide whether you wish to just run for fitness or to do more. A couple of
miles, three of four times a week will keep you fit and healthy. 15 to 20
miles a week will give you better conditioning. Beyond that, you are
running for performance.

====================================================================== * 10
Training Schedules

We have deliberately not written down a training schedule.. We have
attempted to list some basic principles and to give you some ideas. A
schedule will give you something to aim at, may help you get out of the
door and may stop you doing too much too soon. Some people thrive on rigid
schedules, some never make them, most have some kind of schedule but are
flexible about following it.

You may want to write out your own schedule, using the ideas here and
elsewhere, possibly based on a schedule taken from a book or magazine.
Adapt any schedule to your circumstances, and be prepared to alter it in
the light of experience.

If you have an experienced and sympathetic runner to coach you, so much the

====================================================================== * 11
When to train

Some people run in their lunchbreaks, some in the evenings and some strange
souls claim to enjoy running in the early mornings. You have to find a
place in your life for running that you can stick to. If you do run in the
early mornings, pay special attention to warming up.

The climate and daylight can have an effect on when you run. High daytime
temperatures and humidity are a strong argument for running in the early
morning. Lunchtimes are good times to run when the temperatures are low and
the mornings and evenings dark.

====================================================================== * 12
Running alone or with others

Running with a partner can motivate you, can get you out the door when you
don't feel like it and can give you someone to talk to on the run. If you
do run with a partner it should be someone of a similar standard, otherwise
your running will be uncomfortable for both of you. You will be dependent
on each other's schedules, which may make fitting in running harder. Most
of us mix running alone and with friends.

Joining a club that caters for beginners can help with motivation and be a
good source of advice and coaching. There are also some training groups
aimed at particular races and many ad-hoc groups based on work, school and
neighbourhoods. Ask around.

====================================================================== * 13
How fast to run

As a beginner you should only be running aerobically. Your running should
not leave you gasping for breath too much. The aim is to "Train, not
strain". Being able to talk to a running partner is a good sign that you
are running aerobically and not pushing too hard.

Heart-rate can also be used as a guide, either using a heart-rate monitor,
such as those made by Polar, or stopping running and using the
old-fashioned finger on wrist method (count for 10 seconds and multiply by
six). Your heart-rate should stay below 70% of max. That is, your target
heart-rate is

resting rate + (.7 * (max rate - resting rate))

where the resting rate is taken when you are laying down doing nothing, and
the maximum rate is estimated by the formula

(220-age=predicted maximum heart rate)

Determining your target heart rate (Target Training Zone)

1. Predicted Maximum heart rate:  220-age  eg age 55: 220-55=165 beats/minute
2. Multiply predicted heart rate by percentage 60% to 70% for beginners.  A
55 year old sedentary man: 165*.60=99; 165*70=116

Running faster can wait until your bones are stronger and you are fitter
and eager to run faster in races. At present you should be more interested
in running further. Some speedup should happen anyway.

====================================================================== * 14
Dissociation and Association

"Association" is listening to your body, monitoring its every twinge and
ache while shutting out all extraneous details. It's what top athletes do
in races.

"Dissociation" is tuning out the pains of the body, by talking to our
running partners, thinking through problems, looking at the view, dodging
the traffic, watching the squirrels, mentally singing, really singing,
communing with nature, generally daydreaming. It's what we all do to get
through our runs. You need to learn how to do it.

====================================================================== * 15
Getting out the door

Maybe the hardest part of running. You've had a hard day at the office,
it's lightly raining and you really don't feel like running. Believe me, 9
times out of 10, if you get out the door in your running kit you'll feel
fine after a couple of minutes, enjoy your run and feel better for it.

You have to learn to tell the difference between apathy and real tiredness.
One strategy is to tell yourself that you'll only do half the scheduled
run. If you really are tired, then you'll be able to tell in the first few
minutes, after which you should go home. If you stay apathetic, maybe
you'll do the half run, which is better than no run. Most likely you'll end
up doing your scheduled run.

On the other hand ... there is room for flexibility. If it's bucketing down
and blowing a gale, maybe it's better to leave the run until tomorrow,
unless you are one of those people who like running in wild conditions -
try it sometime.

====================================================================== * 16
How the body adapts - what to expect as you get fitter

As you stress your body, it reacts to make the stressed systems stronger.
This is sometimes called the "training effect". Once you begin running it
will strengthen your heart and leg muscles, and increase the number of
small blood-vessels within them. You will get better at moving oxygen to
your muscles, and at getting rid of the waste products of muscle activity.
You should cease to be so breathless when running. Over time your resting
pulse may drop. Altogether, your body should adapt to make running easier
and to allow you to run further.

Unfortunately, your muscles adapt faster than your bones and connective
tissues, so just as you find you can run faster and further, you become
liable to injuries. (See "* 17 Possible injuries for a beginner"). Injuries
tend to strike beginners after 8-12 weeks, so it is a good idea to slow
down your progression at this point to let your skeleton catch up.

Noakes observes that there is a dramatic increase in performance after 20

====================================================================== * 17
Possible injuries for a beginner

The main cause of injury in beginners is the mismatch between the rapid
development of the muscles and the slower development of the bones. In
particular, injuries commonly appear between 8-12 weeks after starting

The most common symptoms are persistent calf-muscle soreness and discomfort
along the border of the shinbone (shin-splints). These symptoms will
usually disappear in time *if* you reduce the training load for a few weeks
- having more rest days and running less distance. If this does not work,
consider changing your running shoes to a more shock-absorbent pair,
running on softer surfaces (a good idea anyway) and possibly seeking
professional advice.

You may have a gait abnormality such as over or under pronation and
supination (how much your foot rolls in and out during its time on the
ground). Your legs may be different lengths. Sooner or later

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