Okay..you’ve decided, for whatever reason, it’s time to add running into your routine. Me – I usually decide this at the start of a new year.. and it goes okay for a while..then it gradually tapers off into a general nothingness – like many a resolution made over a glass or two of the bubbly stuff.
But now you’ve made the decision – where’s the best place to start?
Here are some of the more useful tips I’ve been given over the years – and at the end of this post you’ll find a list of my favourite online running resources.
TIP 1: New Runners Should Start Slow
If you hear that a beginning runner should “start off slow” one more time, your head is going to explode!
You know this. You understand that you are a beginning runner, so you will not be qualifying for the Boston Marathon a week after you start running. Since this is common sense, why do you hear it preached over and over again to people who are just beginning a running practice?
The answer is because it is so extremely important.
Almost everyone that attempts any type of physical activity after being sedentary overestimates their abilities. You decide you are going to start running for health reasons, you get mentally charged up, and you can’t wait to begin.
Even though you tell yourself you’re going to start slow, your positive energy and enthusiasm can get you into trouble. Remember, however far or fast you run the very first time out is okay. It took you a while to get your body out of shape, and it is going to take some time to become healthy once again.
You should not feel embarrassed or underwhelmed if you do not run very far when you are first beginning. This isn’t about distance or speed. You are running probably to produce some sort of positive health result. That means that you honor the process, which begins with you running consistently and on a regular schedule, but starting off with shorter distances at first.
This may even include alternating periods of walking and running when you first start out.
Some of the running apps for your smart phone can actually help you with this. Say for example you want to eventually run 5k. Try one of the Couch to 5K apps that start with a series of running/walking sessions and gradually build up the length of time you run.
TIP 2: Get a Partner
There is strength in numbers. You have probably also heard that 2 heads are better than one.
This is true in part because humans were built to socialize. Studies show that people live longer, happier and even healthier lives when they spend time around other people. Aside from the fun, social aspect of running with a partner, there are health rewards to be had as well.
When you join someone else in any type of pursuit, you have a sounding board. There is someone you can talk to while you journey through your running education. Also, on those inevitable days you don’t feel like running but you are scheduled to, your partner is there to motivate you.
This means that you run more often, and won’t justify skipping a day every now and then. It helps you stick to your running schedule. If you can, try to find someone who has been running longer than you have, and knows what they are doing. Even if this person can just spend 2 or 3 days each month running with you, their knowledge and expertise can’t help but rub off.
There are also some benefits to choosing a running partner that is a beginner just like you. You won’t be intimidated or embarrassed by your partner’s running experience and ability, and the opposite is true as well. Consider finding a running partner for the majority of your training that is equal in experience to you.
Then add a more experienced partner for a few sessions each month, and before you know it, you won’t feel, or look, like a mere beginner.
Running with a couple of friends each week gets me out of bed on a Sunday morning – plus we reward ourselves with a great breakfast at a local cafe afterwards.
TIP 3: Learn Proper From First
What’s that you say? You already know “how” to run?
Actually, you do and you don’t. You know how to run if a lion is chasing you. You aren’t too concerned about your form, and are more concerned with simply outdistancing yourself from the hungry predator that is chasing you.
However, running for fitness is different.
Every type of exercise you undertake has certain physical requirements. There is a very specific way you should perform different swimming strokes to get the best results. The same is true with running. There is a basic form you should be practicing to limit your injury risks, achieve the most health rewards, and simultaneously enjoy the experience.
Check out some online running forums or websites of running gurus and teachers. If you want, you can browse YouTube and other free video sharing sites as well. Your goal is to understand what proper form looks like.
The next step is to get a friend or partner involved. If you have a running partner (an important running tip for beginners covered in your next email), have them videotape you running from the front and the side. Then you can do the same for them.
After that, a simple comparison will show you what you are doing right and doing wrong. Perfect form is crucial when you are first starting out. Most runners simply start running. If you ensure that you are running “the right way” when you start, you won’t have to change an ingrained, incorrect process down the road, and you will suffer fewer sprains and strains along the way.
I found a couple of private sessions with our usual boot camp trainer helped immensely – with technique, correct warm up and stretching and exercises to improve strength, speed and endurance.
I also love this chart from New Balance with quick easy tips for good form.
TIP 4: Record Everything, But Don’t Obsess Over the Results
Your running practice is a process. Obviously, you will eventually run longer and faster, and enjoy more health rewards, sometime down the road than you will in the beginning.
The only way to know if your running program is delivering the results you’re looking for is to record everything. There are plenty of running applications and pieces of software you can access from your smart phone, smart watch, tablet or desktop computer. They are already formatted with the important metrics you should be recording.
Some running apps coordinate effortlessly with your fitness tracker. They automatically record all the information you need. Whether you have to manually jot down the relevant running information or you have a computer do it for you, as a beginner you should not overly concern yourself with your numbers.
No matter how your numbers look when you first start running, they should get better. The only thing you want to see happening is improvement over time. After your first couple of weeks, or even couple of months, you should never look at your data and think, “Boy, this could be so much better.”
Instead, tell yourself, “This is great. I am running instead of sitting on my sofa. I have some beginning information. Now all I need to do is work on making my numbers better.”
When you first start recording your running data, you will get really fired up. If your numbers are better than you thought they would be, you will be positively encouraged. If they are not as impressive as you wished, you will be determined to improve them.
Either way, you benefit as a beginning runner by tracking anything and everything you do that relates to the running process.
I’ve used a number of apps in the past to track my running. MapMyRun tends to be one of the more popular. If you start to get serious an app like Strava will give you a lot more detail on specific aspects of your run, especially if you start pairing it with tech such as heart rate monitors or sports watches. Strava will also track cycling as well as a number of manual work out types you can include.
My Favourite Running Resources:
Track your run and connect with others – Strava
Forums and advice from other runners – Cool Running
Most countries will have an online running calendar – just google it – here’s the Australian version