How was your weekend? Did you get up to any fun and exciting adventures? I had THE most glorious long run yesterday morning. I went to bed on Saturday night almost giddy with excitement because I knew Sunday was going to be a lovely, sunny day, and was up and out the door early to run for as long as my legs felt like carrying me. I paid zero attention to pace, ran by feel, and loved every minute. That was followed by a few hours down at the beach, relaxing and catching up with one of my besties. It’s weekends like this one that make me feel enormously grateful for everything going on in my life right now… I just wish it would have lasted a little bit longer!
Today’s post is one that is long, loooonnnnnng overdue. I’ve received several notes lately from readers who tell me they feel inspired to get into running but don’t know where to start. Some are already exercising regularly, and some are trying to use running as a way to get into the habit. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write a post about my best tips for new runners, but alas, today is the day!
1. Start with proper running shoes
One of the great things about running is that it’s a pretty minimalist sport – no bikes, clubs, balls, rackets, helmets or wetsuits required! However, there’s one piece of equipment that can make or break your experience and that’s your shoes.
When I ask new runners what kind of shoes they’re running in, several have told me that they dusted off an old pair that they used a long time ago, or that they’re using the cross trainers that they wear for group fitness classes. This is fine – to an extent. However, if they’re really old shoes you might want to consider a fresh new pair – even if yours don’t have a ton of mileage on them. Over time, the rubber and other materials that running shoes are made of break down and they just don’t perform the same.
Similarly, training shoes that you use in group fitness classes are built differently to running shoes because they need to accommodate for more multi-directional movement, rather than the repetitive motion that you do while running. Running shoes tend to offer more support in general, so by investing in a pair, you’ll be setting yourself up for more comfortable runs and fewer injuries. Check out this post on how to shop for running shoes, then head to a local running store to have your gait analyzed. (This should be free, by the way.) The person who watches you walk should be able to recommend a few shoe options that cater to the level of support and cushioning that you need.
2. Don’t try to run every day
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or very well-seasoned runner, this one can be difficult to abide by, especially if you’re really really passionate about improving! But in the case of running, more is not necessarily better. I and many others have learned the hard way that days off are just as important as training days because your body needs recovery time. As a newbie, your muscles and joints may not be used to the physical demands of running yet, and ideally you’ll want to give them a nice gradual introduction.
Start with 2-3 short runs per week on non-consecutive days and add on as you feel comfortable. If you can, aim to mix in some other forms of exercise on non-run days, including lower-impact cardio (think cycling, rowing, swimming, walking etc) and strength training (which could include yoga or pilates).
3. Build mileage slowly
Don’t be intimidated by more experienced runners who brush off a morning 10 mile run like it was nothing – it is totally not a requirement for calling yourself a runner, nor is ‘everybody doing it’! Experts advise that mileage should be increased by 10% per week during half marathon and marathon training programs, but if you’re truly just starting out, you might find it challenging to even run a mile or two. In that case, I’d recommend sticking with that distance until it becomes doable. As for how to do it, that brings me to my next tip…
4. Don’t be afraid to walk
One of the things you’ll learn as you become more experienced is how to naturally pace yourself – not necessarily looking at a watch for your speed, but just going by feel and perceived exertion. It’ll take a while to figure out your own rhythm, and until then, try run/walk intervals like 1 minute on/1 minute off, 2 mins on/1 min off, and gradually progress – 5 mins on, 1 min off, 10 mins on, 2 mins off… you get the picture. If you don’t want to bother looking at time at all, pick a loop route (around the block for example) and use that as your benchmark. Run half way around, then walk the other half. Eventually progress to running the whole thing, and when you’ve done that, add another block or two to your route.
5. Know that the first 5 minutes always kinda sucks
I’ve considered myself a runner for almost 10 years now, and no matter how much fitter I get, the first 5 minutes of a workout always feel pretty brutal. It makes sense though – you’re going from a state of rest to a state of demanding more of your body, so naturally your heart rate starts to spike and your breathing becomes harder. That discomfort is totally normal, and eventually, after about 5 minutes, your body will adapt and you’ll feel a little more comfortable at that heart rate.
To minimize that whole body-freaking-out feeling, warm up gradually. Start by walking if you need to, then walk faster, then get into a really slow jog. Increase your speed as your heart rate adapts, and be patient with yourself. If those speed increases are super tiny at first, or if you can’t run as fast as you think you’ll be able to, be proud of what you could do and get excited to push a little further in your next session.
6. Keep yourself hydrated
This is especially the case when you’re running outside on a hot day. If you really wanted to know exactly how much to drink you can calculate your sweat rate and plan your hydration strategy accordingly, but generally, if you come back from a run and your pee is dark yellow, you needed to drink more.
As a beginner, you might not be out for longer than 20-30 minutes. In this case, you probably don’t have to worry about carrying any fluids. Just ensure you’re hydrated before you start (drink water regularly through the day, or in the case of an early-morning run, a big glass when you wake up) and drink again post-run until your thirst is satisfied. Once you start to run longer, that’s when it’s time to start considering things like carrying water bottles, planning your routes around water fountains, and electrolyte-replenishing sports drinks. My go-to is Vega Electrolyte Hydrator, but there are tons to choose from
7. Try a running group
Solo runs are my favourites because they’re ‘me time’ where I get to think through everything that’s on my mind, sort out my problems and plan for my day ahead. However, just like other goals, if accountability is something you struggle with, try enlisting the help of other people.
It could be a friend for family member that you run with, a group, or even online support. There are so many stores these days that have free group runs – lululemon and The Running Room are two that come to mind immediately, but check out running stores in your area. If you’re unsure about whether you’ll be able to keep up, call ahead and ask about the fitness level of the other participants, how far you’ll be running and approximately how long they anticipate the group will take. I’ve been in plenty of these groups in the past and it seems that the back of the pack is never a lonely place. Everyone always seems to find another couple of running buddies that match their fitness level, and some groups have no-drop rules, which means that the pack runs at the pace of the slowest person.
8. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress
Going from not being able to run a mile to running one in its entirety without stopping is just as celebration-worthy as crossing the line of a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon, so don’t forget to celebrate your achievements! Track your progress with a training log and write out a few goals for yourself ahead of time. It might be running a mile without stopping, running your first 5K race, or lacing up at least 3 times per week for a month. When you’ve crossed these goals off your list, be proud of yourself and do something special, even if it’s little. (And come tell me about it, because I’d love to hear how you’re doing!)
Alright, over to you! Tell me…
- If you’re a seasoned runner, do you have any tips to offer those who are just getting started?
- For the newbies: what’s the biggest thing you’re struggling with right now?