New to running? Consider yourself a beginner? Run more than 10 marathons? No problem!
Our training program is great for first-timers and veterans alike. For newer runners, try these tips to ease into distance running:
At first, keep your runs short and slow to avoid injury and soreness. If you are breathing too hard slow down or walk a bit until you feel comfortable again. Pick a route close to home (out your front door)—the more convenient it is, the better chance you will have sticking with it. Start at the beginning--short distances, shorter running times. Set realistic short term and long term goals. Keep a training diary. Soreness one to two days after a run is normal (delayed onset muscle soreness). How do you get better at running? You run more! There is not substitute for minutes, hours, days and weeks amassing miles. There’s no shame in walking. Subscribe to a running magazine or pick up a book or two on running. Four laps around the local the high school track equals one mile. Lift weights. It’s okay to take walk breaks (run 1 minute walk 1 minute then progress to run 10 minutes walk 1 minute etc.). Vary your training routes. This will prevent boredom and prevent your body from getting acclimated. Speed work doesn’t have to be scientific. Try racing to one light post and then jogging to the next. Push through rough spots by focusing on the sounds of your breath and feet touching the ground. Do focused speedwork after you develop an endurance base. Practice running harder in the last half of your runs for a challenge.
Do abdominal breathing to get rid of side cramps or "stitches." If you can’t find the time to run, take your running gear to work. Build rest into your schedule--rest is just as important as exercise in your fitness plan. Forgive yourself. Over-ambitious goals usually lead to frustration and giving up on your fitness plan. If you miss a goal or milestone, let it go and focus on the next opportunity to get it. Mix-up your training plan. Make sure your training plan is not too heavily focused on one thing. No matter what level of runner you are, your training plan should include four essential elements: endurance, speed and rest.
What to wear
It's the eternal question--what do I wear to run? Well, luckily you can keep it basic! Shirt, shorts, socks and shores are what you need. Look for material that wicks sweat and moisture away (dry-fit, polyester, etc) and avoid cotton if you can. Cotton will hold on to moisture and weigh you down! Clothes should be light-weight and bright colors (to be seen more easily). Ladies will want a good jog-bra, and men will want shorts that don't fall all the way to the knee (like basketball shorts)--this is extra weight that you don't want carrying around.
Other accessories that are not required but are very, very handy to have: Water bottle/belt/pack (highly, highly recommended), hat and sunglasses; GPS watch; Identification/RoadID to have on your when you run; BodyGlide or anti-chafe agent; sunscreen; and post-run clothes and gear (to get out of those sweaty clothes when you are done running)
When it gets a little colder, you will want a layer or two--consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt that you can take off if you get hot. Consider mittens/gloves, a hat, a buff/neck gaiter (for head and ears), and maybe even leggings if it's really cold (like under 40 degrees). Rule of running and outdoor temperatures - Your body will heat up 10-15 degrees when you run, so dress for the outside temperature plus 10-15 degrees. If it's 50 degrees outside, expect to feel as if it's 60-65 degrees once you are running. Dress for those "warmer" temps!
If you are prone to chafing (when you skin rub uncomfortably against clothing or itself), consider using an anti-chafing agent before running (BodyGlide or Gold Bond Anti-Chafe). Apply it wherever you have skins touching clothings seams (shorts line, bra line, etc.) and where skin tends to touch other skin (underarm, inner thigh, etc.). You can also wear spandex shorts under your regular running shorts so you don’t chafe.
A good pair of running shoes is essential. If you spend money on one thing for your running wardrobe, it should be your shoes. Go to a running store and get fitted for a pair of quality shoes. Tell the staff you are training for an endurance race, tell them how often you run, how many miles per week, if you've had any pain or injury recently, how you liked/didn't like your last pair of shoes, and any thoughts on "how" you run (heel-striker or mid-foot striker; heavy-footed runner; etc). The staff will pick out some options for you; try them all on, run in them, and find the ones that feels best. I say a good shoe should fit like a glove and just feel right, like you want to get out there an run!
Avoid buying shoes online that you have not tried on or know nothing about--you will be disappointed. Most likely you will not be able to return them. Don't buy a brand of shoe simply because your friend likes them; you must go try them on and walk/run around in them to see how they will work for you. ***Your running shoes should be at least a half size bigger than your street shoes. Do not buy running shoes in your street shoe size! Your feet swell when you run, and you need extra room in your shoes to accommodate the swelling.*** And if your pair is over a year old, or has worn tread, or is new but has been sitting in the closet for two years (when the shoe's rubber and materials can deteriorate), it’s time for a new pair of shoes.
Nutrition for your runs:
When you run under ~60 minutes, most of your energy comes from stored muscle glycogen. If you're running for longer than 60 minutes, the sugar in your blood and liver glycogen become more important because your stored muscle glycogen gets depleted. When you expect to run for over 60 minutes, take some nutrition with you. Consider experimenting with energy gels, gummies/blocks, electrolyte drink or small snacks that are easy to digest. Fueling with carbs during your longer runs will prevent you from running out of energy and help boost your performance.
