Making the decision to start running can be
pretty freaking exciting. Maybe you are already planning out future races, or
maybe you just want to be able to get around the block once without stopping.
No matter what your goals are, we all have to start somewhere. A lot of people
think that running separates people: People who can run a sub four hour
marathon vs. People who can manage it in 3:30, People who can sprint with no
issues vs. People who hate speed work. But the truth is, running is a great
equalizer. True, your "easy" may not be the same as someone else's
"easy," but you are both runners, and you both have to log your
miles, regardless of the pace. Unfortunately, this also means that we are all
susceptible to the same injuries, especially when you first start to run.
When I started running, I had never gone
farther than a couple miles. In fact, up until that point, I rarely ran because
I didn't enjoy it. A "long run" for me was anything that took more
than 20 minutes. But I suddenly found myself living overseas in a foreign
country (South Korea... My husband is a solider in the U.S. Army) after having
spent my entire life in a small town in Georgia. Needless to say, I was
experiencing a bit of a culture shock, as well as all the stress that comes
with feeling homesick and being a military spouse. So I decided to try running
as a form of stress relief. My dad had been running for a few years so he and I
agreed to sign up for a race to run together when my husband and I visited the
states that summer (this was in January of 2011).
So I started running. Just a few easy 2 and 3
milers. I still remember running my first scheduled long run: 6 miles. I didn't
think I could do it, but I did. And just that like, I was reading Runner's
World and following track events online. I became totally consumed by running.
It is really a great feeling, to be so passionate about something. But then all
of that passion came back to bite me in the butt. I got shin splints... Bad.
I was instantly frustrated and heartbroken. I
read up on overuse injuries and found out that the best way to fix my shin
splints was to cut back on running. But why?! I just fell in love with the
sport, and now I have to stop?
Unfortunately, I am horribly stubborn and
don't learn lessons easily, which is how I managed to get two more overuse
injuries in a three month span before my half marathon that June (which I was
able to, thankfull, run painfree).
So what is my number one tip for new runners?
No, I don't mean your pace. Plus,
"slow" is relative... An easy pace for one person is painful for
another. No, what I mean is to ease into your mileage gently. If you have never
run on a regular basis before, you don't want to jump into 25 mile weeks
overnight. And also, don't think that just because you feel fine after the
first couple weeks that you are in the clear. Overuse injuries come from just
that: Overuse. You may be able to get away with pushing yourself for a week or
two, but eventually all that pushing will catch up to you and your legs will
let you know in a very painful manner.
Now, everyone's legs are different and will
tolerate different things. The general rule is to increase your mileage by no
more than 10% from week to week. However, some people can do a little more, and
some need to do less. Unfortunately, much of running involves quite a bit of
trial and error to find what is right for you and your running.
My second tip: Set lots of goals.
No, I don't want you to make yourself a
laundry list of goals that is so long that it intimidates you and scares you
away from running. What I'm talking about is setting a variety of goals. Of
course, you probably have some bigger, long-term goals in mind (Running a
marathon, Breaking a time in the 5K, Qualifying for Boston, Running an ultradistance,
etc.), and those goals are definitely great to have, but you also need to set
smaller goals that you can hit on your way to your bigger goals. Some examples:
Running your first double-digit long run, breaking your PR for one mile,
joining a running group, running two days in a row, etc. There are all sorts of
goals that you can set, you just have to remember that it doesn't have to be a
huge goal to be worth achieving. Setting these smaller goals will help keep you
focused and allow you to feel all warm and fuzzy when you check them off your
Third tip: Share your running... But not all
Now, this tip refers more to the time you
don't spend running, but it is a lesson I've learned since I started running
last year. It is a wonderful thing to find friends who also enjoy running. Even
if you can't always get together for runs, you can talk mile splits and routes
and plan races together. I was able to find this with my Dad, with the friends
I met through blogging, and with a few Army wives in Korea. However, as
important as your running friends will be in your life, it is just as important
to remember that your non-running friends probably don't want to hear about
your chafing over dinner, or about how you've been reading about what foods are
least likely to make your digestive system erupt (from either end) during your
race next weekend. Also, be sure to use the words "black toenail"
cautiously, and never on a first date.
Finally: Listen to your body.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you will head out
for a short easy run and your body will tell you, "Go ahead, pick up the
pace. And while you're at it, let's tack on a few extra miles." It is
rare, but sometimes everything just feels perfect. But usually, if your body
has something to say it isn't nearly as uplifting. If you head out for a speed
session and your ankle keeps twinging with every step, maybe today should be
changed to an easy run. Or, if you wake up one more and your legs hardly
let you get out of bed, and unscheduled
rest day is probably the best choice. I still have a hard time listening to my
body, but with all the "motivational" photos and phrases out there
("pain is weakness leaving the body," "unless you faint, puke,
or die, keep going!", "no one ever drowned in sweat") it is kind
of understandable. Of course, there are definitely times where pushing is a
smart choice. And I firmly believe that you have to go outside of your comfort
zone in order to see results and to keep progressing. But sometimes your body is
sore and tired because it genuinely needs a break.
Believe me when I say that you should listen,
before you end up injured.
Deciding to start running can be intimidating,
even though it seems like the simplest sport. But just remember to be patient
with your mileage, to stay focused and positive, and to listen to what your
body tells you, and your running journey should be a wonderful experience.
True, injuries may happen, and somedays running may just not sound like fun...
But I have learned that you need to stick with it. Which brings me to one final
Stick with it. Don't force yourself, but push
yourself just enough mentally to see what running can really bring you.
Somedays it might be raining, windy, or you just may roll over, look at the
clock, and simply not want to go... But try. Just for a mile, or even just once
around the block. Chances are, you'll change your mind and you'll be glad that
you laced up your shoes that morning.
Comments are welcomed and encouraged - I know Lauren would be thrilled to hear from you.