One of the most common questions I get asked about running is…
“How do I get started”
Followed by either, “I used to run xx years ago…” or “I just really want to get started, but I don’t know what to do…”
First of all…
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a certified personal trainer, I have no EDUCATION IN HEALTH AND FITNESS… other than what I’ve learned on my journey. With that being said, please be gentle with your body and chat with a health professional before you start an exercise regimen.
With that being said, here are some tips that worked for me when I started taking my running more seriously. Usually, I do everything wrong before I do it right. So this is a mixture of tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.
Starting to run can be exciting, it can also be pretty sucky and just plain hard, but stick with it. It’s not something that you can immediately be amazing at right away! (usually) Just like anything, you need practice and your body needs to get used to this new stress you are putting on it. It can and probably will take some time for you to feel good or even comfortable running.
Running hurts sometimes. Bottom line. Pay attention to aches and pains. Listen to what your body says, but keep in mind that it does hurt sometimes. Sometimes you’ll find you need to back off, take some easy days, whatever. Do that, listen to your body!
Learning how to run is like building a house. You have to have a solid foundation first. Jumping too far ahead when the foundation isn’t firm will make your house crumble, so build steadily. Up milage and intensity slowly, Don’t rush.
A lot of people suggest the 10% rule which states that you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of breaking this rule. Some weeks I was lucky, other weeks I was sore or injured. I’ll let you make up your own mind, but it’s a good rule to follow when you’re first starting. So be aware, it’s a thing…
Slow down and chill out. I remember my first few times out, I couldn’t catch my breath, my throat was dry, and I never wanted to run again. Good thing I had friends that I wanted to impress with my running skills. Eventually, I realized that I was running way too fast and my body wasn’t ready for that. I did my best to slow down so that I could actually breathe and enjoy my runs. For some people doing a mixture of running and walking segments are helpful. Maybe start with 1 minute of running, followed by 3 minutes of walking. Repeat. You can gradually decrease your walk time and increase your run time after a few weeks. Before you know it, you’ll be running farther and farther.
Find some running friends, not competitors. Sometimes, running can get boring, old, and tiring. Look for group runs and running friends to meet up with once a week to change things up. It’s nice to have friends that challenge you, but making every group run a race gets exhausting. Run whatever you feel with friends, slow, fast, easy, hard, whatever makes your run time a little less boring.
Find the right footwear is like using the right tools for building your house. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on shoes but once you find the perfect ones you just might! It’s not about the newest trendy innovation in footwear, it’s about what works with your foot, your foot strike, and your terrain.
I started running in a crappy pair of pumas that were two sizes too small. I ended up with an angry IT band and load of blisters. The shoes were not right at all. My second pair of running shoes were close but I was missing something. Turns out I had way too much shoe in the first place. I finally settled on the Saucony Kinvara for roads when Saucony had released the Kinvara 2. I’ve been a loyal “Kinvara girl” since (7 versions later).
When you find a shoe you love and you’ll know, and sometimes it takes time and a little bit of extra money. I definitely suggest getting fitted for running shoes at a running store that does a gait analysis. The shoe that works for one person may not be your shoe, that’s ok. Keep looking… you’ll find something. Just make sure you know that footwear is a big part of it. Your feet are your foundation, your connection to the world. Take care of them!
Think of running as an investment. You’re investing in yourself, your mental health and your physical health. This is your time to get that body moving, warm, and happy. Along the lines of investing, look into running gear that can make your run more enjoyable. You don’t need the latest super expensive gadget, a simple handheld water bottle and a running belt to hold your keys, id or phone are the perfect little investments to make your runs easier and more enjoyable. Also looking cute is fun!
Now, I do want you to have good times running but I also want you to be safe, so this brings me to MP3 players, ipods, and ear buds. I’m also guilty of running with these at some point in my running life, however, after all this time, I suggest you don’t use them. This is another thing that’s truly based on your preferences, so take what you will. If you HAVE TO HAVE MUSIC, listen at a volume so that you can hear your surroundings; cars, animals, people!!! Don’t be oblivious!! For me, the safety risk is too much and even during races I don’t have ear buds. I find that I can be more “in the moment” without them. Figure out what works for you and learn to run with and without them.
Hydrate and fuel!! Everyone does this differently, everyone has something that works best for them, it’s about finding yours! But first, make sure you’re hydrated, not just before and during your run, but also throughout the day and after! You’ll be surprised at how good you feel when you’re hydrated. This is another thing that is based on your body. Drink to your thirst.
Look at food as fuel, try and fuel with the best you can find. Surround yourself with healthy choices, fruits, veggies and proteins. I won’t get into my food choices because I’d end up writing a book… but this is still important. Everyone can benefit from more vegetables and fruits, so do that!
Sleep and recovery is JUST as important as your training runs. One of my favorite quotes is…
“You can’t pour from an empty cup…”
This is also true with running and recovery. If you’ve depleted your energy and your muscles, how are you supposed to run again or improve if you don’t give your body a chance to refuel and recover?
I might sound like a huge hypocrite with this one! I have been a run-streaker, I’ve run for more than 100 days in a row and I felt great! Sometimes that just doesn’t work for people, sometimes it does. My coach would say “no, don’t do that! You need a rest day!” I’ve learned yes, I do like rest days, I probably need them, and I can reset emotionally and physically with a rest day. I then get a chance to focus on the rest of the week. My biggest problem with rest days – usually I get too lazy and end up resting more than I should! Once again, I’ve known amazing runners that run every day and have no issues, so find what works, but please give yourself time to recover and rebuild all those awesome muscles of yours!
Cross training can definitely help your running. When you’re building up your endurance jumping on a bike on a off run day can help and use a different set of muscles. I’ve really come to enjoy cross training days, especially in the summer when I can get out on my bikes (another good “running investment”). Work on strength and even try out a yoga class. Get your body moving in another way to build running and non running muscles. It’ll help you in the end become a stronger runner.
This brings me to sleep. Don’t skimp on that, most of your recovery happens when you’re sleeping. Sleep is the second most important thing next to water. Sure you can go a while without food, but without sleep after only 24 hours a persons mind can start to go. Now I know most people don’t stay up for 24 hours on purpose very often, I get it. But please, go to sleep… 7-8 hours is what I aim for.
It seems like I haven’t talked much about running, because really that’s the simple part of it all. All of the other things make running complicated and if we think about those things and prepare our running is more enjoyable.
Finally, it’s a journey. Running is all about the journey, not just the miles outside, but the journey a person takes as a runner. Running can enrich your life in so many ways if you let it, you just have to start. The first step is always the hardest, in running and in life. You just have to take it.