Have you recently decided to improve your fitness and start running? Great idea. I was recently browsing my TV streaming options and came across the movie, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” about a twenty-something party girl who decides to get fit. The movie made me laugh, with many scenes that runners would identify with. It reminded me of how many of my friends struggle with the idea of running, although it is an easy form of exercise that you can do anywhere, anytime, without having to buy a gym membership or expensive equipment.
I’ve been running for years – my whole adult life really. Running has become my Prozac, my road to creativity and my favourite thing to do on a sunny day. While running, I solve my problems, write blogs and tag lines in my head, de-stress, find happiness and even the euphoric, yet elusive runner’s high.
Yes, I am that person, a running evangelist, always extolling the benefits of a 5k run and how it will solve all of life’s problems. As a result, many friends and acquaintances ask for advice when they decide to start running. Here are my top seven tips for newbie runners, all based on my hard-won experience.
1) Run slow
This is my number one, all-time biggest piece of advice. Lower your expectations, all the way down, to the sub-basement. 99% of new runners run too fast when they start out. Oftentimes, I’ll say “Don’t run, walk. Walk briskly and add a few short runs while you walk”. Running too fast leads to discouragement and then to giving up entirely. My general rule of thumb is to run slow enough that you can carry on a conversation without gasping for air. Remember, baby steps are better for any new exercise regimen. Start slow and then slowly add speed and distance.
2) Run alone
A lot of people will recommend joining a running club. I don’t. Many new runners are intimidated by running clubs and feel pressured to keep up with the more experienced runners in the club. This leads to running too fast (see my first tip, above). Even as an experienced runner, it is hard to find someone who runs at the same pace as you. I think it is better to run alone in the beginning, at the speed at which you are comfortable, without worrying whether you are holding back anyone else. You can always join a club once you have a goal in mind, like a 5k race, and you feel you need motivation.
3) Get a good playlist
For me, listening to some great, amped-up music helps me enormously – especially when I am lacking energy. Get a really good playlist of music you love that makes you want to move. You can even pick songs with a tempo that matches your pace. There are songs that have a specific number of beats per minute (BPM). Choose a few songs and go for a run to see which ones match your pace. Then go online to search with songs with a similar BPM.
4) Be kind to your body
The big message here is, don’t go overboard. Your body will need to get used to running, so treat it well. The basics include eating well and getting enough sleep. Try not to run two days in a row so that your body can recover properly. Implement the 10% rule. As you are increasing your weekly distance, make sure you add no more than 10% to your weekly distance. This simple rule, and alternating your running days, will help you avoid overuse injuries that are common with newbie runners.
5) Invest in a good pair of shoes
Yes, with time, you will start to be able to run further and further. You don’t want to do that while wearing a pair of tennis sneakers. A well-cushioned shoe will protect your feet and joints as you pound the pavement mile after mile, so get a good pair of shoes designed for running. Take the time to go to a store where they will watch you walk before recommending a pair of running shoes. Try a few pairs on and see which are the comfiest. If something doesn’t feel right in the store, you can be guaranteed it will be killing you after you’ve been running a few miles.
6) Watch your technique
When you are starting out, you should try to take smaller steps. You want to conserve energy and not waste it. Always try to stay relaxed and maintain a good form. That means no scrunched-up shoulders – keep them down and back. Watch your posture. As the miles pile up, bad posture can lead to sore joints and other problems.
7) Register in a race
Nothing will motivate you more than a goal with a deadline. Springtime offers a lot of 5k, 10k, half marathons and full marathons. Pick a race you think you can handle and register for it. Simply paying the entry fee is often enough to push some people into serious training. Better yet, convince a friend to run it with you. It will be harder to back out if someone else is depending on you.
Some of these tips I had to learn the hard way, through injury, trial and error. With others, I was lucky enough to get great advice from other runners, medical specialists and my best friend Google. While training for a marathon, I learned about nutrition, fueling your body, and how to listen to your body. Over the years, I have gone through times in my life where I ran only 10k per week right up to periods of 65k per week. But I’ve always run. I hope you all find the joy and fitness that running has brought me.