One of most common statements I hear: “That’s so awesome you run – I could never even start running!” or “I’m just not a runner. I wish I could run!” You get the point, right?
I have a revelation for you: Those are excuses. There, I said it. Excuses. The truth is that no one is a runner until they start running, so there’s only one way to become a runner…START RUNNING! No one buys a pair of running shoes and suddenly becomes a sub 3 marathoner. Some of us are naturally faster and more athletic than others, but that’s the best thing about our sport – it’s for any body type, any athletic ability, and anyone who has the desire to run. Thousands qualify for the Boston Marathon every year, and not all of them were on a level playing field. Some have to work harder than others, so that’s just what they do.
Regardless, it still doesn’t seem to click for a lot of people. As an RRCA run coach and someone who didn’t even own a pair of shoes other than heels until age 27, I know what it’s like to be clueless and intimidated when it comes to running. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Here’s how I got my start in running: My mom signed me up for a 5K and wasn’t taking my “no” for an answer. I didn’t train for it other than one “run” around the block at 3 pm in August (dude, who wouldn’t hate that? #hotasballs). I finished it and swore off of running. After my daughter was born in 2014, I decided to give running another try, and it clicked. One four mile run on a treadmill and I was hooked!
Guys – I was the girl who almost failed gym. Twice. As in…I had to make a deal with my junior high gym teacher that I would tread water in our school pool (gross) for thirty minutes straight. If I could do that, I could pass with a D (insert laugh-cry emoji here). In other words…I wasn’t a high school or college track star who transition to distance running. I did nothing before age 27 when I embarked on a life changing journey of running.
It wasn’t an easy journey. I suffered a few injuries and had to take months off at one point. I waddled on my treadmill at 40 weeks pregnant with my son. All of those things required me to revamp and retrain, over and over and over. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Ok, ok. The title of this blog entry is “how to start running,” so let’s go for it. Some may be common sense; some may surprise you.
STEP 1: Don’t be a cheap-ass when it comes to shoes. Good running shoes ain’t cheap; cheap running shoes ain’t good. I bought a pair of discount Nikes at Footlocker (sorry Steve, Mark, and Josh…) for 20 bucks. My ankles felt like they were at the mercy of a fucking paper shredder, ok? But it’s not just the “feel” of the shoes that matter; there’s a lot more to it than that. Visit a local running specialty store (not Dicks; Not Dunhams…a store that is for running) and get a gait analysis.
If you don’t like how much a good pair of running shoes costs, get over it or start swimming, ok? I’m telling you this with tough love. You can seriously injure yourself in a multitude of ways if you don’t have the right shoes. A good pair of running shoes will be around $100 at bare minimum. Know what costs more? Your deductable and PT sessions. Don’t screw yourself early by running in terrible shoes!
STEP 2: Let go of the “I need to run the whole time” obsession. “Running the whole time” doesn’t somehow define you as a runner or a walker. If you have the desire to run and you try your best, welcome to the runner club. It’s not only acceptable to use the walk/run/walk method, but I suggest this to people who are new to running.
When I say it’s acceptable, I mean it! We call it the Galloway Method and it was developed by Olympian Jeff Galloway. People have qualified for Boston using run/walk/run, and if there’s anything that defines runners as runners, it’s the freaking Boston marathon. Don’t be ashamed if you take walk breaks; be proud.
When you take walk breaks, you’re letting your muscles and bones chill out. This is especially great for new runners who may easily overdo it with training. Walk when you need to, and work with a coach to transition into “running the whole time” if that’s a goal you’ve set. Either way, you’re a runner! When I ran during the last trimester of my pregnancy, I walked for two minutes and ran for thirty seconds. I didn’t suddenly lose my title as a distance runner.
STEP 3: Focus on TIME vs DISTANCE when you first begin running. I’ll never forget the time I ran my first mile, and meeting different distance goals is very rewarding. Caution yourself, though – trying to squeeze distance into X amount of minutes can be dangerous when you’re starting out. If you’re brand new to running and you only have 20 minutes to run, then run for 20 minutes regardless of whether it’s half a mile or three miles.
Increasing distance means increasing time, and increasing time means increasing stress on your muscles and body and lungs. Take it easy there, cowboy. There’s plenty of time to focus on distance, but when you first start running, focus on time.
STEP 4: It’s not always easy to use running as a weightloss plan – beware. Running can help you lose weight, yes. However, it’s important to fuel with the right foods when your appetite increases from logging those miles. Coming home from your run and eating half a loaf of white bread isn’t going to help you lose weight. In fact, many a runner has gained when training for a longer distance such as the marathon. You should keep your nutrition in check or you may gain weight.
At the same time, can we stop with these fad diets when starting to run? Please don’t keto. Please. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy, and you need some healthy carbs to fuel. It’s all in which kind of carbs you eat.
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STEP 5: Don’t be discouraged if you hate it at first – just take it one step at time (see what I did there?)! I swore of running after my first 5k, remember? Now I’m attempting my first marathon. Don’t give up on running just because it doesn’t click at first. It may take a while for you to find your groove, but when you do, you’ll be happy you stuck with it.