9 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Running
I started running longer distances about fifteen years ago. Before that I would run a mile or two to keep in shape for soccer and then call it quits. What got me started running distance? My ego.
A cute guy I was crushing on mentioned he was running the Disney Marathon and I told him I was, too. Fast-forward to four months later, and while I never accomplished the goal of going on a date with the hottie, I did finish the marathon. The biggest lessons I took away from that experience were:
- I never want to be the girl who chases after a boy (literally or figuratively).
- Disney being the happiest place on earth is debatable.
- Shoes matter.
A friend of mine recently posted on his first marathon experience and it got me thinking about what I wish I had known when I first started running. After digging into the memory banks and surveying friends, this is what I came up with.
Buy the Right Running Shoes
I think the first shoes I ran in were some old-model New Balance I bought off the shelf at JCPenney for about thirty bucks. Now, I am not saying you have to drop a lot of money on shoes, but you do need to buy the right shoes for you.
Take the time to get fitted. Your local running store should be able to figure out what kind of shoe you need (yes, supination and pronation are real things). I’m pretty sure the shoes I ran that first road marathon in were trail shoes that were at least a half-size too small, judging by the condition of my feet at the end. Learn from my mistakes, love your feet, and go get fitted.
My boyfriend's Nike obsession makes my Saucony collection seem tame. Find the shoes that work for you.
Find the Right Running Socks
Along with finding the right shoe, you’ll need to figure out the right socks for you. This might sound a little crazy, but keeping your feet in good shape is critical for running happy. Experiment on what works for you, but with toe socks, wool socks, two-layered socks, and high-tech fabric socks, you’ve got plenty to choose from.
Figure Out a Breathing Rhythm
When I surveyed my friends about what they wished they knew as a new runner, the most common answer was breathing technique. Again, this is going to be something you play with, but don’t get discouraged, you will find something that works.
For me, it’s a four count in through my nose and a four count out through my mouth. The count does not have to match your footfall, just find a rhythm that works for you. Maybe a four count is too long, so go ahead and try three.
Also, if you’re having difficulty breathing, simply slow down. Listen to your body. If you’re gasping for air, your lungs are telling you they can’t keep up with your legs yet.
Get a Gait Analysis
The second most popular survey answer among my friends was running form. When you go to your local shoe store to be fitted, ask them to do a gait analysis for you, as well. They will watch how you run and then offer some suggestions of corrective measures you can make. Running efficiently can improve your pace and keep you injury free.
"[I]f you’re having difficulty breathing, simply slow down. Listen to your body. If you’re gasping for air, your lungs are telling you they can’t keep up with your legs yet."
Get a Quality Sports Bra
When you hear people say that all you need to run is a pair of shoes, they are lying. Or these people are male. As a female runner, I promise you’re going to want a sports bra. And I wish I had known from the beginning the impact a quality sports bra can make.
The importance of this issue might be directly related to chest size and I know good sports bras are pricey, but they are worth the investment. A good bra will support you during the run, add comfort to your miles, and prevent your chest from falling quite so far south as you age. So, find something you like and stock up when you find a bargain.
Pay Attention to Lubrication
This one is for runners in humid locations. If those of you in dry areas don’t have this issue, consider yourselves lucky. What we are talking about here is the need for personal lubrication. Now stop being dirty. I’m talking about products like Body Glide or Mission Skin Care.
When you’re running, things rub. Bras rub your ribcage, tags rub your waistline, thighs rub each other. It can get ugly folks. And painful - very, very painful. Especially if you’ve been chafed and you don’t know it so you step into the shower and the water hits the spot where your skin used to be. Oh, good God, it will send you through the roof. The good news is you can avoid all that with a little attention to detail before you start your run.
You Don't Have to Run Fast Every Time
One of the strongest runners I know (as in consistently qualifies for Boston strong) told me he wished he’d known when he was new that you don’t have to run fast every time. I used to have a neighborhood loop and every day I would run it and try to beat my time from the day before. That constant hard effort sucked out all of the joy of running. By picking new routes and leaving the watch at home, I was able to focus on more than just my pace.
Value Yourself and Your Efforts
As in everything we do, it is important to know you can always ask for help. As new runners we often think we are too slow, not running enough miles, or haven’t done enough races to be considered real athletes. You’ve got to change that way of thinking and realize you are putting in the effort to improve yourselves.
"By picking new routes and leaving the watch at home, I was able to focus on more than just my pace."
Along with this acknowledgement, new runners have to realize they are worth the investment. Treat yourself to a monthly massage. I see my massage therapist on a regular basis to keep me running smoothly and injury free (knock on wood).
And don’t be afraid to hire a coach. Just because you’re not training for the Olympics doesn’t mean you don’t have important goals. A coach can not only pass on running knowledge, but also keep you on track and focused.
You Don't Have to Love Every Run
The last thing I want you new runners to keep in mind is that runners don’t always love running. And that’s okay. Sometimes when people are new to running, they look at their fit friends and their stories of personal records and the elusive runner’s high, and they wonder what they are doing wrong. The answer is absolutely nothing.
Not every run or even every part of one run is going to feel great. Even now there are many days that if I didn’t push through the cruddiness of the first mile, I would never have the opportunity to enjoy the rest of my run. Your body has to warm up and shake itself out.
And sometimes runs just suck. Last summer I was doing an easy four-mile loop around my neighborhood. This is a route I do all the time and usually enjoy, but not that evening. My legs felt out of sorts, the air was thick and I felt like I was breathing through a straw, the mosquitos were relentless, and I got into my head about how much this run sucked.
As a new runner, it’s okay to not love every run and it’s okay to want to quit. That is all part of running. And don’t worry, because I guarantee that all of your cool running friends have had sucky runs and wanted to quit at some point, too. Keep pushing through. A good run is just around the corner. Or, if you live in Florida, the good runs will start in late October when the temperatures and humidity drop.
New to running? What questions would you like answered? Please post them to the comments below.
Photos 3 & 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.