Some questions for runners (Giraffe? Scylla? Scout?)

I’ve recently started running (well, jogging and walking) and I’m beginning to really enjoy it. I’m pretty unfit but I think I’ve seen a definite improvement in the four or five weeks I’ve been running - I can certainly run continuously for more than 1 minute now :wink: In fact yesterday I ran for the longest I ever have - around 10 -15 minutes. Might not seem much to you, but it’s a lot to me. Today I bought myself a pedometer so I can track distance and time more accurately.

So I’m thinking about entering a 5K run. Given that I’ve really only just started running and I’m pretty out of shape, what sort of time frame should I be thinking about?

Also, I have to concentrate quite hard on keeping my head up and not tensing my shoulders. I’m getting better at that. Do you have any tips for posture and/or technique?

It occasionally feels a little jarring on my shins - is there something I could do to remedy this?

Thanks in advance!

I meant Gazelle! Not Giraffe! They’re both animals that begin with G. I’m easily confused.

Learning how to run properly made a big difference for me re shin splints. Heel-toe-heel-toe hurts! At least it hurt for me. I learned to fun on the pads of the foot and, hooray, no more shin splints!

I didn’t enter my first 5k until I could run two miles without stopping. By the time I entered it, I ran the entire race without stopping. It felt great!!!

I entered a 5K and THEN started practicing the running part. By the time race day came around (a matter of a few weeks) I was able to run the first mile or so (which was downhill), stopped to walk for a bit, then traded off running and walking the rest of the way. I probably finished in about 40 minutes.

There’s no shame in entering a race and not being able to run the whole thing. I think you could enter one tomorrow and just see what you can do.

If you want to wait to race until you can run it all, I think Runners World has a beginning training plan for a 5K. I’m not sure what their time frame is, but their website should have the program laid out. I think Cooking Light also did a Couch to 5K training plan, and it’s probably on their website, too.

Most problems with pain/discomfort can be remedied with a decent pair of shoes. Are you using running specific shoes? If so, how long have you had them? Most shoes have a life of approximately 300-500 miles, so if you’ve been wearing the same shoes for 2 years, and wear them frequently, it’s probably time for a new pair.

And a specialty running store can help you choose a shoe that’s right for your particular gait.
[sub]Yay! I’ve been specifically called out! Woo hoo![/sub]

I guess it depends what you want to accomplish by entering the 5k. Is there a certain time you’d like to beat? Do you just want to run it without having to stop?
Here’s a training schedule at a site called you might want to check out.

Good for you! First, don’t skimp on running shoes. Get a GOOD pair (personally I like New Balance). Be sure you get running shoes and not cross trainers. Cross trainers are heavier than running shoes, with more leather and less of the lightweight nylon stuff.

The correct gait for distance running is heel-toe, heel-toe (sprinters run on the balls of their feet). This is less tiring when you cover a lot of ground. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed, and don’t swing your arms across your body. This is the most common technique mistake I see in runners, new or veteran. Keep your arms parallel to each other as they swing (going across your body just wastes energy). Also, lots of people bounce when they run. This wastes energy, too. Try to keep your head level when you run (as opposed to bobbing up and down every time you step).

You should also set up a breathing pattern when you run. Breathe in for two steps, then out for two steps (or three, or four–depends on your lung capacity). You would not believe how much this helps.

You’ll probably get a side stitch at some point. If this happens, try to keep running. My coach always told us to breathe out really sharply when the foot opposite the side of the stitch hit the ground. I’m not sure how well that works, but it gives you something to think about besides the pain in your side, and I can usually keep running until the stitch goes away.

If possible, try not to run on concrete. The impact is hard on the knees (I royally screwed up my knees this way). A good pair of shoes helps, but it’s better for the knees to run on grass, dirt trails, or a track. Running on sand gets you the best workout, because of the shifting that goes on under your feet, but not many of us live by beaches.

Sorry this is getting long, but so few runners ask for technique advice, I feel compelled to share my knowledge. Last bit of advice: ALWAYS warm up, stretch, and cool down properly. Try a brisk walk or light jog for about two minutes, THEN stretching, then beginning your workout. And when you stretch, you will not become more flexible unless you stretch a) when the muscle is warm and b) hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. After your workout, you should cool down (again, a brisk walk or light jog), then stretch some more.

Going from 0 miles to 1 mile of continuous running is much more difficult than going from 1 mile to 20 miles. Implausible though it may sound, the worst is behind you.


