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rec.running Beginners' FAQ Part 2 of 2

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Archive-name: running-faq/beginners/part2
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 composed by Steve Conway.

these will cause problems, and you will have to discover what kinds of
motion control shoes work for you, or if you need orthotics. Hopefully this
will be in the far future, or never, but be aware of the problems.

The main rec.running faq has information on injuries and treatment, with a
large section on shin-splints.

====================================================================== * 18
Stretching and strength exercises

Brad Appleton posts Stretching & Flexibility monthly in rec.martial-arts,, rec,alt.arts.ballet,,alt.answers,
rec.answers, misc.answers,news.answers

ching can help ward off injuries, help recovery after running and can get
rid of stiffness before running. Some runners stretch before running, some
stretch after, some run for a few minutes and then stretch before their
main run. You can stretch better when warmed up, so after some running may
be the best time. Personally, I do a few gentle stretches before and after
running, taking more time and trying to lengthen the stretches only after
running. Maybe once a week I do a longer (half-hour) session, really
working on increasing my flexibity, but most people don't bother with this
type of thing.

The most important thing to say about stretching is DON'T BOUNCE !!!! The
old-fashioned ballistic style will do you more harm then good. Stretch
gently into position, hold and try to get your muscles to relax in the
stretched position. If you are warmed up, try to lengthen the stretch after
holding for at least 20-30 seconds.

A good calf (muscle on the back of your lower leg) stretch is to stand a
long pace away from a wall, lean onto it then either bring one leg forward
or lift it off the ground. As you lean into the wall you should feel a
stretch in the calf of the rear/lower leg. Bending the knee slightly will
move the stretch lower down the calf. You should look as if you are trying
to push the wall down.

To stretch your quadriceps (muscles on the front of your upper leg), grab
onto something with one hand, lift a leg up towards your bottom and grab
the ankle with your free hand. Pulling upwards/inwards should stretch the
muscle. Keep standing upright. Holding with the hand on the same or
opposite side to the leg will alter the location of the stretch.

The best stretches for hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your upper
leg) are done on the floor. Sit on the floor with legs together, then lean
forward, reaching towards your ankles and trying to keep your back flat.
Depending in how flexible you are you may be able to keep your legs
straight or you may have to slightly bend your knees. You can also spread
your legs apart and stretch to each ankle in turn.

An alternative for when you can't sit on the floor is to put one foot
forward until it is ahead of the toes of the other foot, but still the
normal width apart. Lift the front of the forward foot off the ground, so
it is now resting on the heel. Bend the rear leg and lean forward. You
should feel a stretch down the back of the forward leg.

DO NOT use the old-fashioned hamstring stretch with feet together or apart
and knees locked in a standing position, or the newer variant with crossed
ankles. These risk back damage in anyone who doesn't have a perfect back
and good flexibility, which means most of us.

There are many more stretches useful for runners - find a book or someone
knowledgeable to instruct you. Beware of older books or unqualified people
(or anyone who teaches the old-style hamstring stretch or tells you to
bounce "to increase the stretch").

There are a number of popular stretches which are either unsafe for
everyone or unsafe for anyone who isn't very flexible to start with - these
include the hamstring stretch mentioned above, the "hurdlers stretch"
(seated, one leg forward, the other tucked back under the body - put it
against the side of the knee of the straight leg instead), the floor
stretch (yoga plough) where the arms are extended and the legs are lifted
over the body to touch the floor, with the head tucked between the body and
floor (this presents obvious danger to the neck).

Experiment with how altering positions affects the stretch. Find what works
best for you and in particular what helps out your own trouble spots. I
have to pay lots of attention to my calves and achilles tendons. Some
stretches work for some people and not others. It all depends on your
skeleton, musculature and level of flexibility.

Running strengthens some muscles but leaves other relatively untouched.
This imbalance can lead to injuries. The most common example of this in
beginners (and more experienced runners) is weakness of the muscles running
up the shin. Strengthening these may help to ward off shin-splints.

Gordon Haverland <ghaverla @>writes about some shin
strengthening exercises:

There are 3 kinds of exercise which I tell patrons at my YMCA about for
strengthing the tibialis anterior.  Two are weightlifting.

