Monday, September 3, 2012

10 Tips For Running Your First Mile: Getting Started

So you thought my power :: run ratio idea was worth a look and you want to run your first timed mile. How do you get started?

The obvious proviso is that you must be in reasonably good cardiovascular health first to attempt one mile of running. Here's ten tips on first beginning, then getting to the end of the track on your first best mile:

(1) Find a nice oval to train on, you know, a conventional track. Most towns and cities have a track that's pretty fast and comfortable to run on. This way you'll know what a mile feels like to run, because you will be running almost exactly a mile. Many ovals are 400 meters long, and you want to time yourself for four laps, or 1600 meters. This is just 10 yards short of a mile, the U.S. customary measurement.

(2) Start by walking the four laps, just to get a good idea of how long a mile is. In a way, you're training your brain for the distance. Running a mile has a lot to do with what's going on in your brain, including hypoxia, if you don't train properly! Running a fast mile, at least to me, is a bit intimidating, so walking the mile first is an incremental way of preparing yourself for the run. It's implanting a memory ("oh so this is what a mile feels like...").

(3) Now jog 400 meters or one lap of the oval – training for your best mile is going to take several weeks and we have to begin with baby steps. This includes getting fitted to and buying a nice feather-light pair of running sneakers, because you don't want to be plodding along in Army boots. That will slow you down, guaranteed. When jogging 400 meters feels good:

(4) Start sprinting the straight-aways on the oval, and walking or slow jogging the curves. Or the opposite – sprint the curves and walk the straight-aways. This is actually training for running on an oval. When this starts to get easy, which takes a while, start doing this for 800 meters (two laps), and so on. Remember that this is a good interval, or sprint workout in its own right. Each of these short sprints is about 100 meters.

(5) Run the inside lane to minimize the distance, because the more you swing to the outside lanes, the more time you're losing. It's amazing how running the oval efficiently will earn you many seconds. It goes without saying (don't you hate that expression "it goes without saying..." Then why say it?) that you should be well hydrated and reasonably well trained during this mile-training attempt. If you've recently put on 20 pounds, you're not going to run your best mile possible (ever run carrying a 20-lb. backpack while running)?

(6) To mix things up, run on a beach barefoot. Find a flat part at low tide. Stride 200 times and mark the spot. That's roughly 200 meters. Now do a couple of 200-meter sprints (or 100...whatever). You're learning how to run fast; teaching your brain and skeletal muscles how to dig deep for more speed. Running on sand is hard. When you return to the track or oval, it will seem easy and you'll feel like a gazelle.

(7) When you've been doing this for a few weeks, during one of your track workouts, run your fastest 400 and time it, then go home. Don't try to do this twice in a row, not yet. When that feels good, run your fastest 800. Practice running one 400 fairly fast, then a finishing kick for the final 400, in all your glory. This is how you'll finish your mile.

(8) You should be lifting weights twice a week during this whole process; running fast takes strength and muscle power. These are power lifts with your legs (front squats, power squats, leg presses; jumping up on stools). Have at least one rest day between weightlifting and your single or twice-weekly track workout.

(9) Finally, put it all together and run a mile, but do it in a fast, graceful, non-killer way. Fitness For Geeks describes a concept called "body speeds," or mindful running. It's running fast but conceiving of technique and gracefulness all along, not "eyeballs out." Note the time you ran. it will be in the ballpark of your best mile. You should smash this time by going all-out however, by about 40 seconds or more. You're still preparing for running your PR (or personal best) mile on the track. This is another baby step.

(10) Finally, after several weeks, it's time for your mile time trial. Remember to pace the mile – I favor saving a bit of gas for a nice sprint around the final bend and straight-away. Depending on time of year, run in the evening, when it's cooler. A dark track can be like a furnace under the hot sun. Psych yourself up in whatever way you know how. Run to The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." Think of your least favorite manager at work, and how they're probably betting against your ability to run a decent mile. Get mad. Then get someone to time your run beside the track, or use a watch or app. Go for it! The result is a good baseline for your quickest mile.

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