I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this for awhile. I want to give some people out there who are just starting out some tips that I wish I had when I got into running. Some suggestions are personal preferences and others are valuable tips.
Here I am before my first ever race. I was a new runner at one point!
Before the Army run, 2012
Start small and build
The great thing about running is that anyone can do it. It may not seem that way when you first start out but it’s the truth. When I started, I could barely run more than a few blocks without getting out of breath. This is normal- it’s what happens when you don’t do any cardio for a long time. My suggestion to new runners is to find a distance that you are comfortable running. Run that distance and then give yourself a few minutes to recover, and then try to run it again. As you get better, you’ll be able to repeat the distance for more intervals, you’ll be able to run it faster, and you’ll notice the amount of time you need for recovery will be shorter.
Frequency is key
A hard part of running is getting into the groove of running/ exercising more than what you used to do. You need to set a realistic goal for yourself and try to stick to it as much as possible. If you find you are missing a lot of workouts, it probably means that you were a little too ambitious. That is ok, goals can always be reset. My suggestion is to pick a time in your week where you always seem to have extra time to spare. If you consistently use that time to run, it will become a habit and you’ll find yourself missing it or feeling off because you’ve strayed from your new routine.
You will probably fail, fall, and want to cry
This is not only true for running, but it’s true for life. Sometimes things come up and a goal can’t be met no matter how much you wish it could. This can range anywhere from having a bad run, having a bad race, literally falling down because you got distracted for a second… You can’t beat yourself up over these things. The best thing to do is reflect on what went wrong and figure out a way to avoid the same outcome in the future.
Get a real pair of running shoes
I cannot stress enough how important this is. A pair of running shoes that have been selected for you based on your gait analysis will make a big difference in your running. I find a lot of people, including myself, end up going to a store without knowledgeable sales people and end up buying whatever shoe is on sale. For some people, this is ok and they may end up with a pair that works for them. Most cases, however, end up with a shoe that is working against the runner’s body which can lead to injury. It’s very important to go to a store that specializing in running supplies. They will be able to assess you based on how you walk and the anatomy of your feet and ankles what kind of shoe you need for your best performance.
Also, please replace shoes that you’ve been using for years. Most likely, the cushion in the bottom has been worn down. Old shoes can lead to foot, knee and even hip problems. Go out and buy yourself a brand spanking new pair of shoes. They’ll be prettier and you’ll be excited to break them in.
Don’t try anything new on race day
Excited to wear a new shirt on race day? Don’t do it. Unless you’ve worn an item of clothing before, don’t risk your race day success on it. You never know what article will accidentally rub against you until you bleed out and die… Ok maybe it won’t be that extreme but chaffing can really throw you off your A-game and it’s downright uncomfortable.
New foods should also be avoided around race day. I’m guilty of this one too. I used to think I had an iron stomach where I could eat anything and have no consequences. This is so far from the truth it’s not even funny. Just be careful what you eat because you don’t want to be the runner sprinting to the porta potty at the first water station. I like to find foods I am ok with and stick to those ones instead of risking it. To this day, the only breakfast that I can run immediately after is oatmeal with a little bit of brown sugar and cinnamon.
There will always be someone faster than you
You’ll drive yourself insane thinking about all of the people who are faster than you. No matter how hard you train or how many hours you put in you will NEVER be the fastest person in the world. Ever. The best thing to do is compare yourself to yourself. Even if you have a friend training with you and putting the same runs in, the chances are that one of you is more genetically inclined to be faster, more efficient, or better looking than the other. You should only be focused on your personal improvement; otherwise you will be in a state of constant disappointment.
Carbo loading is great in moderation
Carbo loading is an effect tool for storing carbohydrates in your body to prepare for a race. There is a limited supply that the body can use before it runs dry, so by eating a reasonable amount of carbs, you fill the reserves a little more than normal. This is also why, for longer races, it is important to replenish with energy gels and chews. Carbo loading does not mean being able to eat a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or eating this much in one serving:
We dumped the whole box of pasta in. Whoops!
It should mean having a small addition of carbs that you wouldn’t normally have with each meal. For example, adding a piece of toast to your breakfast, or having a sandwich instead of a wrap for lunch.
Carbo loading is really more important for longer races. You don`t need to load up for a 5k or a 10k. Your body is equipped to handle that distance without help.
Don’t overdo it
Running gets a bad reputation for ‘wrecking your knees’. You will not wreck your knees if you are smart about your running and you notice the warning signs. A lot of people jump into running too quickly and end up over training which can lead to injury. Muscle soreness is normal since you are doing a physical activity. Pinching, sharp pains and swelling are not normal. If you find yourself limping around in pain, make sure you take a few days to rest. You may end up missing a training run or two but it is more important to remain healthy.
Hi-tech watches won’t make you faster
If you are new to running, don’t go out and spend all of your money on an expensive GPS watch. You are trying out a new sport and spending your money on gadgets isn’t going to make you any better. You may not think it either but the people selling you the products will be able to sniff you out as a newbie and could take advantage of that. A more appropriate time to invest in some more expensive items would be when you are more established in running, For now you just need shoes and an outfit and maybe a stop watch.
No one knows how to hydrate ‘properly’
You can scour the internet for hours reading about different ways people think you should be hydrating when running. They’ll all say different things. From my experience,
- I drink more when it is hot or humid out
- If I drink too much, my stomach cramps up
- When it is colder, I can drink only when I’m thirsty
My only recommendation for hydration is that you find a system that works for you. Stay on top of it because it is hard to recover from being dehydrated if you are still out running.
Wear sunscreen and protect your eyes
Even in the colder months, it is important to take care of your skin and eyes. When running in the summer especially, you get exposed to a lot of UV rays from the sun. It’s smarter to take the time to slather yourself with sunscreen instead of getting sunburnt or something worse. And wearing sunglasses just makes sense when it’s so bright out. You’ll want to make sure you can see where you are going.
I hope these tips can help some of you out! Do you have any tips to offer?