1) Walking up hills (on treadmill).  A person has to lift
their toes more to walk (or run) uphill, which will with time
cause the muscles in the front of the shin to strengthen.
Using a treadmill means you don't have to watch your step
so closely.

2) On a seated calf machine.  Normal position is to have the
balls of your toes on the rear edge of the footrest, and then
contract the calf muscles (mostly soleus (sp?)) to force the
weight up and down.  If you rest the ball of your heel on the
front edge of the footrest, then you will work tibialis when
you lift your toes up.  Rule of thumb, about half the weight
you can lift with the rear calf muscles, but it depends on
how muscle bound you are.

3) On a padded bench.  Have your ankles overhand the end of the
bench (you are seated on the bench).  Put a dumbell between your
2 feet.  Then when you dorsiflex (bring toes toward head), you will
be working the tibialis muscle(s).

From Ozzie <> who believes that it's not a matter of
strengthening the shin muscles but teaching them to be elongated.  Here's
what I do for the posterior tibialis:

The muscle behind the shin bone is called the posterior tibialis or the
muscle behind the tibia bone.

If it is the right leg, cross it so that the right ankle or there abouts
rests on the left thigh as when you cross your legs.  In front of you as
you look down is your right crossed knee and you are looking at the
posterior tibialis.

Take your left hand and place the fingers so they are holding the tibia and
the thumb is pointing toward the inside of the right knee and resting just
on the inside of the tibia.  Take your right thumb and place it on the left
thumb and the right hand grasps the shin bone.  Push in lovingly at first
and start at the bottom of the posterior tibialis.  As you make a small
circle with your right foot, you'll feel the muscle push against the thumbs
pressing in.

As you continue to make a small circle with your foot, slowly push in with
the thumbs and slowly slide the right thumb on top of left thumb up towards
the right knee.  Gradually massage out this muscle.  You'll notice that you
have allowed the muscle to  gradually relax and loosen....and therefore
relieving some of the pressure on what is often called a "shin splint."

====================================================================== * 19
Fitting running into your life

Running takes up time, something most of us seem to have too little of. If
you want to keep running in the long term, you have to fit running into
your life.

A few people can run to and from work, and many run in their lunch-hours.
Some run after work, some later in the evening and some in the morning
before work.

You have to set aside the time to run in, and not allow that time to be
encroached on by other claims. Early morning is one time with few other
claims, except sleep.

====================================================================== * 20
Running and other sports

Many people mix running and other sports. As long as you are taking part in
a predominately aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) 3-5 times a
week you will be getting all the health benefits of running. If your other
sport is not predominately aerobic, then you should be running 3-5 times a
week to gain all the benefits.

Running should increase stamina in other sports, for example, tennis,
squash and soccer.

The best training for running is running.

====================================================================== * 21
Satisfaction, enjoyment, fun and no fun

You should be getting some satisfaction out of your running. A run may be
hard work, but most of the time you should feel good afterwards and feel
some satisfaction at having gone out into the rain/heat/delightful summer
evening and "Just Done It". Some people say every run is fun, others think
racing is fun, and some people wonder if everyone's definition of fun is
the same.

Sometimes running itself will feel easy and smooth and enjoyable. An easy
day between harder days will sometimes be like this. If you are lucky, some
days you will overflow with energy, zip up the hills for the hell of it and
generally bounce around and have fun. Not very often though.

Finding like minded people to train and hang out with always helps make
things enjoyable and helps you achieve your goals, if only because "Well,
if Fred can run X miles, then surely I can !". I feel that having the
company of like-minded runners helps - providing encouragement, advice and
mutual support plus the opportunity to take part in team events.

The Dead Runners Society (DRS) is an listserv (mailing) list which
discusses all aspects of running, ranging from training tips to wildlife to
M&Ms to favourite novels to anything. It forms a supportive virtual
community of runners and friends. Very friendly and on the cuddly side. Not
necessarily to everyone's taste, and produces a high volume of mail. To
subscribe, send mail to <> with the
following line in the main body of the message: SUBSCRIBE DRS

If you are a beer drinking party animal, search out the local Hash House
Harriers for an introduction to a world wide brotherhood (and sisterhood)
of degenerates who describe themselves as "A drinking club with a running

Running related sports such as orienteering can provide an interesting way
of getting a few miles in. Orienteering is particularily good since it
occupies your mind and limits your speed - if you run too hard you can't
think, get lost and have to stop.

