Tips for Beginning Runners
It’s a new year and you’re looking to get in shape. A great way to get motivated is to sign up for a race that is a few months away and start training. Here are some tips for beginning runners to help you get going and keep you injury free as you train.
Don’t Wait: Start training today. Even if it is just 15 minutes per day, start your exercise program today. Getting started is usually the hardest part. It is so easy to keep putting this off one more day or one more week. How many times have you said to yourself,” I will start on Monday?” Make it happen today. You will feel better, sooner, if you do.
Register for a Race Today: Don’t wait to do this. This will be one of your biggest motivators over the next few months. With running becoming such a popular sport it is easy to find a race that fits your schedule and your ability level. Pick a race far enough out that you have time to properly train and then register for the race today. It is harder to talk yourself out of a race after you have paid your money. There are many resources online to help you find a race. You can see the races that I am running this year in my post about 18 Great Utah Races To Run in 2012. For those of you in Utah click here to access the Utah Race Guide. You can also go into your local specialty running shoe store and they can help you find the right race for you.
Commitment: THIS WILL BE HARD! A lot of your training sessions especially in the beginning will not be very fun but make a commitment to stick with it. Do not quit in the first month. It will get easier and will eventually become enjoyable. I can honestly say that I LOVE TO RUN but there have been several times that I have let myself get out of shape and I have had to suffer through the first few months of getting back in shape. Even when I am in shape there are still days that are a struggle. It is not always fun but in the long run it is worth it.
Use the Buddy System: If at all possible find someone else, or better yet a small group, to train with. It is much easier to drag yourself out of your warm bed, or pull yourself away from the TV or Facebook if you are meeting someone for your workout. The miles also go by a lot faster if you have someone to talk to while you run. Some of my best conversations with family and friends have been while pounding the pavement. You training partners can also be your biggest motivators.
Follow a Training Plan: It is easier to stick to your training if you have some specific goals and know what your workouts will be ahead of time. Find a training plan that fits your fitness level and is geared toward your goal race. A good training plan will help you to slowly and safely increase your mileage and fitness level without getting injured. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage about 10% per week. There are myriad resources online to help you train properly. You can access the Running Through Life training plans by clicking here. Once you have a good training plan to follow make sure that you post it where you will see it often and stick to the plan as closely as possible. If you happen to miss one day then make sure it doesn’t become two or three days. Be consistent or this will be your downfall.
Start Slow: Don’t overdo it and burn yourself out before you have a chance to really get started. You want to push yourself, and some discomfort probably means that you are making progress, but remember that starting a running program is hard and you need to be realistic with your goals and training sessions. Starting out slowly will also help you to avoid injuries. If you are just starting out then your best plan of action may be to start out with a run/walk program until you can transition to a full running plan. I have posted a great “Couch to 5K” program that you can access by clicking here. Whatever plan you choose just stick with it and within a few weeks or months it will get easier and you will see results.
Advertise your Plans: Let your friends and family know that you have signed up for a race and you are starting a training program. Your friends and family can be your biggest fans to you to help cheer you on and motivate you on those hard days when you want to quit. It is also harder to stop training after you have told a bunch of people that you are doing this.
Plan Ahead: Life is busy for everyone and it is easy to leave out your daily run when things get chaotic. Set your schedule and block out time each day for your workout. Don’t let anything except for those things that are really emergencies stop you from getting your workout done. Staying in shape and taking this time for yourself is extremely important and you need to treat it that way.
Rewards: This is a very important aspect of any running program. Make sure that you build in rewards for milestones that you reach. Buy yourself that new running watch or jacket if you stick to your program for a month straight. Plan your favorite meal if you don’t miss any training sessions this week. Whatever that toy is that you have wanted to splurge on, make that a reward for sticking to the plan. Even if your reward is a simple thing like a hot bath if you complete your run on a cold day. Even a well-deserved day off once in a while can be a good motivator. Find those rewards that help to motivate you and use them.
Buy the Right Shoes and socks: This tip is one of the biggest things that will help make running enjoyable and keep you from getting injured. Do not pick your running shoes by how they look or because they are inexpensive. Pick the best shoes for your running style and body type. Pick the shoes that feel the best when you run in them. The best way to do this is to go to a specialty running shoe store and have them assess your stride and recommend shoes that will help you to be efficient and avoid injury. Try the shoes on and run for a minute or two in them and pick the ones that feel the best. Do not pay any attention to the cost or the look. Running is not an expensive sport but this is one area that you want to splurge on. There are also great socks on the market that help you to avoid blisters and help keep your feet healthy. The average runner takes about 2000 steps per mile and so you need good shoes and socks.
Fill Your Tank: Adding running to your life takes additional energy and so you need to make sure that you are eating the foods that will help power you through the day. I find that as I start to exercise I want to start eating good foods that make me feel good. You don’t want to eat too much food but make sure that you are eating enough of the right foods to provide the energy you need. Substitute good healthy snacks for candy, junk food and soda pop. These foods will improve your performance and give your body the energy it needs to recover and build muscle. Give yourself the energy you need to be an athlete. Make sure that you fuel up before a run with some good carbohydrates and a little bit of protein and then follow up your run with a good mix of carbs and proteins to help your tired muscles heal. This should be done within an hour of finishing your run. Also, make sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day and stay hydrated during your runs. On long runs (longer than 7 or 8 miles) use an energy drink or gel or some other product on the market to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Sleep: Just as your body needs the right fuel it also needs the proper rest to be able to replenish and heal. Make sure that you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Listen to your body and give it the rest that it needs. If you tend to be someone who stays up too late then plan your bedtimes into your schedule and stick to them. Start getting ready for bed earlier and change your routine to help you get the sleep that you need. You will be more successful, a better runner and a nicer person if you are sleeping well.
See the Doc: Whether you think you are healthy or not I recommend that you go see your doctor and get a physical. If you haven’t been to the doctor for a while then this isn’t a bad idea anyway. This will ensure that you are healthy and don’t face any challenges that could be dangerous as you start a running program. Let your doctor know that you are planning to start training for an upcoming race and ask him/her if they have any recommendations for you.
Follow these guidelines and in just a few months you will be crossing the finish line and on your way to “Running Through Life.”