Tips for Beginners…From a Former Beginner!
A guest blog post by 2021 Race ambassador, Tanya Thornton.
Starting to run, especially starting to run when you just committed to 26.2 miles, can be daunting. If you never had a good relationship with running as a kid (maybe you did your best to get out of running the mile every year at school), starting now as an adult can seem even more overwhelming. You need to find the right shoes, hydration, find a way to eat WHILE you’re running in some cases, and we haven’t even touched upon how a person can stay motivated for that long? As a former beginner (I didn’t start running until 2017 and my children were grown), let me help you figure out where to start.
First things first:
Find Your Why
I became an empty nester in 2017. I had two children who were college graduates and my youngest was just entering college. I was still very busy though. I had an Insurance and Real Estate business where I was changing the business model. With all of that change, I was pretty overwhelmed. I had no work-life balance. On top of my work-related stress, my brother was sick with diabetes. I felt like I was about to explode.
At the time, I worked out at the gym and at home but I definitely did NOT run! Sone of my clients and friends were runners and they intrigued me. They ran 5k’s and had shiny medals to show off! I had never been interested in running before, but I was looking for something fun and productive, and running seemed like it might be a good option for me now. I liked the sense of competition and reward. I had never run a 5k but now, I was determined. And guess what? Once you run, no matter what the pace or the distance, you are a RUNNER!
I would run early in the morning. It started my day off the right way. I had a routine. My stress levels immediately decreased. Running provided clarity for me on so many different issues. I had more energy. I lost weight. I couldn’t believe it! I was having fun running!
I learned a few lessons very quickly:
- VERY IMPORTANT! Invest in a great pair of running shoes to prevent injury! Most running stores will evaluate your running gait at no charge. They will recommend the best type of running shoes for you. Some stores allow a 30-day return policy after you have purchased and tried them out (You can keep track of the miles that you put on your shoes through an app by the way. Shoes to need to be replaced after a certain amount of miles are put on them so be sure to ask about that when you’re making your purchase).
- Running socks are a thing. Certain socks do not work for me. Cotton is rotten!
- Dress accordingly. Have you ever seen someone running outside in 40-degree weather with shorts on? Well, it’s because your body heats up approximately an additional 20 degrees when you are running. If your body overheats it can drain you and affect your running performance.
- Learn how to fuel. Yes, many runners eat and drink while running! Stay hydrated. I am still learning what works for me. I use Nuun hydration tablets (started off with Gatorade) and Ucan hydration. There is run gum for an extra boost. There are lots of gels, gummies, and wafers designed specifically for running. Many runners eat oatmeal or bananas. I use peppermints and may eat an oatmeal cookie if I am going on a long run.
- Start off slow
- Do what is best for you! Some run outside all year round in the heat and in the snow. Others run on the treadmill. Either is fine. There are different apps that you can use to help you while on your run journey. A few that I used were Runkeeper, Map My Run and Nike Run Club. Later, I purchase a Garmin run watch that I use to keep track of my runs. There are many run programs online that map out a run schedule for 5k’s 10k’s, Half Marathons and Marathons. A few common programs are Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway or Hanson’s. You can also ask your local running store if they have any programs that they would recommend.
- Listen to your body!
- Make sure that you warm-up prior to running and stretch after a run. Dynamic stretching and warm-ups like leg swings, arm circles, arm hugs, and walking lunges are great examples. What works for others, may not work for you and vice versa! It is okay to slow down while. It is okay to run, then walk, then run again. Stretching and foam rolling after a run helps your body to recover. And remember, it is perfectly fine to take a rest day! Your body needs it! You will see runners who are fast and who run far. It takes time to get there. Enjoy the process along the way. With each run, you will learn something new about your body, willpower, and strength!
- Cross Train
- Cross-training is very important to your success as a long distance runner. Some examples of cross-training would be walking, machines like the elliptical, yoga, strength training, and biking. You need to keep your body strong in order to run. You can also find some great examples of free at-home cross-training workouts on the freepmarathon website here!
- I learned this the hard way. I was a much stronger runner when I first started running because I had been lifting weights. Then, the more I ran, the less I strength trained. Running then became more of a struggle.
- You can choose to run solo or groups
- I love both! I love running alone. It is so peaceful. I am alone with my thoughts. I don’t listen to music but I sometimes listen to podcasts. I get to plan my day and my week. I get to refresh my soul!
- Groups are also fun. They are so motivating. You can get great running tips from group members. You may meet a best friend in a group. Running with others can be easier on longer runs. You can travel to races with group members. They will show up to support you at races. You can do some serious training and get some serious miles in with group members. During my Free Press Marathon in 2018, I trained with two of my run friends for the Marathon. Then, during the marathon, one of those friends ran the first 20 miles with me. During the last mile and a half of the Free Press marathon, when I thought I had nothing left in me, someone from one of my run groups saw me on the course and ran me. A few days later I found out that she did this for several runners. And that is the benefit of belonging to a group!
Finally, don’t forget to encourage yourself!
Every day is different when running. Take it all in! Enjoy the run! At some point, you will experience a runner’s high! Throw your gear on. Step outside! Get started! Run happy! Run Free!
P.S. I also just wanted to share another motivator for me to run: my Grandson! My kids all casually run now and two of them have run some 5k’s, but I cannot wait to run with my grandson! He is going to love the kid’s fun run once he is old enough!