Pedometers are, in general, worthlessly inaccurate - with the probable exception of the electrickery of the Nike SDM or equivalent. These contain Mechanical Implements of Great Cunning that work out how far yer foot flies on each fling.

How about - aim to run the whole thing (i.e., don’t walk at all), but forget about going for a time. The time you obtain can be the target for your next 5k.

Decent shoes, if you don’t already have a reasonable pair. Avoid increasing mileage too rapidly. Run off road if possible (indeed, I’m not sure why people choose to run on the hard stuff if they have the dirt option available). If the worst comes to the worst, eat doughnuts and play video games instead of pounding the pavement. Hey - it work for me, padre.

BfT (blueberry jelly 'pon chin, Nikes gathering dust)

I do have a good pair of running-specific shoes, bought a month ago. I find them very comfortable and lightweight. In fact, putting them on makes me want to run! I think the shin splits probably result more from my technique.

No crossing arms across the body! I hadn’t thought of that. Ta. And I have naturally come to the breath-in-for-two-breath-out-for-two rhythm so I think that suits me.

I’m not worried about my time in a 5K. I’d just like to complete one!

It’s interesting what you say about running on hard surfaces - I run in some fields near my house that have a concrete path through them and I find it much easier to run on the path than on the soft ground. Will my preference change as I get more used to it?

My pedometer is an electrickery one with all sorts of things on it. I don’t need it to be deadly accurate - I’d just like a general idea of how far I’ve run.

And yes, I always warm up and cool down by stretching and beginning and ended with a two or three minute walk.

Yay running!

Hi Francesca!

I just started running last March. Ran my first 5k last week. I can totally relate.

Some of the shinsplints stuff was DEFINITELY running on concrete. I was told asphalt is softer than concrete, to runners at least. I cannot for the life of me see why asphalt should be easier to run on than concrete (Physics people? Please weigh in), but empirically, it is. And my God, grass is better. Treadmill at the gym is better (the expensive machines have a soft deck).

But one of the other things I was grateful to learn from the more experienced folks was that stretching non-running muscles was a sneaky way to avoid having common injuries creep up on you. Stretch or work some muscles that running doesn’t work. Lying on your side, lifting your leg, until the lateral calf muscles get tired, actually eases shinsplints. Weird. (When I first started doing this, they got tired in 8 lifts. Now, 50.) Stretching the quads, big. Stretching the iliotibial band and the glutes, amazing. I will not try to describe exercises in words, but there’s dozens of references on the Net.

With a bow to October, whose every word was right, I reply to good advice with a beginner’s sneak trick: I can’t always make myself stretch before AND after every workout. That’s the equivalent of brushing and flossing after every meal. So I have to choose one. So, on advice of senior runners, I always stretch after, when the muscles are truly warm; helps a lot. And, er, ahem, sometimes before.

And a last thing I learned from the Penguin’s books: The first three minutes are always the worst. You pant, you puff, your body doesn’t like it. Then all of a sudden your body doesn’t mind it so much. Later, it kind of likes it. The Penguin said he has run thirty-three marathons and yet this is still true for him.

My best to you, fellow runner.

I think that the softer the running surface, the more your legs actually work (think of running in soft sand versus wet packed sand).

But since the impact on your body is less, it’s “better” for you. It just doesn’t necessarily feel easier, is all.

Only if you discover the Enlightenment of Mud and the True Path of Cow Turds.

Anyway, you find running on concrete easier (than dirt) because it is easier! You may or may not come to prefer running off road. Many people maintain a hatred of the rough stuff. YMMV, maybe on a daily basis.

The elec won’t be trickery enough unless it’s the Nike or Fitsense jobby. Having said that, these weigh in at >$200 which is a fair wedge for a running toy. In fact, in dear ol’ Blighty, you’ll be looking at 200 quid plus (and I don’t think the Fitsense kit is available in the UK anyway).

Cheapest? A map.

Eventually? With a few more months in the bag, you’ll get to know how far a given run was. Experience and all that.

Yay indeed, mostly.

Oh. Um, I see. So, uh, I guess I’ll just be going then, since no one wants my advice…

What’s that? No, no, I just have something in my eye…

:: runs away crying ::
[sub]It’s a good thing you didn’t mean me because I have no running advice whatsoever. I’m a basketball player, so beyond telling you to “pass it!” I’m tapped.[/sub]

Congrats on the program, Fracesca. I hope you find it as an enjoyable and beneficial as I do, and I hope you stick with it.

I’ll try to give you the best advice I can.

Do the 5k and have fun. Don’t look at it as a race, but as a training run, and don’t worry about your time.

