When I first started running, I experienced a lot of pain and suffering, as do most people when they start. I had blisters, intense muscles soreness, fatigue, days I questioned why I had started this new sport, and chafing in areas I didn’t know I could chafe. There is no wonder I hated it. When I started running, 4 years ago, there was not the same wealth of knowledge on the internet so easily accessible as there is now. So, with that being said, I want to share with you the best, basic tips and tricks I have learned along the way in my transition from non-runner to ultra-runner. Because believe it or not, before I started this crazy sport, I was a pretty inactive person, so there is proof that anyone can start from where ever they are now and reach their goals. If you are just starting your journey, or struggling to reach longer distances, here are my top things you should know about running:
1. It Gets Easier
As with most things, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Your muscles need to strengthen, your heart and lungs need to become acclimatized and your endurance needs to build up. This is a process and it is not going to happen overnight. When you first start out, aim to run at least 3 times a week and start with manageable distances for your currently fitness level. This may be 2-3km, don’t worry, we all start somewhere! Once that distance feels good, gradually increase your mileage week by week. The key is to move at a comfortable pace and distance for a reasonable amount of time. If you do too much too soon, you could end up with an injury or a deep hatred for the sport.
Whatever your goal is, it’s going to take time to get there. If you are just starting out as a brand new runner, go easy on yourself! Do not put any time goals or pressure on yourself early on in your journey. It will only discourage you and demotivate you if you are not meeting your own expectations. Embrace the soreness, embrace the struggle, embrace being out of breath and ridiculously sweaty, embrace not feeling so great! Every runner was once in your shoes, and many more runners will follow. This is a process, with enough time and effort, your body will be able to handle longer distances and speedier runs, but for right now, take it slow and steady.
3. It’s Okay to Walk:
This is the most common question I get asked when people ask me about running. Of course I walk! I listen to my body, and I walk on the big climbs or when I feel my body needs a bit of a rest, and I have a lot of experience on my feet now. When you are first starting out, walking is actually the best way to increase your mileage! I recommend starting with a run 5 minute, walk 2 minutes formula. This is a great way to improve your endurance because you are out there longer, even though you are not running the whole time. You can also make landmark goals such as “Okay, I am running till that mail box and then I am walking. Okay now I am going to start running at that telephone poll.” As long as you are moving forward, you are making progress.
4. Be consistent:
Building up your cardiovascular endurance takes time and effort. To do so, you need to be consistent with your running workouts. Avoid taking more than 2 days off in between run days (unless of course you are injured, ill or over fatigued) to maintain both muscular and cardiovascular strength and endurance. There is truly no substitute to consistency. Make a plan and stick to it. The more you get out there, the better you will get, the stronger you will feel and the more you will love running!
5. Rest days are part of the program!
Rest days are just as important as keeping to a consistent schedule. You are not going to lose your fitness overnight so never think you will lose by resting, in fact, you only stand to gain. Rest is the time when our muscles repair and grow. Any seasoned runner will tell you that rest days are holy and shall not be missed. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to lie on the couch all day, you can still go on a walk, a bike ride or do light cross training.
6. Eat right:
Just like you wouldn’t put cheap, dirty fuel in your car, you shouldn’t do it to your body either. Your body will crave, whole, healthy and nutritious food to become stronger, recover faster and perform better. Exercise should not be a segway into being able to eat whatever you want since you are burning a million calories now. You need to supplement your exercise with a health and balanced diet.
7. Running Outside Is Harder Than the Treadmill
I started running on the treadmill and I thought I was getting pretty good… that was until I went outside. It is SO much harder, there are real hills, uneven terrain, and elements to affect you run. Remember this when you head outside and don’t let this discourage you. Once I started running outside, I saw a huge improvement in my strength and endurance. I know people are in love with their treadmills, but I wish someone suggested I run outside because the difficulty made me a better runner. Plus, it made me love running that much more because it meant spending more time outside, which now happens to be my favourite thing!
8. Invest in gear:
When you’re first starting out, it can be intimidating to spend 150$ on a pair of running shoes when you don’t even know if you’re going to like the sport. Trust me on this one. If you have good gear that fits you, and works, you are going to be more comfortable, and more likely to get out there. Take the time to get fitted for the right pair of shoes and splurge a little in some high quality running apparel.
Always remember that running is a journey and with everything, it will take time. You can’t expect to step out the door and be amazing the first time. Every runner is different. Part of the process is figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you. Just stick with it, figure things out along the way, ask for advice, and learn to love this crazy, awesome sport!