Interested in getting started running, but not sure where to begin? Already started but looking for a fresh start? There is so much information out there that it may seem intimidating to get started. Here is a list of helpful tips that can help you simplify the process, sort myth from truth, start with a solid injury risk-reducing foundation, and leave you ready to begin this amazing sport that may become a major passion in your life!
#1 Start with measurable attainable goals
When starting a new running program begin by committing to a goal of consistently getting out for a set amount of time on a set amount of days weekly. For instance, you could run/walk (we will get to this next) for 20 min on alternating days for your first week. Then increase this amount by 10% the following week. The 10% per week rule is a good place to start with conservatively increasing your running volume.
#2 Focus on time, not pace. Learn body awareness and perceived effort
Start out easy, follow a run/walk protocol, focus on how you feel, and get to know your body. A good place to start could be 2 minutes running/2 minutes walking for your goal time that day. Run/walking will allow your musculoskeletal system to adapt to the demands of running safely by reducing injury risk and while still helping you develop your cardiovascular system, strength, and endurance. There is a misconception that walking is a failure, this is a total myth! Even runners at the elite level include run/walk routines in their training!
It is easy to get hung up on pace, but this can inhibit your progress by creating a self-defeating attitude and blocking you from developing body awareness. When you run, focus on how difficult the pace is, not the number on your watch. As your fitness improves what once felt like 90% effort may only feel like 80% or even 70%...which is another indication that you are achieving your goals! Also, remember that pace has very subjective variables such as temperature, terrain (hills and trails will easily push your effort through the roof and your pace is reading a snail pace for you on flats); altitude; how much sleep you got; a stressful day at work...these can all impact your pace. If you notice that something that once felt very easy now feels arduous it may be time for a rest day.
#3 Be Consistent
Another great attainable goal for yourself as an athlete at any level is to be consistent in your training! If you set a goal to run 3 days per week, hold yourself accountable. Of course life gets in the way at times, but for the most part, try your best to prioritize your health and fitness goals. This will also boost your self-esteem and help you realize your potential in all areas of life. Consistency will also yield better results and faster athletic development.
#4 Prepare your body with a holistic approach
A great way to get off to a great start with running or improve your current running is to incorporate resistance training, mobility, foam rolling, and nutrition in your goals.
Cardiovascular fitness precedes structural readiness, this is one reason why injury risk is so high with running. By following a consistent (ideally 3 days weekly) strength training program you can arm your body against the impact forces of running. Not to mention the many other benefits of strength training.
Also, tight muscles can put undue strain on ligaments, tendons, and your skeletal system. Regular mobility work and foam rolling can keep your body fluid and body functioning better, also staving off injuries.
Never overlook the power of a healthy diet, it is essential to your overall health as a runner or not. As well as the restorative gift of a good night’s sleep and adequate recovery!
#5 Get a gait analysis, shoe fitting, and consider hiring a coach!
Prevention is always better than treatment! There are simple ways to get you off to a great start and prevent bad habits and running techniques from establishing. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks and it is much better to learn the correct way to run in the first place. A common assumption is that running is not a skilled sport and doesn’t require the technique that other sports require. This is simply not the truth! There is a ton of technique that, if you learn early from a professional coach, you can start your running on the best foot possible!
As a veteran runner of nearly two decades that has won several races at the marathon and ultra distance, I had ample technique to be corrected on my gait. I truly believe that if I had hired a coach sooner I would have prevented several injuries.
If you opt against hiring a coach at least visit a local running store and get a gait analysis and shoe fitting. You may be surprised that your foot size may have increased with time. A great fit will keep your feet happy! Proper footwear is essential for running pain and injury-free!
#6 Be patient and trust the process
We all have bad days. There will be days that are harder to get out the door, days where you feel exhausted, have aches and pains, and so on… Understand that setbacks are part of life and be resilient. Keep getting out there and trying! The only way to reach your potential is to try! Don’t waste your energy beating yourself up!
Get to know and plan routes if you have not already. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. If running next to roads, wear bright reflective clothing. Carry a cell phone and consider getting a Road ID. Another consideration is to take a self-defense class. If you run at dawn, dusk or night invest in a good headlamp and try to run with a buddy if possible.
#8 Don’t compare yourself to others or your past self...you are awesome now!
In every aspect of life, it is easy to compare ourselves to others and even our past selves. Again, this is a waste of time and energy! Focus on you! Achieving your goals, being consistent, and keeping a positive attitude will make you feel so much better and there are studies indicating that happy athletes achieve more! So smile, get out there and run!