As you start running, don’t overtrain and hurt yourself. Go slow. Remember that your cardiovascular system will improve faster than your muscles. You won’t feel as winded when you’re running, and you’ll feel like you can run far, but you’ll pay for it the next day with soreness or maybe even hurt yourself. So take it slow.

As for the soreness in your shins. It may be nothing. It may be what I just described above. It may be shinsplints. Could be a lot of things.

My best advice, for this and your form would be to consult an expert. As you’re getting into running, I think it is crucial that you do so. It will mean a lot for your satisfaction, performance, and you’ll avoid a lot of mishaps, problems and injuries.

What you should do is look in the yellow pages or the internet for a good running store near you.

Go there, and ask for help. Bring the shoes that you run in. If they know what they are doing, they will put you on a treadmill and watch you run. They will look at the wear on the shoes, and maybe even your smelly feet.

They will give you suggestions on how to fix your form. They will also be able to tell how you are running. People run differently. You may be running slightly pigeon-toed. You may be over or under pronating (this tells you where you are landing and taking off on your foot as you roll through your stride.) You may have flat feet, or high arches.

Chances are they are going to show you a shoe. Chances are it won’t be cheap (you want a training shoe, btw.) These people will almost surely know what they are doing. To have a running store is an act of love, not profit most of the time.

You would be well-advised to buy they shoe they offer you.

Running is not an expensive thing to do. Do not skimp on the shoes. You don’t mangled feet or injuries (I lost a bunch of toenails due to buying a cheap shoe before a marathon, which was really stupid of me.)

That shoe should last you 400-500 miles, so it will be a good investment. Don’t use it for anything else but running.

Nike Air Aces work good for me at about 60 bucks a pair. That’s about as cheap as you can go. Look to be equipped with good shoes for 100 bucks or less, but get quality.

Train as you feel comfortable for the 5k. Don’t sweat it. Don’t run for a day before the race. Two days before the race do only a light easy run.

Assess yourself before the race. Will you be able to comfortable run the full distance or will you need to do some walking?

Let’s say you figure that you’ll need to walk two of the five kilometers.

All running sources and runners (that are smart) agree that the best way to run a race, have fun and get the best possible time is to plan on running a reverse.

What that means is that the second half of the race should be faster than the first. Most people go roaring out of the starting line in the fun and excitement and desire of it, and run out of gas and have a miserable time limping to the finish.

Start at the back (it’s more fun to pass people than be passed,) and start slow and warm up. Plan on walking 60% of what you figure you will need to walk in the first half of the race. That way, at the halfway mark you will feel strong, pretty fresh, and you will be nicely warmed up. You will be in a good position to judge how hard you should push it. Walk when you need to.

If you are planning on walking at all, it’s a good idea to walk up hills rather than run whether you feel you need to, or not. Even if you run, you will probably slow down quite a bit on a hill, and you will expend a lot of energy. Walking up the will won’t slow you down that much, and it won’t deplete your reserves.

Don’t be thirsty before the race, but don’t drink too much water. You don’t want it sloshing around while you run, and you sure don’t want to have to pee.

Have fun. Talk to people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either here or at the race. There is nothing a runner likes more than to talk about running and give advice.

I just added running to exercise routine* about 5 months ago but I don’t really have any advice to give other than agree with what everyone else has said about shoes and not pushing yourself too hard early on. Though I would like to add that for most of the time I’ve been running it’s been a pretty uncomfortable experience until about three weeks ago when suddenly my body decided that it rather enjoyed running. I can’t think of anything I’m doing different that would account for running suddenly becoming a pleasant activity, perhaps I’ve subtely altered my gait a little or just finally got used to all the bouncing but running has felt really good the past three weeks. And my recovery time has gone down a lot too. Used to rest two days between runs (otherwise my speed and stanima were way off) now I can run daily all the sudden, it’s very strange, but pleasantly so.

I do have a question for the more experienced runners though. On my short runs, ~3 miles, I can get by just fine if I hydrate properly ahead of time, but on longer runs I start to dehydrate (which really, really, really sucks). So what have ya’ll found to be the best way to carry water on a run? Bottle in hand? Camelback?

  • I had previously done mostly cycling and hiking/backpacking. Making the transition into running was pretty easy but I encountered some oddly isolated soreness along the way as my legs adapted to the new type of (ab)use

I use a Fuel Belt. You can find them in the Road Runner Sports catalog or at .

