Back to school also means the start of cross-country running season for middle school, high school, and college runners. Although some cross country runners have been running for years, you may be one of those runners who joined the team for the first time. If you're feeling a little nervous about getting started, here are some tips for beginner runners (whether you're on a team or not):
- Get the right running shoes. Wearing the right running shoes is the key to comfort and injury prevention. Visit a running specialty store to get fitted for the right running shoes for your foot type and running style. Also, make sure you don't run in worn-out running shoes - they should be replaced every 300-400 miles.
- Don't eat right before you start running. But do make sure you eat something light, like a granola bar or apple slices with peanut butter, about 90 minutes to two hours before practice starts. This will make sure you have enough fuel to get you through your workout.
- Don't stretch before your run. It's a bad idea to stretch cold muscles. If your muscles aren't loosened up before you stretch, you're more at risk for pulling them. Do a short warm-up before you stretch, or wait until after you're done running to stretch.
- Breathe through your mouth. Your muscles need oxygen to keep moving and your nose simply can't deliver enough. Make sure you're breathing more from your diaphragm, or belly, not from your chest -- that's too shallow. Deep belly breathing allows you to take in more air, which can also help prevent side stitches.
- Be patient. Your first couple of weeks of practice may be difficult and you may feel like everyone else is a better runner than you. Try not to compare yourself to other runners. Instead, track your own progress and see how you get stronger as you continue training.
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