5 tips for beginner runners from a pro trainer

5 tips for beginner runners from a pro trainer
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Note: Our fitness coverage is powered by OrthoCarolina, one of the hosts of 26.Brew. Looking for expert guidance for your Charlotte Marathon training? Get motivation with meet-ups, swag, and great beer along the way. The kick-off event is tomorrow, June 28, at NoDa Brewing. Details

Katie met with Chris Gabriel at D1 Sports Training & Therapy in Matthews to get some back-to-basics tips on training this fall. Here’s what she learned: 

(1) Know your strengths and weaknesses in basic functional movements.

Your ability to complete certain functional movements can be a predictor of future complications or injuries. There’s a full test you can do but two of the strongest indicators that we learned are the overhead squat and the “straight leg stretch.”

As a teacher’s pet, I really wanted to ace this test but I knew I wouldn’t because I can’t squat to save my life.

For the dreaded squat, the challenge is to get your thighs below parallel with feet at hip’s width, heels on the floor, arms overhead and spine straight. Despite being pretty flexible, I definitely lack mobility here. Sigh.

Chris added support under the heel for my round 2 attempt.

Chris added support under the heel for my round 2 attempt.

For the stretch, you lie on your back with one leg straight on the floor and the other lifted as high as your can, ideally perpendicular to the hip. This one I passed. A+. Round of applause.

Katie leg raise

If you have particularly limited mobility in one of these moves, a trainer can create a program to improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of future injury.

(2) Warm up but not with static stretching.

It seems obvious enough but a lot of people (myself included) just walk out the door and start running. It’s important to warm up your body before you really get moving but, contrary to popular belief, static stretching isn’t the best way to do it. Rather than hold a forward fold or quad stretch before you hit the pavement, you’re better off doing a quick series of dynamic movements. This was news to me, honestly.

We did a quick warmup that had me unexpectedly sweaty in no time with about 20 yards each of skips, side shuffles, lunge walks with a rotation, and carioca. Mission accomplished.

(3) Strengthen your glutes.

Turns out runners’ butts are notoriously weak. While running naturally builds up monster quads, our glutes are left woefully neglected so we have to train what our mommas gave us.

Three moves we did (that killed me, by the way) were lateral banded side steps, side plank leg lifts and hip thrusters.

Katie side step

Katie side plank

Katie hips

(4) Use apps to track your cadence.

I’m a very casual runner so it’s all I can do to even pay attention to my total run time let alone mile pace so rest assured I’ve certainly never checked my cadence.

Cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground in a given period of time. Novice runners are usually around 160 strikes per minute while elite runners turn over much faster at 180 strikes per minute. I landed right in the middle at 170 strikes per minute. Not bad, not great.

An easy way to check your cadence (and improve it) is to use a mobile app that functions as a metronome. The goal is to align your cadence with the audio beats. You could also create a running playlist that’s full of songs that are already at a certain BPM. Just Google “170 BPM songs” for recommendations.

Screenshot via Runzi

Screenshot via Runzi

(5) Have a professional assess your stride.

We videotaped me on a treadmill to see my foot placement in slow motion. I’m a certified heel striker, a major faux pas in the running world because it jars the joints and sends unnecessary stress up through the ankle, knee and hip. It’s best to aim for a mid-foot strike and there are moves you can do to help train this into muscle memory.

Katie running ipad


Learn more

Improve your training via the 26.Brew program powered by OrthoCarolina, or find out more about how to get a one-on-one session at D1 in Matthews. Get after it.

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