Conquering Cardio: Tips for New Runners

As I’ve mentioned before. I’m trying to ease myself into a more active lifestyle and part of it is doing a lot of cardio. The first thing you learn when you walk into a gym with your beer belly slung over your tight gym shorts like a waggling tongue is that you need to lose weight first before you try and gain a lot of muscle.

Fat goes over your muscles. So if you do a shitload of sit-ups before you lose that beer belly, the muscle underneath the fat is gonna grow but the fat isn’t gonna go away and you’ll be left with an even bigger belly.

And that’s where horror stories come from.

This is where running comes in. Or jogging. Or shuffling forward like a drunken zombie with sweat rivers just pouring down your face because you’re a couch potato and the most physically-demanding thing you’ve ever done was reach for the remote. Anything that’s even close to running, really, because the whole point is to get your heart rate up by moving your legs and if Fat Amy’s horizontal running can do that for you then that’s awesome.

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So if you’re thinking of taking up running or jogging, then read up, because you can’t just get up off that couch and start running straight through your door and into the world beyond (but if you do, give me a ring because I’d love to see you writhing in pain by the sidewalk).

Get Yourself Decent Running Shoes

Every runner you ask will tell you this, so you better listen.

When I started running, I was unemployed and broke as hell so I thought my old sneakers would be fine. Boy, I have never been so wrong. After five minutes of my feet hitting concrete with only an embarrassingly thin layer of rubber between them, my legs were on fire. And not on fire good, but on fire bad, as in blinding pain.

I learned later that running shoes are called running shoes because *lightbulb!* they’re designed for running. These shoes let your stinky and sweaty feet breathe while you’re running. These shoes make sure your feet don’t slip and slide while running so you don’t get blisters. These shoes make you feel like you’re running on clouds instead of unforgiving concrete. These shoes are your bestfriends, and you should love them as much as they love you.

Take my advice. Go to a specialty running store (not the shoes part of the department store, please). I think RUNNR even has that test thingy that will tell you what kind of shoes are for you depending on how high your arch is or which part of your foot strikes first while running, which is awesome.

Plan Your Route

I don’t care if you think running on a treadmill is better. It’s not. Sure, there’s less wind resistance and less impact on your legs but it’s boring. I mean seriously, even with awesome music, running on a treadmill is just annoying.

So let’s assume you’re gonna be running outside. Therefore, you need a route because you can’t just keep running around like a lost dog.

If this is your first time, then you should pick a route that you know. If I were you, you should think of a route where there are other runners, but not too many cars. This will help with the safety issue, especially if you’re running at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Or you can pick a famous route like along Roxas Boulevard and its famous sunrise/sunset, or around Bonifacio Global City.

Once you have a route in mind, you need to go online and map that route. This is optional, but helpful. There’s a shitload of running sites and you can pick one that you like. Personally, I use MapMyRun. Not only does it have all the side roads and backalleys of Manila on its maps, it also shows you distance (using the metric system, fyeah!), inclination, traffic, and everything else you need to get started.

Another thing: create multiple jogging routes. The biggest problem of every runner is boredom, especially if you’re thinking of running for more than half an hour. So if you keep using the same route every day, it’s gonna get bad real fast. When you’re bored, you start noticing all the little things like the pain in your legs, or the stitch in your side, or why your destination isn’t getting any closer. And thus begins the downward spiral that leads to quitting.

So what I did was to create several routes and to alternate between them so I don’t get bored.

And do the Roxas Boulevard run. I promise you, it’s awesome.

Always Carry Identification

Most runners think that the less you carry on you, the better your run will be. This is mostly true, which is why I have an armband with only my phone, keys, and some money in it. But there’s one thing you should always have on you: identification.

And I don’t mean a little note on your phone that says ‘In Case of Emergency: Call My Mommy’.

There might come a time in your running future when you get injured during a run or get sick, or get run over by a drunk driver. If you get incapacitated enough that you can’t tell EMTs who you are and who your emergency contact is, and you’re not carrying any identification, you’re gonna be in big trouble. So carry an ID. Always.

