You can start running this spring. Here’s how

This is the time of year when people vow to make running part of their regular exercise routine—and then they don’t.  That lack of follow-through may have something to do with how many of us approach running.

Here are some tips to get you running, and keep you going all summer:

Start with run/walks 

Walking during a run is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a significant way to start building overall endurance. More importantly, by breaking up your running with walking you give your body time to recover, which in turn ensures that you maintain proper form and don’t overdo it on your first outing. All too often people sacrifice their form in order to keep running, which can be a formula for injury.

Start with strict intervals. For example, go on a ten-minute run that’s divided into 30 seconds of running followed by 60 seconds of walking.  Even if you feel like you can run for longer, an interval-based approach will keep you in a good place both physically and mentally. You’ll be able to maintain good form and it will feel good.

Stand tall

Human beings are designed to run, especially over long distances. Our body’s systems work incredibly efficiently at keeping us cool, keeping breathing in check, and in making sure we take our next step effortlessly.  Most of us do not run as we’re designed to do, sadly, and that may be due to a lack of basic understanding. There is a ton of information online about the technique of running—here’s an informative article from Runners World to check out—but here are a couple of quick tips:

1. Assume a good comfortable, upright posture. Look forward with your eyes on the horizon and not down at your feet.

2. Keep your elbows flexed and your hands relaxed.

3. Don’t overthink your stride. Aim to move quickly and with short strides.

Pay attention to your body

Muscle soreness is to be expected when you start any new activity. However, if you start experiencing joint pain in your hips, knees, feet or shins that persists or worsens after rest (three days of no running)  make sure to see a doctor.

Interested in running but don’t want to pound the pavement in the urban jungle? Here are some outdoor trail recommendations from Obstacle Course Race athlete and Alchemy’s Learn to Run instructor, Kathryn Burton.

1. Chedoke Radial Trail:  This trail, which works its way up the escarpment to the 403 overpass, can be reached by parking at the base of the Chedoke Stairs (at the top of Dundurn Avenue). The total distance is approximately 10K, but you can easily shorten it by running to the lookout point and back. The views of Hamilton are breathtaking, there’s a good hill, and there are a couple of famous waterfalls along the way.

2.  Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail: With 32K of beautifully maintained trails to choose from there are endless starting points for a good run.  A great starting point is to park at the Fortinos on Main St. and hop on the trail there. This is an easy, flat trail ideal for getting one’s legs back into running shape and it also runs through scenic areas such as the Dundas Valley Conservation Area (see below).

3.  Main Loop Trail—Dundas Valley:  This 3.5K trail is a lovely side trail loop branching off from the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail. The starting point is adjacent to the train station and there’s a water fountain to cool down on hot days.


Duncan McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit.

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