So, you have decided you want to start running. Are you ready to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement? That’s fantastic! And we’re here to help you every step of the way.
I’ve been distance running for 13 years now. Over the past decade and a bit I have learned a lot about running, and myself, through reading countless running publications, talking to runner friends, and through my own experience.
The start of my running days seems like an eternity ago, but I remember one thing clearly: I knew nothing about running in the beginning. Seriously, zilch.
I was walking my dog one day and just decided to run for some reason. I wasn’t wearing running-specific shoes or any running gear. I had no watch and no plan. I just ran until I got tired, walked until I caught my breath, then ran again, and so on. I did this same workout for months, but I never told anyone I was taking up running. Because in my mind I wasn’t a runner since I needed to walk breaks. Oh, how wrong I was!
Here are some things I wish I knew when I started running
Walk breaks aren’t for the weak. In fact, very much to the contrary. I used to think to be a runner you had to run the whole way. Now, I swear by walk breaks and many popular training plans call for them.
You don’t have to race to be a runner. I ran my first race, a 10k, a year after I started running. Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the experience. It was 6 months before I raced again, and that’s when I caught the racing bug. But during that non-racing time, I wasn’t any less of a runner because I didn’t show up to any start lines. I still ran just as often and enjoyed my miles just as much.
Don’t compare yourself to others. When I first started running, all my friends were way faster than me. I was embarrassed to share my times because I was so much slower. Now, I have plenty of friends who are faster than me and some who are slower, and I am lucky to have a couple of training buddies who run the same pace. But here’s the thing, I don’t care about anyone else’s times and no one cares about mine either. The pace is all relative.
Running is classified as an individual sport. I don’t compete with my friends, only against myself. However, the running community is incredibly supportive. During a race, my performance may seem like it’s only up to me, but the cheers from the crowds and support from other runners along the course helped enormously.
There is no need to time every run. One of the downsides of only competing with yourself is the constant drive to improve. I went through a phase where I tried to run faster on every run. It was draining, to say the least. Now, when I’m not following a training plan, I leave my watch at home. I like running “naked” and just going.
Everyone has bad runs. A bad run, a disappointing race, or a less than stellar year of running doesn’t define you. The opposite is also true. Every runner has ebbs and flows with running. It’s how the sport keeps us on our toes!
Here are a few things that helped my running motivation in the beginning, and still continue to keep me on track:
Run for time not the number of miles. Running for 30 minutes instead of 3 miles takes the pressure off pace and goals. It allows you to enjoy the time rather than focusing on a set number of miles. You’re also more likely to run by feel, which helps you to run longer than if you gun it right out of the gate.
Set multiple alarms on your smartphone. The great thing about having a smartphone is you can set multiple custom alarms for a run. You can set it to say, “get out of bed” or “be inspired.” You can set as many alarms as you need to get you out the door.
Sign up for a race. Nothing keeps you motivated to run like training for a race. No matter the distance, following a training plan will help you focus on getting in your runs.
Join a local running club. By meeting others that are motivated to run, you will be more likely to stay committed. Also, most clubs have scheduled weekly workouts that will help you plan your runs for the week.
Buy new running gear. Nothing says “RUN” like a shiny new pair of sneakers. If you find running in the cold or rain difficult, a sweet new hat or pair of compression leggings may be the motivation you need to get out there.
As you embark on the spring challenge, these tips can help keep you motivated and on the road. What are some tips you have for beginner runners to stay motivated?
The basics of building a running foundation
Almost every training plan assumes that the runner has a “base”. Your base is exactly what it sounds like, it’s your current fitness level. You cannot go from running zero miles per week to training for a marathon. Base building is the work that comes in between zero mileage weeks and training, it’s basically pre-training.
Proper base building is a prerequisite for a successful training cycle. Base building increases your endurance, strengthens your muscles, and ensures your body is ready for tougher workouts. Having an adequate base may also lower your risk of injury.
Some training plans call for a base of 10 or 20 weekly miles before you start a training plan. But base building is about more than weekly mileage totals, it matters how you run those miles, too.
If you’re training for your first race, experts suggest focusing on speed or endurance, not both the first time around.
For example, if you’re training for your first half marathon, it’s best to concentrate on endurance. Look at your half marathon training plan to see what distance long run you begin with. If it’s 8 miles and you can only run 4 miles now, work your way 7 miles continuously before the plan starts. Do one long run each week, increasing the distance of the long run by a half mile or a mile each week. In addition, do two or three shorter mid-week runs.
I hope this helps to get you going. Please let us know how you are doing.