Coach Rio's 6 tips for first-time runners

By Karen Flores,

Posted at Nov 19 2012 03:56 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2012 11:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Here in the Philippines, the name Rio de la Cruz has been synonymous to running, having trained some of the best runners in the country and organized the metro’s biggest races.

De la Cruz started running at age 11, back when outdoor play was the norm. “Pastime namin noong time na ‘yun [ay maglaro sa labas] kasi wala naman kaming computer eh. Na-develop ‘yung running ko because of that,” he told

His first “real” run was in 1997, during the Milo Marathon. Since then, he has taken part in countless events and marathons.

“Ang pinakamalayo ko is 42 kilometers. Meron kasing 50 at 100, ‘yung ultra marathon. Pero hanggang marathon pa lang ako,” he said.

Coach Rio dela Cruz has been running since age 11. File photo

After joining a number of races himself, de la Cruz is more busy encouraging the rest of the population to get fit by organizing running events, with the latest one being the Manila leg of Nike’s “We Run” 10K race set on December 2 at the Mall of Asia Grounds.

The event is expected to attract 395,000 runners from 34 cities around the world.

Last week, de la Cruz helped selected members of the media prepare for this year’s We Run race by teaching them about warm-up and training exercises.

He also shared these six tips for first-time runners:

1. Enjoy the run

The idea of a fun run is to encourage people to get moving, not to finish first or master a certain technique, said de la Cruz, reacting to his observations of some of the participants in the events he has organized.

“’Wag nilang pilitin kasi ‘pag bad ang experience mo ng first run, you wouldn’t want to do it again. The main goal is to enjoy it with other people,” he said.

“Binibigyan lang natin sila ng extrang twist [sa fun run] so they can enjoy running. Because running, by itself, is boring,” he added. “Although marami namang nakaka-appreciate ng running tulad ko, na kahit mag-isa gusto ko.”

2. Don’t push yourself too hard

If this is your first time to join a fun run and you do not exercise regularly, do not go straight to the 10K race as this could spell trouble, according to de la Cruz.

He stressed that joining a 10K run requires weeks of conditioning the body. “Kung one week lang, kung ngayon ka lang magsta-start, meron ka pang muscle pain niyan before the race. So I suggest take it easy na lang. Just jog for 30 minutes, or jog, walk, jog, walk. Warm up before you run or jog and stretch afterwards para mabawasan ‘yung muscle pain,” he explained.

To those who have not trained at all, he said: “’Wag na lang muna. Pwede namang mag-skip muna or mag-3K or 5K. I suggest na they prepare for the 10K para maganda ‘yung experience nila.”

3. Know your running style

De la Cruz noted that there are three types of running styles, depending on which part of your foot lands first on the ground.

The most common is the heel strike, which involves landing on the heel. “Eighty percent of the population ay heel strike, meaning heel ‘yung unang tatama. ‘Yung anatomy kasi ng paa natin ganoon talaga, kaya pati ang shoes mas makapal talaga ‘yung sa may heel kasi ‘pag naglalakad ka, heel talaga ‘yung ginagamit. Kaso ang problem diyan, nagta-take siya ng three to four movements,” he said.

Coach Rio de la Cruz running. File photo

The second one is the midfoot strike. “’Yung midfoot, ‘yung flat part ng paa ‘yung ginagamit agad. This one is better for long distances, para ma-sustain mo.”

Another type is the tip-toes, which involves the use of the forefoot. “Ang tip-toes mas ginagamit ng mga sprinters. Pero ‘pag ito ang ginamit mo sa 21K or 42K, prone siya sa injury.”

While most athletes use the midfoot and the forefoot styles of running, de la Cruz said he would rather let first-time runners use what comes naturally to them.

“’Di ko sinasabi na ito ang tama, depende pa rin kasi sa individual kung ano ‘yung nagwo-work sa kanya. Kasi ‘yung bone structure and muscle structure ng individual, iba-iba eh,” he said.

“Unless gusto niyang mag-Olympics o national team, mas technical doon, ang pino-promote doon ‘yung slightly tip-toe or midfoot strike para mas mabilis ang movement mo.