It doesn’t even have to be an actual ID. It might be your Justice League membership card or the Junior Fireman ID you got when your class visited the local fire department that one summer. What I did was take one of my business cards and wrote my emergency contact details on the back and stuck it into my armband. Problem solved.

Or, you know, you can get a tattoo on your forehead with your mom’s name and contact number on it.

The Deal With Water

You always see pictures of joggers drinking water like it’s the easiest thing in the world. It’s only when you start running that you realize it’s all a lie! 

Water to runners is like quantum physics to a ten-year old. The mechanics involved are just seriously complicated and the smallest mistake can leave you puking by the side of the road while that hottie jogger you had your eye on runs away in disgust.

Let me give you an example.

Water is important in any fitness activity. That is common knowledge. Water replenishes the fluid you sweat out, it keeps you hydrated. But when should you drink water? If you drink water right before you run, you puke. If you drink water like an hour before you run, you get thirsty during your run. Or worse, you get the urge to pee. And there are no bathrooms on jogging trails.

Also, you need water while running, especially if you’re a distance runner. But if you drink too much, you puke. If you gulp instead of sipping, you puke. If you drink immediately after you stop running, you puke. If you run immediately after drinking water, you puke.

See what I mean?

The best way to deal with this is to listen to your body. Your body’s a noisy, nagging bitch and you should stop being a real dude about it and listen. It will tell you when you should drink and how much. It will tell you when it’s safe to start running again, and when you should stop or you’ll spew out fluid like a busted fire hydrant. Listen. Listen. 

Walk Before You Run

This reminds me of a great quote from the greatest TV show of all time, Firefly. 

“If you can’t run, you walk. If you can’t walk, you crawl. If you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.”

It doesn’t have any bearing on what I’m trying to say but it’s a great quote nonetheless. And if you don’t know what Firefly is, I feel sorry for you for missing the best thing to ever happen to TV since Joss Whedon.

Going back to running, there’s debate on whether or not you actually need to stretch before a run. This article even says that the ‘reasons behind stretching are mythical’. Whether you believe that or not is up to you, but most people do agree that even if you don’t stretch, you should do a pre-run walk.

The pre-run walk is not really to stretch your legs, but to wake them up and tell them that a lot of pain is coming their way. Walking before running will reduce the shock that comes when you do start running, and therefore lessens the possibility of injury. Also, there’s less tightness after a run if you do the pre-run walk.

So if you don’t want to waddle like a drunken duck after your run, walk first. For five minutes. At least five minutes.

Or go straight to running. Whatever. It’s not like you even listen.

Don’t Give Up

There’s this thing that distance runners call ‘hitting the wall‘. It could be your fifth mile or your twenty-fifth mile. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to feel pain everywhere. You won’t be able to breathe, your legs won’t listen to you, and your head will be swimming with nausea. Every fiber in your body will tell you to just collapse, to give up.

Don’t.

For a new runner, that’s called The Beginner’s Hump. Not so dramatic as hitting the wall, but essentially the same thing. This can come any time in your first month of running, especially in the first two weeks. This is because, like most physical activities, you go on a dip first before you start to rise. Things get worse before they get better.

When you start doing strength exercises in the gym, you get really sore and really bummed out first before you start looking like The Terminator. The same thing happens when you start running. For the first two weeks, everything will hurt. Your legs will scream in pain with every step. Your sides will feel like they’re getting stabbed with a hot knife. Your body will beg you to give up.

Don’t.

When you’re at that point, it means that you’re almost over the hump. You’re almost done. And when you do get past it, you get awarded with the Runner’s High. This is the feeling of euphoria that comes with every run. Sure, the pain doesn’t quite go away, but it is overshadowed by the fact that you survived. Who else do you know can brag about that?

And when things do get too bad, think about this, the best inspirational quote I’ve seen in years:

“Sometimes I felt like giving up, but then I remember I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.”

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See you on the road, people. And don’t forget to say hi.

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One thought on “Conquering Cardio: Tips for New Runners

  1. Pingback: Cardio Tips « EscapeThatFat.com

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