May 19, 2014
Running has enjoyed a surge in popularity lately, with some calling it the Second Running Boom, the first having occurred in the early ‘70s when Kenneth Cooper got people on their feet and out the door to hit the pavement. Of all running events, the 5K races has proved the most popular, with more than 5.2 million race finishers in 2011 alone. Those 3.2 miles are a great goal to set for any new runner—and setting goals is particularly important when it comes to improving fitness.
Are You Thinking About Starting a Running Program?
A key component for a good run is a pair of high-quality running shoes. Don’t choose a shoe for its colors, but according to how your body and feet move. Sophisticated techniques for gait analysis are available at many large running stores, but even a simple “wet” test on a brown paper towel can reveal important information about the type of shoe that is best for you.
New runners, however, need more than great-fitting shoes to start training. Here are a few products that every new runner and even those with mileage under their feet should check out once they’ve found the perfect shoe to fit their running style.
Cotton clothing is great for many things, but cotton socks are horrible for runners. As your feet sweat, cotton fabric stretches and rubs against your skin, which can cause blisters. Check out wicking fabrics in sock brands like Swiftwick, Thorlo and Puma. Almost every running shoe company has their version as well. These socks come in a variety of sizes, colors and even knee length versions that features compression that may aid in performance and possibly even prevent shin splints.
There’s nothing worse than tripping on your shoelaces! But even double-tying your laces may not prevent a fall. Locklaces is one of many brands that make it easy to slide your feet into your athletic shoes without traditional laces. Lace up your shoes as you normally would and then simply pull the clip in place to tighten the shoe. These are also great for transition running sports, when getting shoes on and off in a hurry can mean a faster race time. Another similar product to check out is Xtenex laces—as you stretch them, they lock in place with no need for tie-ups.
Exercising outdoors offers numerous advantages, from pavement surfaces to the fresh air that can change your attitude, but don’t forget about sun protection. You should get in the habit of applying sunscreen every time you go outdoors. After all, skin cancer is the most common type of all cancers and can be prevented with the application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen. My new go-to is Coola Sport Sunscreen, which offers an organic sun care collection. Chris Birchby created this product because both of his parents had melanoma and he wanted to create a sunscreen that had more active ingredients (40% active ingredients), but didn’t contain phthalates.
You may think a t-shirt and shorts are the only clothes you need, but advancing technology means you have a much wider range of high-quality choices in running clothes. All women should get fitted for a great sports bra. Moving Comfort offers great support with fantastic style and function for every size cup. And don’t skip the shorts—those with built-in underwear and open slit sides really are more comfortable and less likely to chafe in hot weather. If you are prone to chaffing, products like BodyGlide and Gold Bond Friction Control can help.
There’s nothing better than keeping cadence with music. In fact, research shows that performance and running times can be improved by running to faster beats. With that in mind and the need for arms to swing easily, I found Jaybird Sports ear buds, which are both Bluetooth wireless and guaranteed to be “sweat” resistant. They have several sized pads and hooks to fit each person’s ears individually, which means they’re much more likely to stay in while you’re running. Another favorite is YurBuds, which was developed by athletes who were frustrated with their headphones falling out during workouts.
Your smartphone can be a real asset in helping to improve or even start your running program. A few to check out or download for free: Runkeeper. Featuring GPS tracking, timing and recording, not only will this app help you know where you are, but it can track average pace and distance logged, and compare your previous runs as well. Nike+Running is another great app if you have the shoe sensors for tracking steps and workouts. This app also allows you to choose a power song so you can stay motivated. The social sharing features on all of these apps can also help you gain support for your healthy habits.
The most important thing to keep in mind about running is that it takes time. My first experience with running was a walk/run interval combination workout. I walked for three minutes and ran for two minutes. I would complete a few series each day before moving onto an extended run. Take your time and be prepared.
Andrea Metcalf is a healthy lifestyle spokesperson with more than 30 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is an ACE-certified Health Coach, best-selling author of "Naked Fitness" and has appeared on NBC Today Show, GMA Health and Steve Harvey. Andrea is the Healthy Lifestyle expert and executive producer at www.WomensForum.com and www.andreametcalf.com.