Dear Om Gal:
I recently (as in 2 minutes ago) allowed myself to be coaxed into doing a triathlon relay. It is in memory of a dear friend and incredible clinician who did Olympic distance ones and recently passed away about a month ago. I am going to participate in the run.
The truth is, I don't run. Not even a little bit unless someone is chasing me. Could you please give me some suggestions on how to start? It seems obvious. Place foot left, right, left right and repeat. But I want to do it without injury (i.e. making a total a$$ out of myself).
Thanks a million.
-I'm not into Tris but I'll try.
Dear Not into Tris But You'll Try:
Congratulations on committing to an athletic endeavor that will honor the memory of a friend and make you stronger in more ways than you realize now.
In truth, becoming a runner is as simple as you say: place foot left, right, left, right and repeat. However, simple is not synonymous with easy. Without knowing your time frame or distance, I can’t be too specific about a recommended training program. However, here are 5 essential tips to help make your journey to the starting line easier and ensure that you are ready for race day when it arrives.
Get the right shoes. Different shoes perform better at different distances, on different terrain, and in conjunction with different body types, so before you kick your training program into high gear, make sure your gear can fall in step with your goals. Many running stores are staffed with veritable human encyclopedias of the latest gear. Marathon Sports in my hometown of Boston epitomizes this service, where its team can analyze your gait, assess your needs, and recommend the right shoes to carry you to the finish. Runner's World magazine also publishes a thorough overview of the best sneakers on the market each year.
Start slow. My guess is that you are likely racing at the Sprint or Olympic triathlon distance, in which the running legs clock in at 3 or 6 miles respectively. Either way, you’ll need to begin by running one mile. As long as you start slow (bearing in mind that you can walk if needed), this should be relatively painless. From there, you’ll slowly increase your mileage over several weeks. Your pace is unimportant, just keep putting left foot in front of right, right in front of left, and repeating.
Go steady. Over time, your pace will naturally increase (and your need to walk will decline), provided you steadily and consistently stick to a schedule. There’s no need to overdo it, but schedule a few days of running each week and adhere to them no matter what. Crappy weather, crappy day at work, crappy night’s sleep: No excuses. Maintain the training schedule as best you can.
Cross-train to stay healthy. Of course you shouldn't stick to a running program if you are injured or ill. Instead, opt for cross-training activities such as yoga or swimming to let your body recover. Furthermore, you’ll be less prone to injury if you cross-train from the start. Most importantly, cross-training combats boredom, a pesky obstacle to any workout program.
Remember: not all miles are created equal. Sometimes, you cruise. Sometimes, you crawl. Sometimes, your miles are highly efficient masterpieces of graceful movement. Sometimes, you slog along, counting the minutes until you can check another training run off your list. Love it or hate it: this is the nature of running. Don’t despair when you have an off day. Don’t rest on your laurels after totally crushing it. Not all miles are created equal. Some are easy; some are hard. All are part of the journey, each one preparing you for your race in its own way.
Best of luck to you. May you have a healthy, happy, and inspiring run. And, on behalf of all the runners out there, welcome to the tribe, my friend.