Seven Secrets for Running Success

Sharon Rekieta, Fitness Director - 3rd June 2012

"Anybody can be a runner.  We were meant to move.  We were meant to run.  It’s the easiest sport."
--Bill Rodgers

Secret 1: Start: Every mile, 5K and marathon starts with a step.  Depending on your fitness level and exercise history, the start of your journey towards becoming a runner could be taking a few steps down your driveway or jogging a few intervals during your walk.

“If you run, you are a runner.  It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.  It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years.  There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get.  You just run.”
--John Bingham, a runner and contributing writer for Runner’s World magazine

Secret 2: Shoes: This is the most important item that you will purchase before running.  And with more than 200 brands of running shoes and more than a dozen different styles of shoes within each brand, it might take a little bit of shopping and experimenting to select the best option for you.  I recommend starting with a visit to a specialty running store that has knowledgeable staff and some type of assessment procedure to evaluate your foot profile and running gait.  They will then use that information to recommend brands and/or styles that will be best for you.

“No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes.  More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes”
--Don Kardong, Olympic runner and owner of a retail running store

Secret 3: Steadfast: Common mistakes some runners make are starting out too fast, doing too much too soon or being only a weekend warrior.  Think baby steps at first because every step forward, no matter what size and no matter what pace, is a move in the right direction.  One way to acquire consistency is to schedule your runs on a calendar.  And remember that slow and steady typically works better than fast and reckless.

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”
--Jim Ryan, runner with a record breaking time in the mile

Secret 4: Surface: Running does not have to hurt and the surface has a lot to do with minimizing or even completely eliminating discomfort.  I feel fortunate to live in an area with miles of grassy paths and I also feel that running the majority of my 30+ miles per week on this forgiving surface keeps my muscles and joints pain and injury free.  Since concrete is the least forgiving surface, keep your miles on concrete to a minimum.  Tracks, grass and dirt are the best and will keep you feeling comfortable in the “long run”.

“Running is very beneficial.  It’s good for your legs and your feet.  It’s also very good for the ground.  It makes it feel needed.”
--Charles Schulz, runner and creator and writer of the comic strip Peanuts

Secret 5: Sustenance: Most people learn pretty quickly that their bodies cannot “run” on junk.  An athlete follows a healthy, low-fat diet 90% of the time (40 – 60% carbohydrates, 15 – 30% protein and less than 20% fat).  Consume carbohydrate-rich calories around the times of activity to fuel your body beforehand and to provide nutrients for recovery afterwards.  Energy bars with less than 25% fat are tasty, nutritious and great to have on hand for a quick snack.

“If you feel like eating, eat.  Let your body tell you what it wants.
--Joan Benoit Samuelson, American runner and Olympic gold medal winner

Secret 6: Socialize or Solitude: Many runners enjoy the social aspect and motivating power of a group while others prefer the peace and quiet of a solitary journey.  Although there are advantages and disadvantages to both, it’s clearly an individual choice—and your choice might depend on your mood or circumstances.  Due to my unpredictable schedule, I run alone, or with my dog, most of the time—and I thoroughly enjoy listening to music on my iPOD and being by myself.  I also occasionally enjoy meeting up with a running group; mainly to be with “like-minded” enthusiasts, but also to sit back, follow and let someone else set the pace.  You’ll soon learn what gets you out the door.

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power.”
--Jesse Owens, American Track and Field runner and Olympic Gold Medal winner

Secret 7: Stretch: To keep your muscles flexible and strong, a few simple stretches for the calves, hamstrings (back of your thigh), quadriceps (front of your thigh) and the IT band that runs from your outer hip down the outside of your leg to your knee are essential after running.  If you continue to rack up the miles without adequately stretching, you could set yourself up for injury.  In addition, when muscles are tight, other muscles will compensate and this could affect your posture, gait and overall comfort.

“You know you’re a runner when you know where your illiotibial band is located.”
--Author unknown

“There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life.  But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint.  So, to, are you.  Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.”
--George Sheehan, Cardiologist and author of books about running