If your New Years resolution is to start running, AWESOME! That is a great resolution. I have some tips for new runners that will hopefully be helpful for you.
I actually started running as a resolutioner. Prior to 2010, I only ran for fitness. I’d run on the treadmill at the gym, or outside, usually for only 30 minutes at a time, if even that, and I didn’t care about pace or progress. I ran a couple 5K’s (in 2005 and 2006) only because my parents did the 5K in our hometown and I felt ashamed if they did it and I didn’t.
Anyway, around New Years 2010, my best friend Vera, an ultrarunner, told me I should sign up for the local half marathon that was happening in the spring. Four months seemed like a long way away, so I signed up, and attempted to follow a Hal Higdon Half Marathon plan. I didn’t do a great job actually following the plan, I didn’t know anything about proper hydration or fueling, and that race was pretty rough. But somehow, it motivated me to keep going, eventually building up to 100 miles per month and running a marathon (over 2 years later).
Anyway. If you want to start running, guess what? It’s not that much harder than lacing up and getting out there. But there are a few things to keep in mind.
Start Where You Are
If you can barely run to the end of the block, then the Couch to 5K plan is for you. It’s a walk/run plan that starts off with more walking than running but helps you build to 5K (3.1 miles) in 8 weeks. If that feels way too easy, then adjust. Basically, you want to be moving (by putting one foot in front of the other) for 30 minutes, 3x per week, running and taking walk breaks, but you don’t want to feel completely wiped out at the end of each session.
Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
If you’re new to running, limit yourself to 3x per week. Even if you are in great shape. Running exhausts your body in different ways than weightlifting or spin class or a HIIT workout. The general rule of thumb is to limit your mileage increases to 10% or less from week to week and throw in a cut-back week every 3-4 weeks, where you reduce your weekly mileage by roughly 25%.
Most runners don’t run every day, so don’t even attempt to do that if you’re new to running. I personally can’t even run more than 4 times per week before extra aches and pains start creeping in.
Running Isn’t Just Sprinting
Some new runners make the mistake of thinking they have to run as fast as they can in order to be really running. That’s not only not true, but it isn’t an efficient way to train. Even advanced training plans only call for 20% speedwork (and even speedwork includes breaks between the sprint intervals) and 80% easy pace. If you’re new to running, just run at a comfortable pace and don’t exhaust yourself. Take walk breaks when you need them. Plus, you’ll naturally get faster as you build endurance.
Invest in good shoes and good bras
I like to be frugal and get a good deal, but running shoes are one of the few things in my life that I will pay full price for. When I started running, I ran in whatever gym shoes I had around, and my shins were not happy. Once I went to my local running store and had them help me pick out the right pair for me, it’s been much better. Likewise, if you’re a woman … you probably already know the importance of a good bra. Moving Comfort (now part of Brooks) and Under Armour make the most popular high impact bras for runners.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
It’s good to use other runners as motivation, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do what they do. Set your own goals. Not everyone can (or wants to) run a marathon. Or even a half marathon. Not everyone can run a sub-20 (or sub-30) 5K. That doesn’t make you any less of a runner. Focus on your own progress.
Find a Group
The best thing I did for my running was finding the right running grounp for me. (I miss my F’N Runners!) Finding a group will keep you accountable, motivate you to work harder, and also make running more fun. Check with your local running store, your local running association, Facebook, Google, etc.
Aches are normal. Pain is not.
You should expect to feel some aches, both during your first mile or so into a run, while your body is warming up, and after a run. Symmetrical soreness is nothing to worry about, however, if you start feeling sharp pains, or significant aches on one side and not the other, that might be the sign of an injury and/or muscle imbalance. Many times, the solution is “strengthen your glutes,” so it’s never a bad idea for a runner to do some squats, deadlifts, leg lifts, band walks, etc. However, if something doesn’t feel right or doesn’t go away with a few extra rest days, many physical therapy offices offer free injury screenings.
Give It Time and Be Consistent
It takes time to see improvement. The Couch to 5K plan is 8 weeks long for a reason. You won’t see improvements every time from one run to the next, improvement is gradual. Just like you can’t expect to see weight loss because you cut calories for one day. Consistency and habit are important. Running once per week isn’t going to make much difference. Even the “run less” running plans call for runs 3x per week.
Set a Goal
Having something to work toward will motivate you to keep going. It could be to finish a 5K. Not necessarily run the entire thing, but finish it. For extra motivation, find a race, sign up for it now, before you’ve built up to it. Pick a race that is at least 8 weeks away.
You Can Do This
Barring any physical ailments, anyone can be a runner. You just put one foot in front of the other, faster than walking. There is no threshold you have to cross in terms of distance, time, or pace, to be a “real” runner. No certification you have to get, no dues you have to pay, etc. You just have to run. You can even take walk breaks. But the more you run, the “better” you’ll get (in terms of being able to run farther and/or faster)
Any other tips for new runners that you have?