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this article originally appeared on Jet Sweat Fitness's blog:

While gyms in NYC remain closed due to COVID-19, more and more people have turned to running as a way to get their heart rate up and stay in shape. While starting a running routine can be challenging, running does have some upsides: it’s free, requires no major equipment, and can be done just about anywhere. Running is also a huge part of Muay Thai conditioning. In fight camp, trainers recommend that you run 3-5 miles at least 3 times a week. 

So… how am I supposed to get to fight camp running level if I can barely imagine running 1 mile once a week? Where should I even begin? We consulted with fitness experts and running enthusiasts to break down the dos and don'ts for starting a new running routine. The first step to setting yourself up for a successful running routine begins with gear. 

Solid running shoes that fit properly are absolutely foundational. Even though you might not be able to physically visit a running store right now because of the shut down, be sure to spend time thinking what is most comfortable to you before ordering. Do you need more or less cushioning? Is your foot wider or narrower? Do you need a neutral or stability shoe? Then, spend some time researching what sneaker would be the best fit for you. Pro tip: The extra holes you’ll find in running shoes can be used to tighten up the laces. You can tie the shoes without them, but the tighter your running shoes fit, the less of a chance you’ll end up with blisters.

Next, you’ll want to consider investing in a few pairs of lightweight, moisture-wicking socks. These socks keep your feet dry and prevent moisture from building up that may cause blisters, chafing, and hot spots. A good pair of running socks protects your feet and makes the long miles ahead feel better. Ladies, you should also be sure to wear a high-impact designed sports bra made for your cup size, which will keep you comfortable and supported.  After you’ve secured the proper gear, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running, literally. Be sure to pay attention to form early on and develop safe and sustainable habits. In terms of form, you should stand tall, chest proud and spine straight, keeping your gaze about 5-10 feet in front of you. As you start moving, try to maintain a relaxed breathing pattern. Just like in Muay Thai striking, breathe in through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Your shoulders should stay relaxed (no Muay Thai hunch here). Keep a 90 degree bend in your arms and lightly cup your hands. Just like with shadow boxing, you want to avoid clenching your hands. Instead of bending at your hips, lean forward at your ankles, imagining a 10 degree bend, to create the proper posture. 

Lastly, pay attention to your stride. Focus on directing force into the ground and behind you once your foot lands, rather than bouncing or leaping forward. This will help you find a stride that’s not overly short or too long. According to an article in Health Magazine, written by Ashley Mateo, many runners tend to overstride. The article explains, “When you're overstriding, that leads to a more vertical displacement (aka bouncing) and that's going to promote more contact time with your foot on the ground, which is going to cause your muscles to have to work harder."

If you want to listen to music, consider what type of tracks will keep you motivated. Running enthusiast, Mai Arwas, shares, “My biggest advice to you is to have a good playlist, one that inspires you. Plan the songs out so you start at a nice speed to warm up and then it picks up, then maybe slows down a little then picks back up. Play around with it.”

According to Costas Karageorghis, author of Inside Sport Psychology, running with music can enhance running performance on multiple levels including reducing your perception of exertion and enhancing mood, thus supporting a positive mindset, which is key in all forms of physical exercise. Women’s Running reports that for low-to-moderate intensity running 120-130 bpm (beats per minute) is ideal, and that 130-140 bpm works best for moderate-to-high intensity runs. 

Running experts and enthusiasts recommend that even if you’re not training for a race, pretend you are. It’s important to make a plan and stick with it. At first, try not to focus on how long it takes you to hit your goal, just think about completing it. Mai Arwas suggests setting manageable goals to look forward to and slowly building from there. For beginners, she recommends a three week training schedule to gradually get you moving:

After completing this training, you can start to play around with distance. Arwas reminds us that, “Every day will feel different, don’t compare yesterday to today. Listen to your body and honor and respect it and the journey it’s going on.” Hit House Instructor Kristen Kendrick shares similar advice about the importance of taking running one day at a time. She says, “Find the joy in running, by finding a time of day that feels good to your body and your mind, and be gentle with yourself as you ease into the practice.”

As you navigate what type of running routine works best for your body, be sure not to negate rest days. Rest is essential to avoid injury and avoid burnout. According to Flex Physical Therapy Founder Dr. Joel Giffin, PT, DPT, CHT, the majority of running injuries impact the knee joint. Some of the most common running injuries include IT (iliotibial band) syndrome, PFPS (patellofemoral pain syndrome) also known as runner's knee, and shin splints.  Dr. Giffin emphasizes the importance of cross and strength training exercises to prevent running injuries. He states, “I often tell runners to actually decrease the amount of time they are running and do the proper strengthening and cross training. This will improve their times and allow them to then increase their running even more. Stretching is also important but the need for stretching decreases as muscles work better, more efficiently, and functionally.” Incorporating strength training and cross training into your running routine not only decrease the risk of immediate running injuries but also help to prevent more long term issues, like arthritis. 

See you on the track… or the treadmill! ——— Emma Boelter graduated from Tulane University with a BA in English in 2017 and is currently pursuing her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Although she has writing experience in many different areas, right now she is focusing on providing clients with high-quality digital material. She currently lives in New Orleans, LA. 

Dana VanPamelen is the co-owner of Hit House, a Muay Thai Kickboxing studio in NYC. She has a Masters degree in Marketing from Hofstra University, loves kickboxing and is trying to like running.  — — — Footnotes: Flex Physical Therapy Founder Dr. Joel Giffin, Doctor of Physical Therapy & Certified Hand Therapist)


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