Running

Fourth-year Homer-Center track and cross country coach Brandon Payne can’t seem to stand still for very long.

The 34-year-old is, pardon the pun, always on the run. Whether it’s training for marathons or half marathons, running with his student-athletes or just running for kicks, Payne is not one to stay in one place for very long.

There is, however, one place you can find him in a stationary position. Head out to the South Hills Village Hall in Pittsburgh and locate the DICK’S Sporting Goods store, where there’s a huge poster of him running in a half marathon. Unfortunately, it’s not for sale. But Payne is ready to sell anyone who is interested on the benefits of running.

First steps

Nearly 20 years ago, Payne was a manager on his high school cross country team. A year ago, he completed the Pittsburgh Marathon.

“I spent every Sunday running farther and farther, hour after hour,” he says. “I told myself that I’m not getting any younger and need to just do it.”

Payne enjoys running no matter the weather, but within reason.

“I love running because of its seemingly simple benefits,” he says. “Fresh air. Scenery. The challenge and fulfillment of finishing. Winter can be more difficult and hard to push yourself outside, but it’s only cold if you’re standing still. I’ve met my best friends through the mutual enjoyment of running.”

For those who are just thinking of getting started in serious running, Payne has some sound advice.

“If you are looking to run a 5K, I’d start by planning to just move for 30 minutes,” he says. “Start slow, if you have to stop and walk, that’s fine, but keep moving. A common problem is people run too much when they first start. Too many miles too early can cause problems like plantar fasciitis, as well as other common running injuries.

“As the days and weeks progress, try to get yourself to the point of being able to run for a full 30 minutes. With this base you can start focusing on improving your speed by including faster interval work a few times a week. The most important thing is to track what you are doing and keep a log of miles, time, where you ran, weather conditions, and even if you ran with someone. I find that keeping a log keeps you accountable and is a visual reinforcer.”

Top tips

There are some hardcore runners who can brag they run every day no matter the weather. On occasion, people shivering in their cars on a freezing day see people running in their shorts.

“I wouldn’t recommend heading out the door in your new short shorts and tank top on a below freezing day,” Payne says. “Mainly, you want to keep your muscles warm especially during the beginning of your run or warm up. So, in very cold temperatures, I’d say make sure you have pants, and a few top layers — long sleeve shirt and a jacket. Also, gloves and some type of hat are my go-tos. Once you get moving for a while you get warmer than you were at the beginning and begin shedding layers. It’s also very important that you put warm, dry layers on after you run if you plan to continue to be outside in the cold.”

Payne is passionate about running, but he advises against running on certain days.

“When there are icy conditions that could result in an injury, I don’t attempt it,” he says. “You put so much time into training that throwing it all away because of a slip on the ice is just a bad idea. These days are great treadmill or home workout days. On the flip side, when temperatures and humidity are up it can be smart to stay inside. If you have to run, find a shady route and bring plenty of water.”

Many benefits

Payne, who is in a band, Slant 6 (which he says is currently on hiatus) and has a dog named Hendrix, is also passionate about music. It plays a part in his running practice.

“When I was training for the marathon and going on two-plus hour training runs, I needed music,” he says. “I mostly listened to jam band music with long overextended guitar solos. It was something I could just zone out to and keep my legs moving. I learned that listening to fast music messes my pacing and can get me running too fast to start, which is a big mistake.”

Payne gets to the heart of the matter when talking about the health benefits of running.

“The main health benefit is improving cardiovascular fitness,” he says. “Running gets your heart beating and blood pumping — and that’s a good thing. If you run regularly, you can lower your resting heart rate and actually help blood flow stronger with each heartbeat. It also helps with maintaining a healthy weight."

Running burns plenty of calories and also strengthens your muscles. One health benefit that can be often overlooked is that of mental health. Running can provide time to think with no distractions of that episode on Netflix everyone is talking about and your phone beeping all the time.

"It’s just you and your surroundings," Payne says. "Oddly enough, it can be a very mentally calming experience.

"Another way it helps with mental health is companionship. There are plenty of runners in the area as well as running clubs. It’s not difficult to meet new like-minded people who enjoy laughs during and/or after your runs.”