Beginning to run is a bitch. Even if you are an experienced runner coming back from and injury or someone who has never ran before. We are all in the same boat. It is easy to get discouraged fast. Here is my story and some tips I know will help you get started and stick with it.
I was never a runner in my school years. I don't remember much about back then but I do distinctly remember being one of the slowest in the 50 yard dash in the sixth grade. This set the tone for the next 20 years of my life. I was not a runner. Runners were fast. Clearly I was not. It wasn't until around age 31 I started to run and that was by accident.
One night I saw a friend who was about to go running and I joined her out of boredom. We jogged and talked and made it one mile! Holy shit! I couldn't believe it. A couple of days later I set out on my own with the same route but I struggled. I didn't have someone to chat with or set my pace. I struggled but kept going because I knew I had done it before and I knew I was capable. Because my mind was convinced my body followed suit. I have been running ever since.
When winter rolled around I realized real quick the treadmill was not for me. My runs were few and far between outside because of ice and snow. Spring came around and I had to start from scratch again. Wah Wah Wah. This time I knew I needed to follow a program because I kept getting discouraged every time I ran. I tried run/walk intervals and what a difference it made. The run/walk helped me build endurance and helped mentally with the mileage. Now every year I start over with a Couch to 5k program to whip me back into my running.
The following tips are things I have learned over the years as I have developed as a runner. The most important thing I learned is to identify wasted energy. Tremendous amounts of energy is wasted when we are not prepared. When we are prepared we can focus all of our energy at the task at hand. And let's face it; running is hard enough.
First things First.
Set a goal. Be clear and specific. Are you aiming for a 5k or are you running just to get in shape? Goals set the tone for the intensity of your training and help keep you focused.
Are you following a running plan like the Couch to 5k? (See my blog The Skinny on the Couch to 5k). There is a whole slew of information on just that. I recommend starting with a regimented program to monitor your improvements.
You need gear. There is no way around it. You don't have to spend a ridiculous amount of money but there are some basic necessities you should have to make your runs stress free.
Running vest or belt- I can't stress this enough. They hold water, gels, keys, food and even your cell phone. If you plan on doing long distances, these items are non negotiables.
Arm Band- A must have to hold your cell phone. You need your phone to track your progress, for your music and for emergencies. All arm bands are not created equal and tend to stretch out after a while. Make sure it properly fits your arm or you will constantly be rewrapping as you are running (total waste of energy).
Shoes- To avoid injuries good shoes are important. Finding the right shoe for you can be difficult. In Rhode Island I suggest going to City Sports or Rhode Runner. Otherwise I would go to a runner specific store where there are knowledgable staff to assist you. I would stay away from the bigger chain stores because running is not their primary focus.
Buy some new ones to make a kick ass playlist to keep you going the extra mile. If you don't have a lot of money use Spotify. I pay $10 a month to avoid commercials and make my own playlists.
Seasonal Clothing and Gear
Depending on what time of year or what time of day you run clothing and gear will vary. In the winter months you need warmer clothes, hats, face masks and maybe some ice cleats. In the summer months you may need cooler non cotton clothes to help beat the heat. If you run before sunrise or at night you need a headlamp and some reflective clothing.
Your Run 411.
Be prepared. Make sure you have all the gear you need before you head out. Armband, headphones, water, sunglasses, fully charged phone, money etc.
Keep hydrated and fueled. Don't run on an empty stomach. Grab some water, fruit, nuts or yogurt before you head out. Energy gels are not a food replacement.
Run at a conversational pace. If you can't hold a conversation then slow down (unless you are doing speed work).
Embrace walking. The less you fight it the easier your run will be. If you need to stop- do it. We tend to look at walking as a negative. It's actually positive! As I stated before it is a healthy tool for increasing mileage and building endurance.
Cross train! Add other activities to your routine such as Spin, Paddleboard, Hiking, Yoga, Pilates, weights etc. You should be doing something other than just running. This will help you get stronger and utilize other muscles which will in turn keep you from getting injured.
Keep it Social. Join a running group or find people who run at the same pace as you. It creates a social network and keeps you accountable and motivated. Finding individuals who are at the same level as you is key. For example: I am a slow runner. I have tons of friends who are runners but I don't run with the majority of them. They are faster than me and the whole time I am trying to keep up and it's not enjoyable. Experiment and find the right fit for you.
Change up your route. Running can feel monotonous so try not to run the same route over and over. Utilize parks, beaches, bike paths, trails or different neighborhoods you enjoy.
Sign up for a 5k. This will help keep you motivated and again it is social. I find that this creates a space for me to enjoy running with my runner friends who are faster than me. We all run at or own pace and meet up at the end to celebrate and talk shop.
Side note on 5ks- Please note that you don't have to be able to run continuously for 3.2 miles before you sign up. Again- walking is good! Many people use the walk/run method in all sorts of races.
Finally, runners come in all shapes, sizes and speeds. Embrace whatever kind of runner you are and become. It took me a couple of years to find out just what I really enjoyed and what I was good at. First I was focused on speed because all of my friends did. Then I realized I enjoyed distance running more. So now it's time to go figure out just what kind of runner you are. Yes YOU are a runner.