Tips for Beginner Runners

Last week, in the comments Bluebutterfly10 asked me if I had any tips for beginner runners.

I was immediately like, “wow, that’s odd,” because I still consider myself a beginner runner!

Although, that’s not entirely true.  I have been running, in some form or another, since maybe July of 2008.  From July to December of 2008, I ran basically six miles a day, six days a week, and that got me a pretty nice stress fracture in my foot.  Then I laid off, started weight lifting a lot, and adding in high intensity running intervals from January-June 2009.  Then the bar exam came and I didn’t run at all for a few months, and now I’m back at it.
I guess I still consider myself a beginner because I”m not up to the marathon distances I see on a lot of blogs, but that’s probably not true.  I suppose I’m kind of an intermediate runner?  I’m sure I could run a half marathon right now without dying, and I could probably push myself quite hard at the gym to do maybe 8 10-minute miles.  (I just don’t usually have the time after work.)  So, basically, this is my disclaimer: I’m not a marathon caliber runner, but I do know what it’s like to go from zero fitness capability and obese to moderately good fitness capability.  That’s my approach.  And here are my tips.

1.  Get fitted for shoes. I can’t stress this enough.  I will also add that if you’re not happy with the fit, take the shoes back.  I have very strange feet.  They are two different sizes and all kinds of messed up and I am prone to stress fractures in my little toe-ish area and large, annoying blisters in my arch.

You should Google “Yourtown running store” to find a place to go.  Don’t go to large chain stores; look for small, independent local stores that are run by running enthusiasts.  Chains are staffed by Joe Blow who needs an after school job; people who own running-specific stores know their stuff.  These are my pretty running shoes:

raceprep 005

They are not perfect, but they are a vast, vast improvement from the Nike Outlet generic athletic shoes I started in.

2.  Increase slowly.  I think I kind of tricked myself into running, honestly.  I never set out with a goal to run a marathon or even a 5K…I just wanted to beat myself.  I’ll never forget the first days I ran, when I struggled to run for half a mile on the treadmill at an 11:00 pace.  I didn’t overwhelm myself–I set a very, very simple goal: DO MORE, or DO IT BETTER.

In other words, if on Day 1, I ran for 5 minutes at an 11:00 pace, on Day 2, I had two choices–I could either run for 5 minutes and 30 seconds at the same pace, or I could run 5 minutes at a 10:45 pace.  Every day I made myself improve my speed or my distance by a teeny tiny bit.  I always felt good about what I did, because I was always beating my personal bests, even if it was just by five seconds.

And before I knew it, those small changes had somehow turned into 7 mile runs at a 9:15-ish pace.  Little changes add up!

3.  Have fun.  I’ve posted about how I don’t really love working out, but what makes it usually a good experience for me is that I try not to burn out on things.  I’m coming to the realization that running 5 days a week is not realistic or fun for me…but when I run 2 days a week, lift weights 2 days a week, and do yoga once a week, I LOVE to run.

Don’t burn yourself out on it.  It’s very easy to burn out on running and get frustrated.  Ride a bike!  Swim!  Do yoga!  Take your dog for a walk!  Do a workout DVD!  I’ve encountered a bit of an attitude in the running world from time to time that to be a runner, you have to run every day to the exclusion of all other exercises.  I don’t believe that and think that attitude is toxic, and NOT in the good Britney way.  I consider myself a runner even though I mix it with other cardio exercises I love.

4.  Register for a race.  I wish I’d done this a long time ago.  I ran my first race, a 4 miler, over a year after I started running because I was scared.  Since then, I’ve also run a 5K and an 8K and have another 5K coming up this Sunday.  If you are like me, this will give you a nice goal because you are cheap and don’t want to waste money on the race fee by punking out.  I also really like the fun environment of races and have acquired an awesome collection of ugly t-shirts in lurid colors to wear around the house.

See how fun running races is?

Totally fun.  Obviously.

5.  Be kind to yourself. So many people want to quit running or exercise in general because they are not immediately great at it.  I could barely jog for five minutes when I first started, but the great thing about running is that you can see real, tangible improvements fairly quickly.  Stick with it and set easy goals to achieve in the beginning.   Although I didn’t know about them when I started to run, there are programs such as Couch to 5K designed to take you, quite literally, from the couch to running a 5K.

And a few other quickies:

6.  Drink enough water. I usually drink 24-36 ounces of water during my runs. I drink more if it’s hot or I’m on a longer run.  Get a good water bottle.  I really like my Camelbak that has a straw with bite grip so I don’t spill all over myself.

7.  Eat enough food. Running burns a lot of energy and eating a low calorie diet and running is a recipe for disaster and injury.  Calculate your calorie needs on a site like Livestrong or Sparkpeople and make sure you’re getting enough nutrition!

8.  Find a buddy.  The most fun I’ve ever had running was when I ran a race with my sister.  We live far apart so we don’t get to do that regularly, but I wish we did!  It was really motivating and fun.

9.  Rest. I try not to run on consecutive days.  Running is tough on your body, right down to the bones and muscles, and there are tiny tears and cracks that need to repair themselves while you’re still getting used to the hard pounding running causes.  Too much running too soon leads to stress fractures, which I’ve had because I thought I was awesome and invincible.  They hurt, a LOT, and will debilitate you from any running whatsoever for awhile.

10.  Be informed. I’ve learned a ton by reading Runner’s World and various blogs of runners more experienced than I am, most of which are in my Blogroll.

Happy running!  What are your tips for getting started?

4 Responses

  1. Awesome tips! I totally agree. Especially the shoes, an integral part that’s often overlooked. I always tell people to run slower than they want to when they start. So many people get outside or on the treadmill and just start sprinting, burn out after a few minutes, and just think running is too hard. Everything about running needs to be approached slowly 🙂

  2. Hi Brie – I came across your site while I was stalking my wedding dress online (I also have the Ronda and didn’t like the pictures of the dress on the Pronovias model… too angular) when I came across your site. I just wanted to let you know that after reading all you’ve accomplished with your weight-loss, you’ve inspired me to get off my butt and quit whining about the 20 pounds I want to lose. You rock!

    Side note: We have the same wedding dress & my engagement ring looks like the twin to yours. The planets must be aligning…

    (This had nothing to do with running shoes – sorry about that!)

  3. Great advice. Another one that I think is very important is not to wear cotton socks. Cotton doesn’t breathe so it’s much easier to get blisters. I buy non-cotton running socks at Target and they’re basically the same price as regular cotton-ones.

  4. Thanks so much for this post!! I really appreciate it…I am starting to notice a difference and have only started trying my hand at running. After a week long hiatus (sp) from the gym I hopped back on the treadmill yesterday afternoon and was proud to find I was able to knock off 20 secs of my prior 3 mile time. It’s so tricky getting into this running mode because I have never been a runner, but am starting to see where the satisfaction comes in.

    Thanks again for all the tips..I am hoping to eventually try my hand at a 5k race.

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