I really like it because it does not bounce, I can mix & match fluids (Gatorade and water, for example) and it has a velcro closure, which means no matter how pudgy or sleek I’m feeling, I don’t have to futz with adjusting the waist.

I generally wear this belt for any run over an hour in length.

I’ve started running - not very consistently, though - last year. Then it bugged me that I could not run longer than 15 minutes without looking like a lobster and sounding like a broken tea kettle. I was wondering whether I was doing something wrong, so I bought this book to see if it could enlighten me re running techniques.

And I’ve found it really helpful. I’ve started training this year and so far went from wheezing at 15 minutes to 30 km at 3:45 hours last Saturday. I’m not touting this book especially, I just think having a fixed plan to stick to is beneficial if you’re just starting out.

In my opinion, it’s slow and steady that does it, though. Don’t overdo anything. Rest if you feel the need to rest. But keep it up continuously. Running has the advantage you don’t need a lot of preparation for it, you just go out and run around the block.

What helped me?[ul]
[li]Entering a race gave me extra motivation to go out every second day. Plus, it feels really good when you actually finish it!! So go for the 5K by all means. Get people to watch it.[/li]
[li]I second the shoes. Good shoes and you’re halfway there.[/li]
[li]Better than a pedometer: A heart rate monitor. First, it shows you when you’re too fast and lets you keep the pulse rate acceptable. Second, it’s nifty and fun and you feel like a pro :D[/li]
[li]Hydration, hydration, hydration. Oh, and keep yourself hydrated. (FunkySpace, currently I am running with a bottle in my hand, but I’ll give the Camelbak a try on Saturday, it seems like a good idea.)[/li]
[li]Cross-training. Do something else. Preferably something that does not tax your joints. I like to go swimming. Or join a gym and work out your leg muscles so they get stronger.[/ul][/li]
But keep it up, one day you’ll be cruising along easily for half an hour, looking back at those days when 10 minutes seemed like a lot. And I second Boldface that the first threshold is the worst, it’ll just get better from now on…

Keep us posted how everything goes! I’ll cheer your 5K virtually :slight_smile:

Francesca! You rock! Just found this thread. NP on the Giraffe/Gazelle thang. :slight_smile:

I’m reading a running book right now that says “Avoid concrete at all costs.” I tend to agree.

I had shin splints FROM HELL when I first started running. Two things helped: Weight loss and physical therapy. Weight loss usually comes with the title of “runner” so you’re good to go on that front, if you even need to lose anything. The physical therapist taught me the correct stretches and said to do them several times per day. So I do scads of proper stretching now. Within a month of seeing the therapist for the first time, I no longer had shin splints.

Have fun at the 5K! You are amazing!

Ooooooh, New Balance is really nice. Speaking as a member of one of the best rated Cross Country teams in the nation (:D), I have noticed that several of the fellas wear New Balance. I myself use a pair of the 480s.

Funny… I’ve never liked New Balance. They don’t seem to come narrow enough for me, anyway. But I’ve had good experience with Reebok…

Anyway. As a track + field runner planning to get into running on his own time, I think you’re doing something really great. As others have mentioned, Francesca, getting started is the hardest part. You’re over the hump, and it just gets more fun. Definitely do the 5k.

Shin splints are definitely avoidable. Just about everyone else has given great advice. On that topic. Concrete is just bad news. If you want an explanation, my understanding is basically that asphalt is a looser solution. It just has more give to it. I happen to like running on it, myself, which is probably because of running track. It’s faster, and easier.

I think technique has been mostly covered, but there are a couple other things to add. In addition to not swinging your arms across your body, stand up straight. Having good posture while running is VERY important. It reduces muscle fatigue and makes breathing much easier, and generally improves your efficiency. This is actually good technique across the board, including sprinting, though running on the balls of your feet obviously gives you a more forward posture. Also, keep those legs moving! I apologize if this is obvious, but let your heels swing back as you finish each stride. It reduces bounciness and makes each stride more effective. Besides, cutting off your strides can turn a ‘run’ into more of a skipping motion, with your feet hitting the pavement at a low angle while moving forward. This is bad news for your knees and toes (ow!).

Sorry for all the obvious advice, but I just love this sport. It can be hard (running on a competive level is the most physically demanding and brutal sport I’ve ever participated in), but it’s fun!

Just an update: I’m still running! The shin splints have stopped and although I’m still not running huge distances or very fast, I feel like I have definitely improved. Next Sunday I am going to try my first 5K course (in Hyde Park in London). I’ll probably still have to walk half of it, but at least I will have done a 5K course :slight_smile: