Running. You either love it, hate it or hate to love it. We’ve gotten lots of questions on how to train for a race, what to eat to fuel your run, how to run properly and more. Instead of trying to answer that ourselves, we’re looking to the expert, Zachary Morton, owner of Higher Ground Running in Oklahoma City. Well, let’s hop right to it.

man running outside

SH: Is it possible to actually enjoy running? If so, how do we get there?

ZM: We get this question a lot.  “I’m not a runner but I want to be” or “I’m scared because I have never run and don’t know where to start.”  The answer is quite simple.  JUST BEGIN. Get off your office chair or couch,  lace up those shoes and get out your door. Stop making excuses for why you can’t and start making answers as to why you can.  This is an exercise and mindset that is 100% life changing. By using this simple motion of one foot in front of the other, you will see positive results faster than any other activity available. I will quote a dear friend, “That which comes easy does not last, and that which lasts does not come easy” You don’t have to go out and run 5 miles everyday to be considered a runner.  There is no magical time or distance that separates.  Take 10 minutes out of your day and walk/jog/run down the road and guess what…you’re a member of the club.

SH: Ok, so now that we’re a member of the runners club, what 3 things should we keep in mind as we’re running?

ZM: A lot of peers or coaches would answer this question with recommendations in body position, foot placement, arm swing or other tips in running efficiently.  As I run, I prefer to think of the reasons behind why I am out there as opposed to “are my hands relaxed enough?”

  1. This is something you are doing for yourself. Regardless of what the day has given you or the plethora of items you need to accomplish before your head hits the pillow, you will always feel better after the run.
  2. The run is always about gaining long term fitness and not immediate results.  You cannot achieve everything in one run. Attempt to quiet your mind and let this process set its own timeframe.   It’s fantastic for perspective.  See the bigger picture.
  3. Until this run is over, nothing can touch you.  You only have to live in this one moment. Family, work, friendships, planning, bills, whatever troubles you…it can all wait.  You have complete control over the coming seconds, minutes, or hours, on the run.

SH: Let’s say someone has never been a runner. What distances should they start with?

ZM: START SLOW. Don’t overdo that New Year’s Resolution. You don’t want to head to that specialty running store, purchase $400 worth of apparel, crush the week of January 1st – 7th and then be sore, tired and unmotivated come January 8th. You don’t want to lose that momentum. START SLOW.  Don’t set goals or aspirations beyond what you can handle at the moment. It’s a recipe for disaster. Always try your best to leave something on the table to come back and grab the next day. Start with a jog/walk every other day and build upon it. The following week jog more than you walked. The next week try to jog the entire time.  Before you know it you’re 5-10 pounds leaner and staring that 5k in the face with a goal of completing regardless of adversity. After all, a great accomplishment is just showing up. GET OUT THE DOOR AND GO.  YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED.

People running on treadmills at Higher Ground Running

SH: So how do we avoid knee injuries (and other common injuries)?

ZM: This falls inline slightly with the previous question, don’t do too much too soon.  Start with long term, gradual and logical improvements that span weeks or months and not hours or days.  If you fall into the category of not exercising much (don’t worry, you are not alone) then start by just walking 20-30 minutes each day and build upon that.  Properly fitted footwear can also assist in alleviating this issue. Every town/city has a speciality running store that can recommend proper running shoes. For those in the Oklahoma City area I would recommend either OK Runner or Red Coyote. Both establishments have expert staff that will fit you for proper footwear. If you already have knee issues build a time into your weekly routine for some form of cross training and stretching, but unless your doctor specifically recommends you stop running, DON’T!

SH: What’s the best way to warm up and cool down?

ZM: For a warm-up do a little bit of light jogging or strides followed by several dynamic stretches that target the lower back, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.  For post run cool down and stretching, I suggest following runs with some strides and static stretching targeting the same muscle groups as your warm up. Proper diet and hydration will also help with this process.

SH: Is it true that running outside is bad for your joints?

ZM: Well….its better than sitting on the couch.  Take a moment and consider your alternative. Did you take your moment?  Good, when you finish reading this, go for a run. With that said, running on a dirt trail/path, on grass, a track or a treadmill is easily on your joints then running on concrete or asphalt. Are you going to seriously injure yourself by running on pavement everyday?  Probably not. But it’s good to have variety in the surfaces you choose to explore.

Two men running on a trail outdoors

SH: Now that we’ve gotten the hang of jog/running 2-3 miles a few times per week, how do we work up to a 5k, half or even full marathon?

ZM: Make it part of your daily habit or social scene. Begin to incorporate those individuals in your life that already have an active lifestyle and learn tidbits that help them stay motivated.  You will find that a support group, encouragement from friends and/or family members, mentors, etc. will make the experience of running more rewarding. Everyone has those days where they feel great and are super motivated to get out and attack their runs, but have that network in place for the days you feel horrible and need a swift kick in the a**. {oh, we know those days}

SH: Finally– what is the best nutrition for runners (pre, during, post)?

ZM: Everyone is different. We don’t have one runner through our doors that is identical to another. The best recommendation I have is to find what works for you through trial and error. For myself, I don’t eat prior to a run and only eat during a run when i’m going over 2 hours, so leave those gels or sports drinks in the car or house, they are only added weight you will have to carry.  For post runs, I consume either a 8 oz Fairlife chocolate milk and a banana or Endurox, which is basically straight Vitamin E with flavoring.

About Zach: As a 13-year veteran of the Navy and SEAL Chief Petty Officer, he specialized in administrative and logistic concerns for a multitude of personnel under his direction. As a collateral duty he designed physical fitness programs and coached personnel at his various commands. During his time in the teams he attained his master training specialist certification and special operations forces functional trainer certification from Exos. Zachary won the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for the clydesdale division in 2006 and recently completed the San Juan Solistice 50-mile endurance run in Lake City, CO. An Oklahoma native, Zachary graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma State University and is a Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Alumni.

Group class posing at Higher Ground Running

About Higher Ground Running: A marque based treadmill studio that caters to the people of Oklahoma City who want to see a change in themselves through group fitness, personal training, coaching and more.

If you’d like to learn more about Zach and Higher Ground Running, head to

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