Most of us go through bad patches where running is a chore and we don't get
any enjoyment out of it. The best plan here is often to reduce the training
and maybe try something else for a couple of weeks. Sometimes I go for long
bike rides, or try to improve my swimming. If you really are burnt out,
rest is important - exhaustion can put you out for months.

If running is always a struggle and a chore, with no satisfaction, even
after months at sticking with it, I would say it's time to try something
else - cycling, swimming, rollerblading, aerobics, .... Find something you
enjoy, get satisfaction from - you'll have a better chance of sticking with
it in the long run, which is what counts.

====================================================================== * 22
Where to run

Out in the countryside has to be the best place to run. Somewhere you can
run on soft dirt paths or grass, with no traffic is ideal. Soft surfaces
make it less likely you will get injured. Even surfaces make it less likely
you'll turn an ankle, though rougher surfaces will strengthen them.

Anywhere scenic or interesting should make your running more enjoyable, and
make it easier to keep your mind off/on how you feel. River and canal banks
are good places to run (and fairly flat), and so are parks. If you have to
run by roadsides, or on the road, try to run where there is less traffic
and less people to dodge.

Get a map of the area around where you live, preferable a topographic map.
There will often be paths and trails you never knew existed, or you may see
how to link up bits of park and path to give a mainly off-road route.

Most of us do spend our time on the roads. If you want to road race it's a
necessity. If you have to run in the dark it may be necessary. If you have
to run on the road itself, face the oncoming traffic, so you see what is
coming. Don't stick religiously to one route, vary it to keep things

Running one big loop may be better than running several small ones - it
stops you giving up. However, if you really need to give up, you'll have to
walk back.

If you are confident, running is a great way to see a strange city. Try
taking a route past the landmarks early in the morning when the streets are
empty and the light is at its best.

In places that have hard winters, an indoor track may be the best place to
run. You'll be out of the weather and have a decent surface. You may also
get bored out of your mind - it depends on the individual. Get back out
into the outside world as soon as possible. Know the track etiquette - slow
runners take the outside lanes. If someone yells "Track!" at you, move out
of their way.

Sadly, all the above must be tempered with caution. Some places are not
safe to run, especially for women. Take care and use your common sense.

====================================================================== * 23
Women and running

Women's running records are not as fast as men's, for physiological
reasons, and women have had to overcome numerous barriers in order to race
a full set of distances, but women are every bit as tough as men and
tougher, (men don't experience the marathon of birth).

There are some specific consideration for women runners. Properly designed
sports bras should minimise breast injury and soreness. Don't just pick up
any old sport bra - you need a supportive bra that was designed for high
impact aerobic activity. Examples include the ActionTech model by JogBra.
There are also jogbras made specifically for large breasted women. [Thanks
for help from Lani Teshima-Miller for this section]

Moderate exercise significantly decreases the severity of premenstrual
symptoms and may lower the risk of some cancers. Very high exercise levels
can lead to erratic or absent periods.

Sadly, there are extra risks for women runners. Each must make their own
evaluation of risks, but running with others, running in daylight or well
lit places at night, running in places with other people around should all
add to a runner's safety. Some may wish to carry an attack alarm and/or
some other defense.

====================================================================== *
23a Women and JobBras

If you normally wear a bra, you *should* wear a bra for jogging. What you
should do is buy a bra specifically for jogging, because you need the extra
support it provides.

Having started my running being overweight and in need of a jogbra, I did a
fair amount of looking around--I have found the Action Tech
jogbra to be the best for your money. You will find a lot of jogbras
by sports manufacturers, but this one stands head and shoulders above the
rest because of the amount of support it provides.

JogBra, a subsidiary of Playtex, used to sell the Action Tech bras.
However JogBra was bought by Champion in the early 90s and is now
marketed as Champion Jogbra[TM]'s Action Tech Sport Top. Fortunately, it
looks like Champion is marketing this much heavier than JogBra ever did.
They are providing more color selections and seasonal patterned designs,
more than before.

