It’s been a while since I’ve discussed anything to do with fitness. Having had recent conversations with friends in regards to getting into (or back into) running I remembered a post I did on my old blog that was really some of the greatest advice I’ve had to offer as far as my personal experience with tackling running. So in a sense this is a sort of recycled post but I’ve completed a few (much bigger) races since I originally wrote this post so I’m going to update a few parts as I feel necessary, but this is essentially my best advice for anyone wanting to get into running from the perspective of a non-runner.
Before I start I wanted to give a little background about my running history.
Running in my past experience has been another term for torture. I ran a lot of sprints in volleyball practice in high school and ventured into longer runs in college with a goal of weight loss in mind. To me running was a painful way to try to lose a few pounds. I’ve never resembled those gazelle-like creatures that flit across the pavement with grace and speed. No, I’m more like a heavy footed hippo that barrels down the path.
1. Take it slow – Just because you want to you aren’t going to run 3 miles your first day. Pushing yourself to the point of pain and torture will not only inspire negative thoughts about running, but it will also keep you from finding the joy in what you are doing. If you can only run a half a mile, then run a half a mile, do your best and have patience. I started at 1.5 miles when I began and within three months was up to six. It will come with TIME.
2. Stop and smell the roses – no not literally (unless you just really want to). What I mean is when you are running, specifically outside, try to focus less on how hard you are breathing and how tired your body is. Take in the world around you. Appreciate the beautiful scenery and life going on, feel the fresh air in your lungs, and love that you are alive and able to be running.
3. Play tricks on your mind – unfortunately I’ve spent a great deal of time on the treadmill. It is every bit as boring as they say, and watching the seconds tick by is the quickest way to convince yourself that running is just not for you. I have remedied this by always covering the monitor with something (hoodie, magazine, etc…). Time goes by a lot faster when you don’t see every second. I always set the clock to show time left as opposed to time passed. I feel like seeing that I’ve been running for 20 minutes already makes me feel way more tired than knowing I’ve only got 20 to go. When I do look at the clock I ALWAYS round down in what I tell myself I have left. For example, if it reads 4:42 left I tell myself I’ve only got 4 minutes left. You can reconcile the seconds with yourself when it is truly just seconds left. This helps me push through the last few minutes every time.
4. Run outside – I was totally intimidated about running outside when I first began. There are all kinds of hills and weather conditions out there! I could barely go 15 minutes on the treadmill, how could I possibly run in the cold up and down hills??? What I discovered was that the fresh air feels like heaven in your lungs, the cold keeps you from overheating (the gym feels so hot now!) and when you force yourself to run farther from your starting point you HAVE to run/walk all the way back so you end up running longer and farther every time. Not to mention on the way back after running so much when you walk you tend to hate how slow you’re moving so you speed back up. It’s a great way to push your limits.
5. Get some good shoes – running shoes can be expensive. I originally told myself that I wasn’t a REAL runner so there was no reason for me to spend a lot of money on good shoes. I was SO wrong. When I looked at my poor excuse for running shoes and realized the soles were coming off I knew it was time. You NEED to be fit for running shoes. The first pair I bought I just found my size and decided they were good. My second pair I went to a running store and went through the fitting process and found to my surprise that I was wearing shoes three sizes too small. Unless you are a running expert, take my advice and talk to someone who knows how to put you in the right shoes. Your feet, heck your whole body will thank you for it. And hopefully you won’t have to deal with the lost toenails I did.
6. Set time goals and make the miles happen – this may not be true for everyone. For me, time is my motivation. Before my first 5K I set a time goal of running it in 30 minutes, and that’s how I trained. This is easier to do on a treadmill because you can actually track your minutes as you go unless you have a fancy watch. By doing this I knew that if I had reached the 20 minute mark and was only at 1.87 miles I needed to push it hard in the last mile. I did the same with my 10K. *This is great when you are trying to improve your time. If you are just starting out I say ditch the clock and just get out and run and feel proud of any distance you are able to accomplish. Every step further than your last run is an achievement to be proud of!
7. Get a heart rate monitor – I can’t stress how useful these are. After a few practice runs I learned what my maintainable heart rate was and knew that in order to run the distance that I wanted I needed to keep my heart rate within that range so I didn’t crash and burn. This is very helpful in races when you don’t have a treadmill screen in front of you! It is also helpful if you are using running as a workout either to lose weight or improve your cardiovascular health as it lets you know when you are pushing yourself to the heart rate that will help you burn the calories and strengthen your heart.
8. Find your pace – I like to start slow and finish with a sprint. For me the first mile is for getting my body loosened up and ready to move. The second mile is getting into the groove, and every mile after that I’m in the zone. Everyone is different. Husband starts immediately in a sprint. I have found that I build up the strength and stamina to have a strong finish by achieving a steady pace that I can maintain for the bulk of my miles and then push harder to sprint through that last segment.
9. Don’t be afraid to get winded! – I took a two week break once because I was sick (right after my 10K) and when I started back 1.5 miles seriously hurt. I couldn’t believe how fast my ability had deteriorated! I didn’t run for a few days and then I ran a mile and it hurt. I was winded and it pissed me off. I had just ran 6.2 miles for Pete’s sake so why was 1 so hard?! I tried again a few days later and still got winded but realized around mile 2 that it’s OK to get winded. You would be surprised how far and long you can go even though you are breathing hard. Breathing helps expand your lung capacity, provides oxygen to your muscles, YOU NEED TO BREATHE! These days starting back I find myself getting pretty winded going into the second mile but I’ve also found that there is a heavy breathing rhythm that I am able to maintain and keep going for a while.
10. It WILL get easier – Learning to run was a pretty long and painful process for me, but there was a day when I was running at the gym and had passed mile two and realized that I wasn’t breathing very hard, in fact I could probably breathe through my nose if I wanted. It was like I had crossed a threshold. I could control my breathing with my pace and at that point it was all up to my body (specifically legs) to carry me. Which is why strength training eventually becomes very important to continuing to improve. Like most good things in this life running takes dedication and determination, and most of all PATIENCE. Be kind to yourself. Celebrate every little accomplishment. Don’t let it take over your life but take the time to grow to love it.