One of the things I love about running is that I’m always learning. I enjoy learning, even if the contradictions sometimes make my head feel like it’s going to explode. Even though I read about running while learning to run, there are definitely things I wish I’d done differently when I started.
Join a running group
Do as I say, not as I do. I was too shy, too unsure, and too slow to join a running group so I began running on my own. I really wish I’d known more about my options and had started with a group.
Check with your local shoe stores. If there’s a running group (or more than one) in your area, join it, whether or not you actually make it to a run. Someday you will. They might have groups geared specifically for beginners.
If there isn’t a running group in your area, consider trying an online challenge. I’m partial to Another Mother Runner — even though I’m not a mother. I still did their Nuun 13.1 Challenge this past spring and really enjoyed it.
A group will teach you the things you don’t even know to ask about. They’ll provide moral support. If they’re local and you actually run with them, you are more likely to run because you have people you’re meeting up with.
Slow it down
A lot of people hate running when they begin because they just run too fast. You have time to get faster. Start at a pace where you can still talk. Don’t worry about how slow it is. Consistency is the ticket to speed; stay consistent, keep running, and the speed might come — it might not come, too, if you’re like me, but I promise you if you don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning running will eventually be enjoyable (at least sometimes) and something that you want to keep doing.
People begin to run, decide they’re not going to die, and the next thing you know they’ve signed up for a half marathon or a full marathon.
This works for some people, but most new runners need more time building up a running base. And instead of having a great time at their first long distance race, they’re miserable or worse yet end up injured and never even get to run.
My advice? Don’t sign up for anything longer than a 10k until you’ve been running a year. It takes time for things like your ligaments and tendons to be ready for longer pounding. I’ve seen too many enthusiastic new runners get sidelined by injury by going long too quickly.
Running doesn’t give you permission to eat all the food
For some people running is all you need to maintain your weight.
Most of us are more likely to gain weight if we think that we can xyz becasue we just ran xyz miles.
You really don’t need to eat during a run for runs under 1 hour. You don’t always even need to eat anything for runs over an hour.
Basically what you do need to do is listen to your body. If you’re feeding it healthy, unprocessed foods and not gaining weight, you’re good. If you do find yourself gaining weight when you start to run, you probably need to cut back a bit on the refueling or thinking a 4 mile run will burn off a whole pizza.
And speaking of food . . .
You may not need to load up on carbs before a race. Keep in mind here I am not a nutritionist and quite frankly this is a hotly debated subject. Just a few links on the subject:
- 10 biggest sports nutrition myths
- The truth about carbo loading
- 10 common running myths debunked
- Nancy Clark on carbohydrate loading
So here’s my take on it: what I’ve learned is that I don’t need to carb load. Every heard of a carb belly? Basically a baby bump without the baby. Yeah, imagine running on that. But I do try to increase the percentage of carbs I eat before a long run (think about 8-9 miles+) or a half. Maybe a 10k. Not so much a 5k.
I don’t go for the surgary ones so much, and try to choose mostly unprocessed carbs (remember all those plaintain recipes in Friday Food Porn)? And bananas. Potatoes. Brown rice (they say you should go with white rice because of the fiber in brown rice, but I’m used to a high fiber diet & it doesn’t usually bother me). Sushi (there’s the white rice). Or pierogis, which is somewhat processed, but a favorite prerace or long run meal for me (like tonight!).
Since I’ve never run a marathon, I can’t really speak to that. Maybe I’d go in for a lot more sugar. Maybe someday I’ll find out. Probably not.
Don’t worry what you look like
Oh, I get it and this is another do as I say, not as I do. I spent almost a year running on my treadmill when I first began because I didn’t feel like a runner and was just sure I would shrivel up in shame from the looks I’d get from the real runners if I ran outside.
Now I’d much prefer to run outside, and the treadmill is there just for bad weather.
I have heard of people being heckled when they run, but thankfully I have never run into that. I’ve had the teenage boy who runs in my neighborhood say good job to me. Couples running. Older runners, younger runners.
Trust me, the vast majority of runners just aren’t giving you any thought at all. Get out there & at least try it. If you really hate it, the treadmill is always there. But how will you know until you try?
Yes, I threw in a sixth one just for grins.
What do you wish you’d done differently when you started to run?