At a time when so many are recommitting to their health or setting even bigger fitness goals for the coming year, I want to reflect on the beginning of my running journey (November 2013). Since I’ve been training for a marathon, people have been surprised when I say that I’ve been running for a little over a year. Although I was very active before I became a runner, I suppose it’s a huge jump to go from 3 miles to 26.2 miles in 14 months. It’s proof that anyone who is willing to commit to training can become a marathoner. After the initial shock that I haven’t been running very long, people will ask how I trained to get to where I am–to the starting line of a marathon in one week.
Before I share my advice for brand new runners, let’s pause for a second. I’m not an expert. I’ve gotten a lot of my information from runner friends and my coach, Jess. I’m not even a particularly fast runner. My goal in writing this post is not to give you a training plan or share a secret for how you can become an elite runner. My goal is to give you advice for where to begin. What action steps you can take starting tomorrow if you want to become a runner, whether you want to run a 5K or a full marathon someday. The process can be daunting if you aren’t sure where to start. This advice is based off my honest, trial-and-error experience. Decide what works best for you.
Get Fitted — Not only is buying a new pair of running shoes a great motivator to get started, but it’s also safer for you. The longer distances you’ll be running, the more important it is that your shoe have the right amount of support, be the right size, etc. Visit a store like JackRabbit or New York Running Company for a free gate analysis. Remember to focus on fit over color and style.
Sign Up — Choose a goal, even if you’re not sure you’re ready to work toward it. Are you currently running less than 1 mile? Register for a 5K. Can you run 4-5 miles already? Register for a half marathon. I didn’t feel ready to run a half marathon when I registered for my first race, but that’s what training is for. Give yourself adequate training time by choosing a plan (i.e. Hal Higdon method).
Track Yourself — While you might not always feel like you’re progressing while training, having a way to track your pace and distance will remind you that you are growing stronger. I regularly use the Nike+ Running app. Map My Run and RunKeeper are also great options. I occasionally use RunKeeper to create interval workouts. Another app suggestion–try to learn to run without music.
Be Social — As a new runner, it can be helpful to find a friend to train with or to join a run club. Many cities have groups that meet on certain days of the week and run a set distance in pace groups. You won’t feel inexperienced as a new runner. In New York, you can join Nike, Sweaty Betty, Black Roses, etc. CONFESSION: I actually prefer to run alone; many runners like to run in groups.
Accept Walking — When I was a new runner, I thought I had to be fast and that I wasn’t allowed to walk. Both are false. When you’re a new runner, you should be running at a conversational pace. Focus on how far over how fast. It’s also okay to take walking breaks (i.e. run for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, repeat). I still take brief walking breaks during my long marathon training runs.
Stay Strong — For some people, running becomes addicting. They prefer to only run for exercise. However, it’s important to cross train. This means that you should lift weights, bike, swim, or practice yoga to offset running. Your muscles can become imbalanced if all you do is run. Keep taking classes, especially those that focus on strengthening your glutes and core. You’ll strengthen your form.
Manage Expectations — Distance running is hard. If anyone has told you otherwise, they’re lying. I’ve had some very difficult training runs. I’ve been intimidated by new distances. I’ve cried in frustration. Distance running is even more mental than it is physical. Be patient with yourself. Only increase your distance by 10% each week. Don’t compare your ability to anyone else’s. With consistency, you will make it. You won’t believe how far you can go.
Any more specific questions? Leave them in the comments!