Of the two similar styles, the cotton-based Action Tech provides more
support, while the Supplex top dries faster. Both usually sell for
around $27 retail, although you can get them on sale for around
$18-$21 if you look around. I do not recommend the lighter Supplex top for
those who need *serious* support.

Proper support is particularly essential for the heavy chested woman, who
can experience aches and pains from the excess weight (showing up as back
pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc.--and affects posture). The ActionTech
jogbras tend to squish your chest and are only built to accommodate up to a
C cup--however, Champion also makes a few models for larger sized women,
including the Action Shape, and Sport Shape bras. Both of these provide
lift and separation with individual cups (the Action Tech does not), and
are available up to size DD, as well as adjustable straps (which you'll
need if you start losing fat!).

If your local athletic store does not carry the line, you can find
them through mail order companies. However, it is strongly recommended that
you try them on for fit before buying them. You want them snug enough to
provide support, but not so tight that it constricts your breathing.

Whether you need to wear a jogbra or not depends primarily on your
chest size. If it feels uncomfortable or painful to jump up and down
without a bra, you probably need the support. Small-chested but modest
people might choose to wear sport top bras, but support is not so much an
issue. If you fall into this category, you can purchase lycra tops very

When comparing jogbras, some of the things to keep in mind:
 o Does it have any buttons or snaps that can come off?
 o How well are these buttons or snaps sewn on/reinforced?
 o Is there anything on the bra that can rust from sweat?
 o How strong is the fabric? Does it seem flimsy? Cheap?
 o How elastic is the fabric? Don't be shy--pull and tug on it to
   see if it goes back in place. A good jog bra will hold up
   after years of use--the elastic in the material should not
   break or fray.
 o How well is the elastic in the hems covered?
 o Does the bra have a protective inner lining to discourage

A good jog bra will become an essential part of your running attire,
along with your running shoes. While I can make do with non-running cotton
shorts or regular socks in a pinch, I will not jog wearing a regular bra.
Considering that a jogbra is just a fraction of the cost of a pair of
running shoes, you should not neglect them or go cheap on them. Buy
yourself two bras (wear one, wash one) to start.
Lani Teshima-Miller (

====================================================================== * 24
Good books for beginners to read

Good books for beginners to read
 Galloway's Book on Running (Jeff Galloway)
 The Essential Runner (John Hanc)
 The Runner's World Complete Book of Running (Amby Burfoot)

_Complete Book of Running_, Jim Fixx, 1977, Random House, New York

This is a classic running book, which George Sheehan recommended in an
article about Summer Reading in Runner's World magazine. It's easy to read,
and gives lots of reasons to run. It gives the beginning runner a desire to
go out and run for the fun of it. Since it is old, it will tend to be out
of date on certain topics like injury prevention. Still, it's a great book
to start with.

_Getting Fit and Feeling Great_, Dr. George Sheehan, 1993

This is a compilation of Dr. Sheehan's three books _How to Feel Great 24
Hours a Day_, _Running and Being_ and _This Running Life_. Also Personal
Best.  George's writings continue to touch the heart and soul of runners
around the world.  He truly was the Mark Twain in sneakers.

_The New Competitive Runner's Handbook_, Bob Glover and Pete Schuder,
Penguin Books, Ltd. The Runner's Handbook (Bob Glover) [Mmuch more suited
to intermediate advanced runners than to beginners]

====================================================================== * 25
Good books for someone coaching beginners to read
 Better Training for Distance Runners (David Martin & Peter Coe)

The Lore of Running (Tim Noakes) Published: 1991/92
It's packed with information on just about everything. Noakes is an
exercise physiologist and is very knowledgeable on the human body,
especially muscles and bones. He presents a more scientific approach to his
running book. I recommend this to coaches just because it is so thorough
and more suited for someone that has been running for a while. I believe
this is the biggest running book to date. [comments by Gale Richmond

Training for Young Distance Runners (Larry Greene & Russ Pate)

 Although frankly all of these are much more suited for someone coaching
ADVANCED runners; someone coaching beginners would do just as well to
read the three books on the first list. Steve Patt
Stevens Creek Software/The Athlete's Bookstore

====================================================================== * 26
Running and weight loss

[Sherwood Botsford]

For many this is the reason they start running. It's not a bad reason to
start. (Are there any bad reasons to start running?)

