Benefits are ‘enormous’: Here’s how to start running and stick with it

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FILE – In this April 17, 2017, file photo, runners head down the stretch to the finish line in the 121st Boston Marathon in Boston. Rival camps in the running world began snapping at each other’s heels in March 2021 after the Boston Athletic Association, which still hopes to hold a truncated in-person edition of the footrace in October, said it would award medals to up to 70,000 athletes if they go the distance wherever they are. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

(ABC4) – Utah is a state seemingly perfectly suited for training and enjoying many sports, including running.

With paved and dirt trails, towering mountains, and numerous running events, the Beehive State is ideal for those wanting to try their hand (or feet) at starting the sport.

Here is some advice and guidance from experts for beginning runners.

Tips/Advice

Debbie Perry is the Owner and CFO of Salt Lake Running Company and an avid runner.

The number one priority for beginning runners, is having the right equipment, she says. For some, this can include having the right shoe inserts. People who’ve suffered from shin splints, foot pain, or arch issues may want to look into inserts, Perry states.

(Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)

“They will run longer, be happier, and keep with it if obviously they’re not hurting,” she says.

Perry also recommends that beginning runners start by running three days a week and incorporate both walking and jogging into their training.

“Not many people feel like it’s okay to take walk breaks, and actually the most effective way to get in shape is to run five minutes at a time at first and then walk a minute, so taking the walk breaks is really important for a beginning runner to keep their heart rate down,” she explains.

“And again, so they basically they don’t overdo it and go home hating it,” Perry laughs.

The next piece of advice she offers is to run slower than you think you need to. What you really want is to be able to run or jog at a conversation pace where you can talk to a friend the entire time, she says.

“Most people, when they’re starting out, or even later, are just running too fast most days,” Perry states. “It makes them too tired, they get worn out, and they get injury prone… and so, if you can’t talk comfortably to somebody, you’re running too fast.”

Keeping the “conversation pace” is a way not only to avoid injury and fatigue, but enjoy running way more than you thought, she says.

Finally, she recommends being patient and give yourself rest days. Signing up for an event can be a good motivator to keep up with the sport.

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“Whether it’s a 5k if you’re a beginner or a 10k, or some people do those relays. When you’re ready there are trail races and half marathons- there’s so much to do,’ she states. “So I definitely recommend people finding potentially something that they can look forward to doing. Because the events are super, super fun.”

Glen Gerner is the Chief Running Officer at the Wasatch Running Center. He also recommends new runners be patient with their progress.

(Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)

“So many people start off too fast, and then they don’t have as good of experience as they should,” he explains.

In addition, he recommends getting some good socks and running shoes to start out, as well as guidance from seasoned runners. As far as specific running programs, Gerner says the couch to 5k is a good place to start.

But with smoke and poor air quality, is now a good time to begin running in the first place?

Running in poor air quality

Poor air quality can put a damper on the excitement of starting to run, but there are ways to protect your health and still get going.

Perry recommends running on the Park City side of the mountains going up the canyon during wintertime inversion.

Another solution she suggests is getting an air filtration mask.

“You can actually get a mask that filters out any of the pollutants and stuff so some people will do that. Or they’ll go up the canyon to where the air is great and perfect and beautiful,’ she states.

However, with smoke from wildfires, she suggests going outdoors a little less or going a little easier.

Gerner says to check the air quality before a run and run indoors on orange or red days. During wintertime conversion, you can escape the smog by going up high, he says, but with the wildfire smoke Utah is currently experiencing, there isn’t too much you can do to escape it.

“I hate to say that people should run indoors but they’re probably better off healthwise running indoors on a treadmill than running outside” on bad air quality days, he states.

Avoiding Injury

Injury is a part of any sport and sometimes occurs even when taking the proper precautions. However, there are ways to minimize the chance of injury in running.

Listen to your body, Gerner advises.

“If your body’s telling you it’s getting a little overworked, whether it’s a foot, or lower leg and knee, or hip, or back, back off a little bit,” he explains.

Perry recommends working in some basic strengthening exercises into your fitness routine. These exercises can be done at home and are really accessible, she says.

“Just to be able to strengthen your hips at home and your quads at home, and then, your core is always a big deal. Any type of active flexibility is really great dynamic flexibility, whether it’s yoga routines or mobility routines…” she says.

Gerner would agree. He says the people who are in the best shape often are not just running, but doing other exercises on the side.

“They’re also doing other things like some lightweight training and stretching; they might be doing yoga. They’re doing other things to keep their whole body strong and flexible because we run forward. But we’re neglecting sometimes the muscles we use to move laterally,” he states.

Benefits of Running

Running does get easier with time, Gerner says. And along with strengthening your cardiovascular system and muscle and skeletal systems, there is a mental health benefit.

“The mental health benefits of exercise, whether it’s running or anything else, are enormous. Especially when we get away from pavement, cars, and civilization. If we can hike or run in the mountains. It does amazing things to our brain chemistry to help us reduce stress and feel happier,” he states.

“I know most people, whether it’s work or school, they perform better when they have a regular exercise routine,” Gerner adds.

Running is really easy for anyone to get into, Perry says.

“You can run from your door, you can get out in nature. You know you can, it’s still a really versatile way to train. And you can obviously for cardiovascular health, it’s a very important piece of that puzzle.”

You don’t need a gym membership and the equipment is fairly minimal, she says. You will need a good pair of shoes and clothing as it gets colder. You can also get your social time in by running with friends.

She says some personalities prefer to run with a buddy, while others don’t. Some people do prefer buddying up with a running partner to keep them committed to running. And if they find the right person or group of people, it becomes an outlet socially as well, Perry explains.

“So you get tons of bang for your buck. If you go and you meet somebody and you’re out for an hour, like you’ve done a lot in that hour for yourself,” she explains.

Though Gerner is a solo runner, he says having a running buddy can be helpful for new runners to help get them out the door.

“The challenge for the most experienced athletes and the new athletes is just getting out the door, committing to it. Get your running clothes out and ready to go first thing so that you don’t have to think about choosing what I’m going to wear. Then you just go. A little bit of positive reinforcement from friends and family goes a long way.”

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