Learning to start running sounds really intimidating at first, right? Cue the flashes of bleeding nipples as a worn-out old man drags through a marathon, nightmares about running the mile in elementary school, and the sweaty-panting-puking vibes that come with intense exercise. So many of us have bad connotations with running, especially if we weren’t very active growing up.
I totally understand! When you start running, it isnt’t easy. But when you sit down and weigh out the pros and cons, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad. Running is a full-body exercise: it strengthens your legs, your core, and your cardiovascular system. And it’s one of the most effective workouts you can do! So if you want the maximum bang for your exercise buck, running should be high on your list.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to log hundreds of miles a week to call yourself a runner. Even doing something as simple as one mile every few days counts. So long as you make sure you understand what you’re getting into, and have the things you’ll need, you’ll find yourself running regularly in no-time.
Leave Your Excuses Behind
Starting something new is hard! We all know that. And when we’re afraid of the unknown, I think it’s normal to try and talk ourselves out of it – I know I do. When you catch yourself doing it, call yourself out! There’s nothing scary about walking extra fast!
Running doesn’t take hours, so you’ve definitely got time. Even if you get out there and only manage to walk a mile, it won’t take you more than 20 minutes. Let a few weeks and a handful of runs go by, and you can likely run two miles in that time. That’s a great, full-body, 20 minute workout that you can sneak in before work, on your lunch break, or even at night if you feel safe doing so.
Running outside is free! No need to use a fancy treadmill or shell out cash to join a sponsored race. You don’t even need fancy shoes. The great outdoors are free to all and have plenty of different options to choose from. Consider yourself a local explorer!
If you’re worried about childcare – don’t! Let your kids ride their bikes alongside you, or rollerblades, or skateboards. If they’re still really little, use a running stroller. Save some money by checking out neighborhood groups or consignment shops for a used one, since it’s something most people don’t need for long.
Gather What you Need
Another perk to running: you don’t need much. No fancy weights, bands, or giant machines. All you’ll really need to start on your new adventure is clothing to cover your body and a pair of sneakers.
Lots of seasoned runners use specialized shoes, but don’t fall for the trap. If you’re not logging miles like a professional, a pair of comfy sneakers will do for now. I’m not saying you should go slap the pavement in hard canvas shoes like Vans or Converse. but anything with decent cushion and arch support will be just fine. And when you fall in love with running (you will! I swear!), you can invest in something fancier.
A great sports bra is worth investing in, though. If you’re a member of the IBTC (A.K.A Itty Bitty Titty Committee), you might be fine with a normal compression bra; but if you’re gifted in the chest region, getting something more significant will save you a lot of grief. Check out this highly-rated sports bra that is supportive and comfortable for boobies of all sizes.
Anything else you really need? Not really! Maybe the cheapo pair of headphones that came with your phone, or a free pair you got on an airplane. It’s so low-maintenance it’s crazy.
Start Running with Proper Prep
Before you head out, make sure you’re not starving – but not too full, either. Try to time your last meal about two hours before your run, and keep your water intake steady. You don’t have to take my word for it – you’ll learn them fast!
Cramps and side stitches are no joke, and neither is a full bowel. Gamble with your food game too much and you might find yourself racing your bowels home.
There’s a saying: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But if this is your first run, it shouldn’t be either – unless you’re looking to end your running career before it even begins.
Starting to run doesn’t mean you literally just start running. Start easy. Set small goals for yourself, like running three blocks straight, or for 45 seconds. Once you finish an interval, take a break to walk briskly. It’ll be easier on your heart and your joints, and it will make the whole thing seem less intimidating. Each time you complete an interval, you get that boost of accomplishment – and that feeling will only grow when you notice how easy they’re getting.
You Don’t Have to go Alone
There are so, so many ways to make sure you’re not diving into the unknown without any guidance. I know for some folks, it’s easier to start a new venture with a guide, or with the comfort and motivation of an outside presence. If that sounds like you, don’t worry! There are endless options.
For warm-blooded company, you can always bring your dog along on your journey – he’d love the extra exercise! If you don’t have a dog, ask a friend or family member to run with you, or see if there’s any running clubs in your area. Lots of neighborhoods have groups that run together, either for safety or just good old company -and it’s a great way to make friends.
Running can be a great way to get in some alone time, so don’t feel pressured to bring someone along. You can download an app like MapMyRun, Strava, C25K or Runkeeper, to track your workout or give you a training plan. If you’re old school, download a printed guide and check off each item on your wall calendar.
Use a Cheat Code to get Through It
When doing something challenging, giving up can seem so easy – especially when it’s just you out there with nothing to focus on but the struggle. Distraction tools are optional for your running adventure, but I highly recommend it. Your workouts will seem shorter, easier, and who knows? You might even like it.
There’s the regular stand-by of your favorite tunes. Music can help add energy and tempo to match when you’re pounding the pavement, and combined with the endorphins from your run, there’s no limit to the heights you can boost your mood to! I love the feeling of running to my favorite song – it’s kind of like my own music video. A sweaty, red-face music video.
If you want to get some extra learning in, podcasts are a great way to occupy your mind. Imagine building a healthy body while you build a healthy brain! 2020 will really be your year, despite – well, everything happening in the entire world.
There are plenty of other things you can do to pass the time without leaning on technology. Count the things you pass: trees, stoplights, blocks, mailboxes…etc. Focus on the pattern of your breathing. Follow the “inhale, exhale” mantra as you breathe, paying extra care to inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. Or, pick a route you’ve never been on before and check out your surroundings.
I also love using my Fit Bit Versa 2 it keeps me motivated to run and keeps track of your kilometres, steps and calories. I love that it buzzes every time you reach a KM and you can reserve texts and calls, too. It is a great investment when you start running.
Cool Down Correctly
Want to look like a major amateur? Stretch before you do your run. Stretching cold muscles won’t help you the way a five-minute walk will. Real runners stick to stretching after they finish, and for good reason.
Stretching religiously after you run is an awesome way to improve flexibility and maintain that strength you’re building with each run, all while preventing you from getting injured. If you don’t stretch, not only will you lose flexibility, but you’ll be ten times more sore. Yeah, I know feeling sore is gratifying, but not when it’s so bad you can’t walk.
Your stretching time doesn’t have to be anything crazy! You can use stretches you learned in 5th grade gym class, or look up some good stretches for runners if you’re looking to establish a lifetime habit. Kudos, by the way – you won’t regret it!
Once you know what you’re stretching, and you’ve absolutely crushed your first run, you’re ready! When I do my cool-down moves, I like to ease into each position. Once I’m there, I hold it for about 30 seconds. Not pushing too hard or anything. Just sinking in. Stretching just feels great!
Whew! That was a long talk. In fact, it probably took you longer to read this than it will take you to get a good run in. Hope we cross paths at the track sometime!