GREAT BARRINGTON — Lacing up the sneakers and taking off for a leisurely jog, even experienced joggers can get off to the wrong foot with improper form.
“Running is the most natural sport known to man — that's what we are designed to do,” said Rebecca Hunter, fitness director at Bard College at Simon's Rock. “At the same time, there are variables and things to think about before you take off.”
With fall around the corner, a season perfect for jogging, Bard College has begun a series of monthly workshops that will run through December. The next class, on Oct. 9, will cover strength training for runners. Future sessions will cover the creation of an injury-prevention plan, and a workshop on running during the winter.
One of the beneficiaries of Hunter's running advice is Krisztina Koval, who moved from Hungary to Great Barrington a year ago.
Koval attended a jogging class a year ago, and she has since joined a South County runners group called Fast Feet — created by Hunter in 2011 — to socialize with others. She's continued jogging about two to three times a week since then.
Koval credits the group with improving her form, honing her breathing pattern, and also mentally helping her feel comfortable running at her own pace.
In the past, she would want to run harder in a race whenever she saw others passing her by. Now she's become more comfortable at her own pace. She's completed a 5k Run for the Hills Race and intends to run in a 10k sometime in the future.
“ The best part, other than the improved physique, is the Berkshires are so beautiful, and I can actually explore the Berkshires in a different way other than driving by with my car,” Koval said.
Jogging is a simple and fun way to work in some exercise, Hunter said. But she also adds that there are important pointers people should keep in mind.
Ideally, runners should be as “upright as possible,” with their shoulders back and chest up, with their pelvis in a neutral position.
“Part of the reason you want to be upright as you can is to get as much oxygen as possible,” Hunters said.
There is no such thing as a proper gait or stride, but runners should avoid striking the forefront of the foot, or the heel.
“You'll be more successful keeping light on the ground and not pounding the ground or shuffling,” she adds.
Once the body is properly positioned, joggers shouldn't overstress distance in compensation for form. The best way to approach running is to jog a few laps and then walk to catch your breath. Then gradually build up endurance.
Recalling her transition from a novice runner in her early 20s to a veteran jogger who has now completed six marathons, Hunter, 34, said she began running two miles and then walked the third lap. Then she built up her endurance.
Anyone interested in enhancing their running ability should focus on strengthening their core, she said, because the core keeps them standing.
Runners can also improve performance by strengthening their hips, calves, knees and ankles.
“It really is important to strength train to avoid the common injuries with running,” Hunter said.
Anyone interested in participating in a marathon, Hunter said, should start training 15 to 20 weeks in advance. Instead of training for the full 26.2 mile marathon, Hunter said many runners aim for 22 miles, and that regimen leaves them in good shape for the full run.
“You really have to be mentally prepared to run that long and stay focused,” she said.
If you go ...
What: Running workshops Where: Bard College at Simon's Rock, Kilpatrick Fitness Center, 84 Alford Road, Great Barrington
Oct. 9: Strength training for runners
Nov. 12: Creating an injury-prevention plan
Dec. 11: Winter running: How to brave the elements
Admission: Bard College gym members are welcome free; members of the public pay $5
Information: To learn more about jogging or to join the South County running group Fast Feet, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (413) 528-7774.
To reach John Sakata: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6240. On Twitter: @jsakata