I am a certified ChiRunning Instructor and highly recommend looking into this. Visit www.ChiRunning.com for more information. It’s changed my life! I love running!
As USA Track and Field Level 3 Endurance Coach(there are less two dozen in the entire country) and a USATF Level 1 School Instructor who has studied distance running for over 28 years I would say the answer is very simple. Running is a neuromuscular skill like swimming, serving a tennis ball, hitting a golf ball, throwing a ball, or high jumping, etc. While I certainly agree you should have good one leg strength and best be able to walk for a fairly long distance. As I have taught every athlete I have trained you must always work on your endurance, speed, strength. coordiation, and flexibility at all times. Starting out as a new runner you must start with drill work to teach your body the correct way to run and to run for very short distances working on correct form and stopping when you start losing your form, recover and run again. Soon you will be able to run well for a fairly long distance. I am sure many are thinking it just running I am pretty good and it came to me by just running. Then think about this after the disaster that was Sydney in 2000 for American distance runners, USATF High Performance which had been video taping athletes in every event area except the distance events since 1983, decide to video tape our best male distance runners at the 2003 USATF National Outdoor Track and Field Championships. They record the finals of all events 800m to 10,000m(10K). 60 athletes in total were rated on their biomechanics as poor, fair, average, good, or excellent. 36 were poor, 21 fair, and 3 were average. After this America’s top coaches as well as USATF High Performance focus on two things, improving running form and developing the ability to sprint. The ability to sprint is the foundation to good running form since the transition from distance running to sprinting should be smooth and effortless.
I started running (seriously) nine years ago. In every thing I have done and all the lessons I’ve learned, my first suggestion to you is invest in a quality pair of shoes!! The best move you can make is to find a running store to assist you in the purchase of the right shoes for your goals, your feet and your body type. Finish Line, Foot Locker, and the “chain” stores are NOT your best bet. Find a store that is dedicated to running (maybe tri’s) and have them analyze your gait and your feet. Then, hit the road. Soft surface, like a bike path (shale or dirt) or a cross country path will be easier on your joints, but the streets are okay. Please, please, PLEASE do not run on sidewalks. Concrete is NOT your friend and will ultimately cause joint damage. (But please do not put your life in jeopardy…always run safely!) If you’ve never run before, I’d recommend starting with a brisk walk. Gradually build in running. Perhaps 30 seconds to one minute for every 5 minutes of walking. As you improve and feel stronger, begin to switch the time intervals. Soon you’ll run five minutes and walk one minute.
As a runner with a pre-existing knee problem (before I ran) I STRONGLY encourage strength training to keep the muscles of the legs/knees strong. I have developed arthritis in my knee and although running does not cause problems with it, without strength training, it can become aggravated. Squats, lunges, leg extensions and curls, ad/abduction and all kinds of fun leg exercises are GREAT!!
Good luck and enjoy!!
First… I would find a trainer in your area who has a successful running back round. You want a basic alignment, foot, and running technique assessment and education. This may take 2 or 3 sessions. Money well spent. Then start slow! Biggest mistake is over doing it. You need to toughen up. This takes time and a plan. Baby steps. Try to learn several different styles of walking/jogging/running. Fitness walking, race walking, wogging (walking jog), speed and stride variations when you walk or run. This is fun and allows the body to toughen. Now you are ready for anything. Start to increase time and/or distance very slowly. Follow your bodies cues. It is not OK to be super sore after your workouts. Slow down and be patient. This is very doable if your attitude is appropriate. Take the turtle approach and you will be rewarded with a great new skill and a wonderful healthy habit. Happy running!
I actually think the best way to become a runner is to look at your squat and single leg squat to identify potential muscle weakness. If you cannot control your knee motion during these two movements, you will not be able to control your knee movement during the running cycle. If this is the case, I would strongly recommend an 8 week hip strengthening program before you lace up your sneakers and hit the trails. If you don’t have any hip weakness, start slowly, and increase your total time running slowly. I always recommend starting with 1 minute on, 2 minutes off, repeat that 10 times with a five minute warm up and cool down on either side of that. The other thing to be aware of is researchers have shown runners who strike with their heel way out in front of their center of mass have a much higher risk of injury than runners who land with their foot directly under or just slightly in front of their center of mass. Sorry for the long, opinionated response; I am in graduate school right now and the bulk of my research papers have been on running. As a result, I have developed some strong opinions about injury prevention. Good luck!