How much fuel is recommended? A basic rule of thumb is that you should be taking in about 100 calories after about an hour of running and then another 100 calories every 40-45 minutes after that. You may need more depending on your size and speed, so make sure you carry extra nutrition with you. Best to experiment during our training runs than wait until race day! What you eat while running depends on your own preferences.
We highly recommend using a hand-held water bottle, water belt or water vest when you run. You never know when your next opportunity for water will be, so it's good to take it with you! Especially on hot and humid days. Be safe! Carry water. There are tons of brands and styles out there--check a running store, camping or sports store, or online for options. Best to try them on, hold them, see how they fit, and chose your size--some can hold 8 oz, some can hold 20 oz!
What's my pace? Do I run the same pace for all my workouts?
Your pace depends on what your goal race time is. And paces as your different workouts definitely varies! When the schedule says to do a run at long-run pace (most of our Saturday group long runs), you should be running anywhere from 45 to 60 seconds per mile slower than your marathon or half marathon goal pace. This is very important. You are actually teaching your muscles to conserve fuel, even at the shorter distances, and running too fast defeats this purpose and may unnecessarily tear down your muscles, compromising not only your midweek workouts, but the following week's long run. Save your fast running for the track and tempo runs! There are plenty of days during the week when you can run faster. Do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that allows conversation without effort, and pay attention to your pace. This process can make or break your race!
For track, tempo, race pace miles and other faster workouts, check the schedule for the suggested paces. Track is an all-out speed effort, tempo runs are seconds and minutes under or above your race pace, and race pace miles (unusual done in the middle of a long run), are the pace you hope to run and raining in your endurance race.
Running with others and running in Memorial Park:
Remember to say "Thank You!" to race volunteers (e.g. when you get that cup of water at the aid station) and family and friends who support you. Share the road, path, trail and park with walkers, bikers and other runners. When running in Memorial Park (or any park for that matter), run no more than two abreast on the trail or oath. Do not fan out and take up the whole path. Run on the right side, counterclockwise. Share the path.
It is much harder to skip a run when you have someone else depending on you--all the more reason to join a running club! You always have someone to run with. Remember that you will have plateaus in your progress and tough days along the way. It gets easier. Accept and appreciate the fact that not every single run can be a good one. Do not compare yourself to others. Run within yourself and for yourself first. Don’t expect every run to be better than the last one; some of them will hurt, some of them will be hard, some of them will be just plain challenging. But even a bad run is better than no run at all. If you run with music, learn to run without it. RHC does not allow headphones or earbuds to be used on our group runs. This is for safety reasons.
Hydrate! You are doing to lose a lot of fluids in Houston's hot and humid weather. Make it a habit to drink water throughout the day, and bring water on your runs. If you are running very long distances in tough weather conditions, consider drinking an electrolyte drink (e.g. Gatorade) before or during your runs. On long runs eat something every hour—whether you feel like it or not. During longer runs if you don’t like to carry water, take some cash in your pocket pouch or a shoe wallet. Run a route where there’s a corner store that you can use as a pit stop to pick up your water and maybe use the bathroom. Avoid eating heavy meals or eating a big meal late in the evening the night before your long run. To aid recovery, the most crucial time to eat and drink is in the hour immediately after you run.
Use BodyGlide or another anti-chafe agent (Gold Bond, Vasoline, etc.) wherever things rub. They will help prevent blisters and chafing (guys don’t forget the nipples. You can apply Band-Aids before long runs to prevent bleeding. You'd body will thank you in the shower afterward). Do not increase your mileage more than 10 percent per week. Log your mileage for your legs and your shoes, as too much on either will cause you injury. If you are prone to shin splints and lower leg pain try running soft trails for some of your runs. Do not run two hard days back-to-back. Pay attention to your form. Try to run lightly to minimize impact that could lead to injury. Reduce training load (i.e. your weekly mileage) every 4th or 5th week for recovery--the RHC trainings schedule does this. To prevent blisters, put some BodyGlide or Tail Toes product between your toes on long runs. Be careful about running on paths that force you to run consistently on a slant, as that is hard on the hips, knees and IT bands. If you want to warm up before you run, walk briskly or jog slowly for a few minutes before your long run. You can stretch, but do active or moving stretches. Do not ice any area of your body for more than 10 minutes at a time. Wrap a thin towel around your ice pack or ice bag to prevent your skin freezing or getting irritated.
As a general rule, run on the right-hand side of the path or trail. Expect that there are other runners, pedestrians and cyclists all around you, and do not come to a full stop in the middle of the path, or make a hard left or right without looking behind you first. Avoid zig-zagging on the path; check your surroundings before making sudden movements. You should also call our your intentions and identify hazards that others might not see--Slowing! Stopping! Hole! Curb! Car Left! Car Right! Do not run with music and/or headphones or earbuds. If you run in the street, run facing traffic, and never assume a car sees you. Always carry I.D. or wear your RoadID.
Run early in the morning or later in evening to avoid mid-day heat. To keep cool in hot weather soak a bandana in cold water wring it out a bit and tie it loosely around your neck. For hot weather fill your water bottle about half way lay it at an angle in the freezer and just before you head out for your run top it off with more water.