“Pero kung for healthy lifestyle lang naman, kung saan ka comfortable, at saka as long as ‘di ka mai-injure agad. ‘Pag may nararamdaman ka, ibig sabihin may mali.”

4. Wear the right gear

If you can, wear shoes made specifically for running, said de la Cruz, as these will greatly improve your performance.

“Dapat talaga alam mo ‘yung proper equipment mo, especially the shoes, kasi ‘yan ‘yung nagbibigay ng protection sa paa mo,” he said. “Dapat running shoes kasi ‘pag iba ‘yung ginamit, kunyari pang-tennis, nagwo-work naman siya kaso baka magkaroon ng pain at ‘yung performance niya maapektuhan.”

One of the newest running shoes today is Nike's Lunarglide 4+ Shield, which promises a lightweight, smooth ride. Photo: Handout

De la Cruz also discouraged the use of basketball shoes. “Medyo mabigat siya,” he said.

When buying shoes, you should also consider your foot type – flat (low arch), normal (medium arch) or high arch.

Here’s a simple test: Wet the sole of your foot and step on a blank piece of paper. The shape of your footprint determines your foot type (flat if you see almost your entire footprint, normal if you can see half of your arch, and high if you see just the heel and ball of your foot).

“May mga shoes na built in for normal, flat and high arch. Kung wala ka talagang makita or gusto mo ‘yung design ng sapatos, pwede kang magpa-customize kaso medyo magastos,” de la Cruz said.

5. Conserve your energy

Do not make unnecessary movements while running so you can stay in the race longer, said de la Cruz, referring to participants who look too “stiff” or “tense.”

He said one of the most common mistakes done by first-timers is running with tight, clenched fists. “Ang fist dapat relaxed lang, kasi ‘pag closed siya, nagco-contract ‘yung muscle eh ibig sabihin nasasayang ‘yung effort mo just to contract that muscle. Eh hindi naman ‘yun kailangan sa running.”

“Ang shoulders ng iba karamihan din tense, dapat relaxed lang,” he added.

Thousands braved the heavy rains for the "Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig" fun run held last September. Photo by Clark Vinoya

Other unnecessary movements include swinging the arms across the front of the ribs. “'Pag nag-swing, dapat hindi dadaan sa midline kasi energy din siya, sayang ‘yung movement. ‘Pag forward mas better kasi ‘yun ‘yung direction na gusto mo talagang puntahan,” he explained.

As for breathing, de la Cruz gave this quick tip: “For beginners, pwede nilang isabay ‘yung exhale nila sa right leg habang nagru-run. Mas deep ‘yung pag-inhale at pag-exhale, mas better ‘yung heart mo na mag-pump ng blood at ‘yung lungs mo, mas nakakakuha ng oxygen at mas nalalabas ‘yung carbon dioxide sa body mo.”

6. Cool down and hydrate

Recovery is one of the most important – yet most neglected – part of running, according to de la Cruz.

He stressed that the body should be allowed to cool down after a run by doing some quick stretches.

“Karamihan kasi, especially kapag sa running, medyo na-adik na, ayaw nang magpahinga,” he said. “Kailangan ng body ng rest.”

Hydration, de la Cruz said, is just as crucial. “Lalo na sa Pilipinas, sobrang init ngayon,” he noted. “If you’re running for more than one hour, inom ka ng sports drink. But kung 30 minutes lang, okay lang na water. Pero kailangan mong mag-replenish every time you run or engage in exercise kasi nagswe-sweat tayo, kailangan nating ibalik ‘yung fluids na nawawala sa body natin.”

As for eating before a run, de la Cruz suggested: “Minimum two hours before. You can do it one hour before, pero light lang.

“Sabi nila ‘pag kumain ka raw magkakaron ka ng appendicitis, hindi naman ‘yun ‘yung explanation doon. Ang explanation doon, kapag less than two hours ka or kumain at nag-exercise ka, yung katawan mo nagfo-focus na stomach mo to digest ‘yung food na kinain mo. Sayang lang kasi instead na mag-focus lang siya sa lower extremities, nasasama pa ‘yung stomach mo to digest ‘yung food na kinain mo.”

He also discouraged running on an empty stomach.