Running burns roughly 100 Cals/mile. This varies from individual to
individual, depending on their weight, and their running efficiency. But
for ball park calculation it's close enough. Curiously it doesn't much
depend on speed. Go faster, you burn calories faster, but you also cover
distance faster. The two effects cancel. If that were all the benefit,
you'd better like running a lot if you've got a lot of weight to lose.
Thirty to Forty miles per pound. Ick. However, the effects of running will
speed up your metabolism somewhat for hours afterword, so you end up
burning more calories sitting still than you used to.

Muscles can burn either glucose or fat. (Actually fatty acids...) At high
speed (more than 70% of aerobic max) glucose burning dominates. At low
speed (about 60% of aerobic max) fat burning dominates. So if weight loss
is your main goal, run lots of miles at a pace you can carry on a

Running doesn't cause appetite to increase much. For many it decreases
appetite. As long as you're starting to do things because it's healthy, cut
down your fat intake, and increase your vegies.

As you lose weight, you will find that you run better, faster, and enjoy it
more. Further, without the extra pounds banging on your knees and ankles,
you are less likely to hurt yourself.

Finally, it took years to get into the awful shape you are in. Be patient.
It will take a long time to get rid of excess weight. Figure on 1 to 2 lbs
per month.

====================================================================== * 27
Food and drink

The type of diet that is good for runners is the type of diet doctors
recommend for everyone - high in carbohydrate, low in fat with sufficient
but not excessive protein. Some people find that as they exercise more
their taste changes to prefer this kind of diet anyway. The archetypal Real
Runner eats lots of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread, with little rich food.

It is important to drink sufficient water to make up for that lost in
sweating. You MUST rehydrate yourself properly. Drink water (or fruit
juice, etc) soon after a run, and throughout the day. If you run in hot or
humid conditions, drink before and maybe during the run. Dehydration
interferes with your ability to deal with heat, making your run miserable,
and interferes with your recovery, lessening the effects of training.
Personally I keep a bottle of orange squash and a pint glass on my desk.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Isostar are designed to replenish fluid
rapidly and to replace energy rapidly (these two functions conflict), as
well as replacing minerals and vitamins. They have a place in races and
heavy training, but for most purposes water is fine. You should be getting
all the energy, minerals and vitamins you need from your diet.

It has been frequently observed that runners like beer, but it should be
remembered that alcohol is high in calories and has a dehydrating effect,
and may also lower your metabolic rate, so you burn less calories. Caffeine
also has a dehydrating effect.

====================================================================== * 28
Starting racing

Once you have been running for a few months you may want to run a race. You
might have started out with one in mind. You should try to pick out a small
race that you are sure you can finish. It shouldn't be more than 1.5 times
as far as you regularly run. You will start off faster than you normally
run, so you don't want to be pushing the distance up as well. At most small
races, you can just turn up and enter on the day, but entering in advance
makes it harder to back out.

The aim of your first race is to finish, hopefully in reasonable shape.
After a few races, you will have more experience, times to aim at and
probably a couple of familiar faces that keep just beating you and that you
*are* going to beat next time :-), but for now, take it easy. Start at the
back, and try not to get sucked up into running too fast. If you can, start
slowly - you can always speed up in the last mile.

====================================================================== * 29
How do I get the main rec.running FAQ ?

The main rec.running FAQ is maintained by Ozzie Gontang

Answers to questions frequently asked in rec.running are available.
Phil Margolies <> checked the following 3 links do go to the
r.r FAQ:

or the web site:

The FAQ will be posted on a 14 day interval so that it will be more readily
available to the users of rec.running.  All eight parts cycle through

Part  8 updated on 10/7/98  has a partial list of web sites compiled and
edited by Wouter.  We expect that many will come and go.  If you have any
to add or any don't work, let me know. <>

Thanks for any help,

In health and on the run,
Ozzie Gontang
Maintainer-rec.running FAQ
Director, San Diego Marathon Clinic, est. 1975
Mindful Running:

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