In some ways, running is ridiculously simple. Most of us were running around our parents’ homes before we were even forming lasting memories. In gym class, we learned that unlike baseball or hockey, we needed only a decent pair of shoes to go jogging. (And humans were running long before the advent of sneakers!)
Yet running for fitness can suddenly seem complicated once we commit to it as part of our fitness regimen. How often should we run—and for how far? How can I optimize the experience so it’s something I enjoy and keep coming back to? Those are just a few of the questions that can leave a runner-to-be feeling lost before she’s even hit the trail.
Fortunately, there are not-too-daunting answers to those questions. Running Guru and trainer to Alicia Keys, Pink, Tia Mowry, and Amber Rose is passionate about making running more accessible for people of all stages of fitness. While it’s true that running for fitness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (and should be avoided if you’ve been told to skip high-impact movements), if you’ve got the itch to jog and enjoy that runner’s high, Jeanette Jenkins has some tips for you!
Haven’t been running in years? No matter what your fitness level, start running at least three times a week—even if your “runs” are walks.
“I still recommend scheduling three ‘runs’ in a week.” Jeanette Jenkins told People .“For the first one, walk. Then do one minute of running and one minute of walking, and every week, increase the distance of the running portion. So the next week go up to two minutes, and the next go up to three minutes, and the next four — with still only the one-minute recovery.
As you increase your time spent in bursts of running, you’ll eventually reach a magic threshold.
“Usually when I get a client to the point of running for 15 minutes, they can usually jog the whole way. Fifteen minutes is the threshold.”
Want to optimize your running and protect your joints in the process? Cross-training is a must.
“Do one day of strength-training for your joints, at least one day of yoga or Pilates, and one day of another form of mixed cardio, like kickboxing or boot camp. The other form of cardio is important to move the joints in a different direction, because when you’re running, you’re just doing that forward motion. Doing one other cardio exercise that incorporates lateral movement will prevent the joints from becoming overused.” Try these fun cardio dance moves to vary your routine.
Don’t forget to stretch your hips—runner are notorious for developing high hips!
“The most important stretch that most runners miss is the hip flexor stretch. Hip flexors gets extremely tight from running and can cause lower back pain.” Jenkins recommends pigeon poses and cross-legged stretches. See our stretches for runners for inspiration.
Avoid a large meal before you hit the trail.
“The bloodstream is being used in your extremities, so it can’t be used to digest your food. Wait at least an hour after eating before you go for a run. If you run in the morning, I suggest just having a cup of tea or a coffee. If you need to have something, just have a piece of fruit or juice that will get sugar into the bloodstream, especially if you’re anemic or diabetic.” (Half a banana gives you sugar without overloading your digestive system.)
Although you don’t need a fitbit to be a successful runner, you may feel inspired when you can track how far you’ve gone.
“There are days when I wouldn’t be able to keep going if I didn’t know how far I had run. It’s encouraging and also gives you your pace. It’s immediate gratification.”
Have you tried any of these running tips from Jeanette Jenkins?
Related: How I Got Over My Fear of Long Distance Running
8 Reasons You Should Be Running Outside
How to Get Excited About Running
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Photo: Jeanette Jenkins via Instagram