Little known fact about me: My running career (if you want to call it that) actually began in middle school. I joined the Cross Country team in 7th grade only because it was not called Track and therefore implied I did not have to be fast. Then I found out the team name was the Huskies and once again worried about the fast part. I was pretty sure there were not any slow Huskies hanging around. I ran Cross Country for a season or two, I was slow – usually last to finish – but I had fun. I had friends on the team and looked forward to spending time with them (someone tell me exactly how that is different from today). I joined the marching band in high school and didn’t really think twice about running.
In college, my roommate took Running as her gym credit and I thought, “Seriously?! She’s going to run for a semester?!” Ugh. I took swimming instead and then I took weight lifting. Anything to avoid having to run around campus. That sounded too hard and she was getting up before the sun. Not me. After college, I made several attempts to start running (it was never start running again), but never followed through. Most notably was when I signed up for the Columbus Half Marathon several years ago and then drove my car from my house to work one day and noticed that my odometer said 10.9 miles. Not even a half marathon? Not hardly. I never even made it to that start line.
In 2009 I started running again, this time training for a half with the help of a training group, Marathoners in Training. And, I guess you could say it stuck. Often times, I look back on what was different about that time than all the others. Why did I keep running? I firmly believe it was because I had the encouragement, advice, support, guidance and instruction from top-notch coaches and veteran runners to help me. They taught me to run. Without MIT, I felt like just another idiot trying to run laps around the park with absolutely no idea what I was doing. Who knew you had to learn to run? Apparently not me.
I get a lot of questions about running – people want to know how I run, why I run, where I run, do I run by myself or with friends, what do I wear, what do I eat, how far and how fast but mostly, other people want to know how I started running and how I stick with it. I am fortunate enough to have access to an awesome training group and many experienced runners and coaches, but I also know that not everyone is so lucky. For people who aren’t in Central Ohio, I wish there was a place I could direct them, a good resource for a good running start. After all, there is no reason for us not to run. It is simple, you don’t need a lot of gear, it doesn’t have to be expensive and anyone can do it. Yes, anyone.
As Ryan sums it up, his book will help the beginning runner:
Run with good form for maximum efficiency and to avoid injury.
Build a powerful mental training program that includes a running journal and visualizations.
Select the right shoes and gear for different conditions and weather.
Eat simply, with suggested menu items.
Get past embarrassment and being self-conscious.
Prevent and treat common running injuries.
Find support and encouragement in the running community.
AND MUCH, MUCH MORE.
What I like most about Ryan’s book is that it is simplistic in nature. If you are looking for great detail or have been running for years, this book is not for you. Who is it for then? The complete beginner, someone like me who is going from nothing to jogging a few days a week in an effort to maybe lose weight, get in shape or maybe take on a new challenge. In fact, Ryan’s book offers several training plans based on multiple reasons why someone may take up a running program: Active Beginners, Non-Exercisers, Weight Loss, and People 50 and Over. I wish I had copies of this book to hand out to people when they say, “I’m too (fat, old, busy, slow) to start running now.” If it can be done (which it can because I did it), Ryan will help you find the way.
For someone who has a lot of experience running, this book may seem too general or not detailed enough, which is what I first thought when reading it. Then, I thought back to myself when I first started running – I literally had no idea what to do if there was a raindrop, let alone if I had an ache or a pain. Proper footwear? What on earth does that mean? I have tennis shoes, right?
While reading, I immediately started to change how I was approaching it. I imagined myself back, almost three years ago, when I didn’t know anything. What would my old self have wanted to know more about? It was then that I realized this book is an all-inclusive guidebook for the beginning runner. In fact, I wish I had multiple copies to distribute to my new running friends.
Some of the topics that I found particularly helpful were Mechanics, including proper running form, stretching (with examples), heart rate and training zones (I really wish I knew more about this in the beginning) and the importance of proper footwear. Ryan also talks about self-consciousness while running and how to overcome it – definitely worth the read! Once you get the basics down, the book goes into a little more detail about improving performance with hill running and staying motivated. Finally, Ryan discusses nutrition, hydration, how to run in adverse conditions (rain, hot, cold, wind) and common injuries, including treatment. Ryan in no way claims to be a doctor or medical professional, but gives you enough information to determine if you have a serious injury as well as some basic tips to alleviate pain and determine whether or not you should keep running without further medical advice. All of which are invaluable for the first-time runner.
On a personal note, I found Ryan’s nutritional guidelines especially valuable because they are very similar to my own personal nutrition (when I am fully on track) even though I feel like I seldom find anyone who agrees with me. He promotes a clean diet (free of processed, boxed and sugar-laden foods) and encourages the consumption of complex carbohydrates including whole grains and pastas as well as vegetables. What I value is that Ryan encourages increasing the amount of proteinwe ingest when beginning a running program. I have to pay particular attention to this because of my insulin sensitivity – I must pair a complex carb or a simple carb (such as fruit) with a protein to aid in proper digestion. I find a lot of runners back off on protein, especially before a long run, but I feel like I am often doing just the opposite! Ryan also discusses alternative protein sources (and I do get tired of meat) like beans as well peanut and nut butters. He includes simple meal plans to get you off to a healthy, inexpensive and simple start.
So, I know from time to time I get new runners following my blog. This book would definitely be a great resource for you to get off the couch and get moving! You can find it through Amazon.com HEREfor $9.56.
Until the next mile marker,
This post originally appeared on Words to Run By on February 21, 2012 and has now been updated to reflect changes in the book’s publication.