NOTE: This article was written by Kris, the founder and previous owner of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
A few months ago, if you’d told me I’d be a runner, I’d have laughed in your face. Yes, that would have been rude, but I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. Never would I have ever dreamed that I’d grow to love running.
People often ask me how I got started. It really wasn’t on purpose. I’d thought about running a few times. When I first began losing weight, I talked to my husband about how The Biggest Loser contestants always run a marathon at the end of the season and how maybe that should be my way of celebrating reaching my weight-loss goals.
I soon discarded that idea, but, several months later, I found myself walking on the treadmill and the thought crossed my mind that it wouldn’t take much more effort to start running and – wow! – what a great calorie burn that would be.
Soon after, I became a runner.
So, from one newbie to another, I wanted to share ten tips for new runners that worked for me. Please keep in mind that these are just tips from my personal experience. I’m far from an expert and you should consult your doctor if you have any pains or problems associated with running.
1. Start slowly. When I started running, my initial goal was to run for one minute and walk for 2 or 3. I seriously thought I was going to die during that one minute the first few times I ran. My legs were shaking, my lungs were burning, and I was watching the timer on the treadmill like it was my lifeline. I was doing one minute and not a second longer.
2. Increase gradually. Once I got to the point that I didn’t feel like I would die after one minute, I went to 2 minutes. Sometimes, at first, I didn’t make it the whole 2 minutes, but I kept working toward it.
My goal from that point became 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking, gradually building to 3:1, then, 4:1. Once I got to the point where I could run 4 minutes without stopping, I changed to distance goals – first running 0.25 mile without stopping, then, 0.5 mile, then, 1 mile and so on. Now, I can run 3.5 miles (a little longer than 5K distance) without stopping.
3. Find a running buddy. The encouragement of my running buddy has been invaluable. It was so nice to hear someone who had actually run a 5K say, “I remember when I felt like I was going to die running 90 seconds.”
Knowing that someone my age had gone through – and survived – the same things I was going through and who now loves running made it all seem possible. She celebrated every tiny victory with me – going from 2 minutes running to 3, being able to run a quarter of a mile. She passed along nuggets of wisdom and words of encouragement that she had picked up along the way.
My favorite little nugget from my running buddy is one that someone else passed on to her. It’s my new mantra, “It doesn’t matter how fast, how far, or how long, if you run, you are a runner.”
4. Don’t give up. I distinctly remember posting on Facebook to my running buddy a few weeks into my attempt to become a runner that I was thinking that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a runner. I’d given it a go, but it was hard and I wasn’t really making progress and maybe I should just stick to walking.
Both she and a runner friend of hers replied that they’d both felt that way when they started. As a matter of fact, I think her friend actually said something along the lines of, “We’ve all felt that way in the beginning. Don’t give up.”
I’m so glad they told me that and that I listened because it wasn’t too long after that comment that I really started to notice an improvement. It just takes your body awhile to get acclimated to the new demands you’re placing on it. It may very well be that your break-though is just on the other side of that desire to throw in the towel.
5. Invest in good shoes. Oh, my goodness. I can’t even begin to tell you the difference a good pair of running shoes have made in my running and the pain I was having in my knees and feet. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.
I highly recommend that you visit your local running store and have them suggest shoes for you. Yes, a specialty store is rather pricey, but folks who have a passion for running know their stuff when it comes to shoes. It may be that you take the information you learn there and shop for more affordable shoes, but you’ll shop armed with information.
For the record, I’m all about supporting the smaller “mom and pop” type stores when you can. Most of them are in business because of their passion for their product. The next pair of running shoes I buy will most likely come from my local running store, even though I couldn’t convince Brian to invest in my first pair of running shoes from there. I can’t say as I blame him. I have something of a reputation for getting really excited about something, then, dumping it after awhile.
6. Work on endurance before speed. In addition to starting with a short amount of time, I literally started very slowly. I only ran 4 mph on my treadmill to start out. If you’re running outside, that would be just a very slow jog – very slow as in, somebody powerwalking could probably keep up with you.
My thought was that I wanted to be able to finish a 5K, not win it. Eventually, I increased my speed to 4.5. Then, I stayed at 4.8 for a long time before I was able to move to 5. Now, I can do 5.5 for awhile. I’m working on getting to a 30:00 5K time (which means, basically, a 10-minute mile).
7. Educate yourself. Running seems like such a simple thing – and really it is – but there’s a lot to learn about proper form, running jargon, pace, and training (it’s not all just about going out and running your intended racing distance every day). My absolute new favorite magazine is Runner’s World. There’s stuff for everyone from new, recreational runners to Boston Marathon and ultra-marathon runners. They’ve even got a blog on their website just for new runners, as well as a monthly column in the print magazine.
There are plenty of good books out there about running, too. I’m just kind of a “take it in little digestible bites” kind of girl, so I love magazines and websites dedicated to running.
8. Invest in a good bra. Okay, guys, you can obviously ignore this one, but I recently read a great post on 100 Beginner Running Tips. My favorite one was just for the ladies:
“Ladies, do not skimp on a bra. Even if it costs more than your shoes it’s still a bargain.”
A good running bra can be expensive, but it is so worth it, especially for those of us who are a little, ahem, well-endowed. I found one that I love on Amazon…and it didn’t cost more than my shoes. I’ve already got another one sitting in my shopping cart ready to order.
9. Sign up for a 5K. Just do it! Once you’ve gotten to the point where you can run a mile or so without stopping, sign up for a 5K. Pre-register and pay for it so you don’t talk yourself out of it before race day.
My two biggest fears when I ran my first 5K were that I wouldn’t be able to finish and that I’d finish last. Neither came to fruition. I didn’t run the whole race, but I did run almost the whole first half. I didn’t finish last, either. There were plenty of people who crossed the finish line after me. I ran a pretty respectable time and finished in about the middle of the pack.
The most important thing, though, was the feeling of accomplishment. This girl who, 15 months ago was morbidly obese, ran a 5K! You’ll find that the feeling of accomplishment is very addictive. I’ve already run three 5Ks now.
10. Set up a running playlist on your MP3 player. It’s amazing to me that impact that music can have on my running. I find myself subconsciously matching my pace to the beat of the music. I’ve tried to look up songs by beats per minute (bpm), but I haven’t had much luck with that. I just added songs that make me feel like dancing or running.
Two of my friends swear by ‘80’s music. My favorites are rather eclectic but include songs such as:
OMG – Usher (I love that he says “gosh.”)
All-Star – Smashmouth (one of my favorites!)
Single Ladies – Beyonce
Move Along – All-American Rejects (I try to time this one to play when I’m nearing the end of the third mile of a 5K; it inspires me to finish when I’m getting tired.)
Uprising – Muse
I hope these tips inspire you to give running a try. I never, ever dreamed I’d be a runner, but these days I feel like I need to run almost as much as I need to breathe.
“No matter how fast, how far, or how long, if you run, you are a runner.”