I’m often asked a lot of questions by readers about how I got started running and how they can as well, so what better place to share all of my tips than my blog!
(Before you start any new exercise program, please consult your physician!)
Think You’re Not Ready to Run a Race?
- Volunteer to work at a race. You can help at water stops or at registration. In the late summer of 2009, I volunteered to work at a Sprint Triathlon. I marked their bodies with their numbers (good way to touch hot men ;)) and helped at a water spot. This race singlehandedly motivated me to register for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I saw many women with my shape finish very strong. I knew that if they could do it, so could I!
- Sign up for the race anyway. Even if you’re a few weeks in to your training, participate in a 5K. Most allow walkers. This will allow you to get a feel of race day, and it will also ease the intimidation. There’s always going to be other newbies there, too.
- Try run/walk intervals. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t run the whole time. Run what you can and walk the rest. Some programs have you run 3/1 intervals, or 2/1. I worked my way up to 10/1 for half-marathon training. Walking is OK!
- Get fitted for proper running shoes. The last thing I would want you to do is go out for some runs in your old shoes and risk injury and end up thinking you’re the problem when it’s actually the shoes you’re wearing. If you run in old shoes, you can risk getting blisters, and shin splints might plague you instantly. Any running store with trained staff should be able to give you a free gait analysis. They will record your foot placement as you run on a treadmill. By examining your foot placement, they can suggest some shoes that will work well for you. Everyone has different feet, different foot placement, and different strides, so asking someone else what they wear won’t really help you. You can read about my gait analysis experience.
- The second most important piece of gear in your arsenal should be a really good, supportive sports bra. Don’t even attempt to cheap out in this department. I personally suggest Moving Comfort. The cup sizes range from A to E. I wear the Fiona style. It has a back closure and adjustable, velcro straps. Not to be all TMI, but I’m a D-cup and the girls don’t move AT ALL in this bra.
- It’s also important to wear the proper clothes, but I don’t want you to spend a lot of money upfront. When you’re in the beginning stages of running, you won’t be running too many miles at one time, so it’s not entirely necessary to wear sweat-wicking clothes. It’s ok to wear the gym gear you already own. We can talk about other running clothes when you start running more miles. However, if you do want to spend the extra money now, purchase some sweat-wicking socks such as Balega or Feetures. Your feet will thank you!
- The most widely used program for new runners is the Couch to 5K program by Cool Running. Active.com has an app to go with it (it’s $1.99, and you can sync your music with the program). There are free apps available as well. The apps will tell you when to walk and when to run. Or you can just print out the program and take it to the treadmill. This program is designed to move you up every week with more time running and less time walking. My advice is to not get discouraged if you find a particular week too challenging. You do not have to move to the next week if you are struggling. Try that week again. Honestly, it took me five tries before I graduated the program. Believe me, once you start this program and find yourself moving forward, you will be amazed with yourself! You’re stronger than you think!
- Another tidbit of advice- this program was designed by professionals. You only need to run 3 times a week during this program. Please don’t try to get too confident and start skipping weeks or adding more running days to your week. You could over-train and get injured. I strongly encourage you to stick with 3 days a week of running and doing cross-training on other days like weight training, cycling, swimming, etc. Rest days are equally as important as training days.
- Week 5 Day 3 will most likely scare you. You’re going from 2 8-minute runs to a 20-minute run with no walk breaks. My tip for this- just start out slower than your normal pace and work your way up to a faster pace after a few minutes.
Fuel & Preparation
- When you first start out, you’re not running enough miles to warrant on-the-go fuel, but you will want to make sure you are properly hydrated before running to prevent cramping. (Your pee should be a pale yellow)
- Everyone’s stomach reacts differently to different foods, so start now to see what your body can handle before a run. Try to eat low-fiber foods before a run such as white bread, fig newtons, crackers with peanut butter. Avoid juice and dairy.
- You should eat 1-2 hours before a run, depending on what your stomach can handle.
- You should ingest protein after a run such as a protein drink. To help recovery, you should eat/drink 1 hour following the run.
- Stretching- stretching is important. However, I urge you not to stretch without warming up first. Think of it as taking a rubber band out of the freezer and trying to stretch it. Spend about 5 minutes doing a fast-paced walk or a slow jog and then stretch. You should also stretch after you run so your muscles don’t stiffen up.
Other Things to Consider
- Always carry ID with you when you run.
- Log your mileage on a site like dailymile.
- Start out every run a little slower than you think you should be going. Fatigue will overcome you if you start out too fast.
- Running does not always equal weight loss.
I think this is everything that I wish someone would have told me when I first started running. Come back for more tips on what to wear, what to eat, and what kind of gadgets to buy when you start packing in more mileage.
Does anyone else have tips for beginner runners?