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By Bryan Brander, Bull City Coaching, Durham, N.C.

Have you ever found yourself reading through running magazines, asking veteran runners, or combing the web for running advice to take you to the next level? If so, good for you! There is a strong body of research and commonly accepted running practices that are widely utilized among the running community. With that said, every runner has a unique set of needs, goals, and lifestyle, and you want to make sure the advice works for you. In six short paragraphs I am going to attempt to provide insight and best practices for beginning runners:

  1.  Pace. Find a training program specific to your needs. If you are training for a race, choose a race specific plan. If you are looking to get in shape, there are basic plans out there for that as well. A simple search on the web would be a great starting point. Once you find a program, start slow and give yourself multiple months to build your mileage. Running is an endurance sport and the training is no different.
  2. Terrain. Alter your running surface when possible. Softer surfaces (e.g. trails and grass) will be gentler on your body and allow you to rebound for the next run more quickly. However, balancing trail running with roads will train your body to tackle both surfaces successfully. If you are training for a road race, do not train solely on trails, and vice versa. Lastly, treadmills provide convenience to the average runner, allowing them to complete their workout without leaving home. The same warning applies to treadmills…try to supplement with softer surfaces. Also, always set the elevation grade on the treadmill to 1-2 degrees to simulate real running and to save your legs.
  3.  Company. Running allows individuals to relieve stress, reflect on their day, and let their minds wander. Adding music to your workout can help elevate these sensations. Allowing your body to slip into a Zen-type state can be euphoric, but sometimes you need that extra motivation to take your mind off the workout or help you get in that last mile. This is where your friends or local running group come in handy. Many beginner runners are apprehensive to join a group run. My advice, “don’t be, you’ll thank me later.” Running groups are very welcoming and offer a wide variety of paces!
  4. Listen. Your body is brilliant and an amazing creation, so listen to it. If you begin to develop sore muscles, add extra stretching or take a day off. If there is a pain that doesn’t seem to be going away, bring out the ice or frozen bag of corn after your workouts. Many times an extra day of rest will save you from battling an injury for weeks down the road.
  5.  Gear. Make sure you get professionally fitted for a pair of running shoes at your local running store and use these shoes for running only (editor’s note: see Bryan’s advice about shoes here). As far as clothing is concerned, lightweight wicking apparel helps with sweat distribution. Cotton is not very breathable and therefore traps the water, leading to chaffing or chills. This is true with socks as well. Go ahead and invest in a few good pairs of thin, breathable socks. And speaking of chaffing, don’t be too ashamed to apply some petroleum jelly to your feet and toes to prevent blisters. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…bloody nipples. No one wants to talk publicly about them, but they are common and painful! Let me just say waterproof band-aids are lifesavers.
  6. Fuel. Stay hydrated and be particularly mindful throughout the summer months and as you add distance. If you experience headaches, dizziness, or cottonmouth on a run you are most likely severely dehydrated. Prevent these symptoms by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and treating yourself to a little snack an hour before your run. This will help provide the extra fuel needed to complete the workout. Ideally, you should try to consume water or a sports drink every 20 minutes when working out. Fuel belts and handheld water bottles are great solutions to drinking on the run.

Best of luck with your journey and remember that you are not alone! Run well…

Bryan Brander is a school principal by day and runner/coach by morning, night, and weekend. He began his running career, entering his first race, at the age of twelve and was blessed to have the opportunity to run competitively in high school and college. Since then he has been coaching runners and sharing his knowledge, training, and success, while also competing in a variety of distances from 5Ks to 50 milers, and enjoying his love for the sport along the way. In 2010 he founded Bull City Coaching, a comprehensive running resource to deliver his coaching on a larger scale. Bryan ran his first Get Your Rear in Gear event in Raleigh, N.C. on March 5, 2011. You can follow Bryan on Twitter oremail him for more information.