This post has been sitting in my drafts for over six months now and for some reason I never posted it! If you follow my blog and are not a runner, but want to get into running, here is some advice from me to you!
Get a Good Pair of Shoes
Okay, this is pretty cliche advice, but it’s absolutely necessary and I could not write an advice post without mentioning it. Head to a true local running store and have them properly fit you for shoes. This will help you to be more comfortable while you start running and avoid some additional aches and pains as your body gets used to what it’s doing.
Figure Out a Plan
If you’re training for a race, pick out a plan, write it on the calendar, and stick to it. No excuses! I’m a huge fan of Hal Higdon and he has plenty of Novice plans for all distances, but some prefer the Couch plans or whatever they find on the internet. If you’re just trying to be more active, you still need a plan. Pick what days you’re going to run, pick how long or how far you’re going to run on those days. Then stick to it, no excuses for you either! Aim to run 2-3 days a week (this can include the weekend) and get it in every week. Sometimes I hear things like “I wish I was as committed as you,” but honestly the thing I’m most committed to is sticking to my workout routine. I am able to take time off around the holiday’s because sticking to my schedule has given me the discipline to get back to it after a break.
With all of the technology around it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. Go slow and don’t compare your paces to others. Everyone needs to run at their own pace and trying to hit a 10 minute mile if you’re out of shape is likely to lead you to burn out and injury. Better yet, ditch the phone apps and pre-plan your route. When I first started running I would use “Map My Run” on my desktop and map out my route so I’d know where I needed to go to get as far as I wanted to be. Then I just wore a regular ol’ Timex and ran what felt comfortable. When I got home I was able to log my time against my route and see what my pace was, but rather than being tied to my watch during the run I was in tune with how my body felt and my effort level. In fact, I ran my first two half marathons with a Timex my husband gave me that only recorded my overall time. I’ve only been running with a GPS watch for about two years now and only a year ago I switched over to one that gives me mile split times. I think one of the best things new runners can do for themselves is to ditch the watch and run whatever feels comfortable to them. As you get into shape, you’ll notice your times naturally getting faster, but just be sure to reign it in so you’re not over-exerting on your training runs.
Running is easy, getting into shape is hard. After I took time off at the end of 2014, I would say it took me a good 6 weeks of consistent running before it started to feel easy again and a good 8 weeks before I noticed a difference in my fitness. It’s going to be hard – you’re working your muscles, lungs, heart, etc. in a way they’re not used to working. Keep going, it gets easier, but you have to keep going! It’s very easy to get 3 weeks into it and quit because you’ve decided it’s too hard or you hate it, but unfortunately you have to cross that threshold before it gets easier. Once you get to that point, you’ll realize you have more in you and will want to push harder, but the hardest part is keeping it up long enough to get there.
Not Every Run Will be a PR
A PR or “Personal Record” is something a lot of runners shoot to gain. When training for a race, we usually want to beat our fastest time for that distance. I’ve noticed that some runners even get a bit competitive with themselves on their regular runs. The fact of the matter is that not every run will be a PR (nor should it be). Sometimes you won’t even finish your run. A great thing about running is that you can always try again. Sometimes, slowing down or stopping completely is the smarter choice. Getting to a place of accepting a slower time or shorter run can also be a process, but in the end it will lead to a happier, healthier run.
If You’re Going to Run in the Dark, Be Seen
Sometimes the only way to get a run in is to run in the morning before work or in the evening after work. This can mean running in the dark. If you’re going to run in the dark, do the smart thing and invest in some gear that helps you to be seen. A reflector vest, head lamp, and blinking light is plenty and could very well mean the difference between staying safe and getting hit by a car. I’m an in-the-road runner and it baffles me on my morning runs when another runner comes along in the road wearing dark clothing with no lights or reflective gear. If I can’t see the runner, then a car definitely can’t see the runner. Keep yourself safe even if you feel goofy, but I promise you the veteran runners are probably the ones with the most visibility gear on.
It’s Okay to Get Injured
I know this seems like weird advice, but it’s a part of running. Will you get injured training for your first 5K? Probably not, unless you trip over a stick or fall in a pot hole. But even something minor like shin pain or a pulled muscle can be considered an injury. I’m not saying you should try to get injured, but the real risk is once you begin to discover your potential as a runner and begin pushing yourself to run faster or more miles. While you want to do everything you can to avoid injury, sometimes they happen and it’s ok. Most runners have had to drop out of a goal race and/or take some time off to rehab an injury. Sometimes running helps us discover issues that would have popped up later in life anyway (true story, it happened to me). The trick is figuring out how or why the injury occurred and taking the steps to prevent it from happening again. Getting injured doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for running and the good news is, you can come back from injury.
Now that you’re running, check my advice for first time racers!