Congratulations on taking the first steps to challenge yourself with a new skill that will become a positive influence in your life!
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whether you’ve already started running or this is your first step in claiming your new title as runner, you should celebrate. Too often, I hear people say, “I’m not really a runner.” What? Seriously? How can I be standing at the finish line of a 5k race talking to a participant and hear those words? If you pick up your feet and move at a pace slightly faster than walking—you’re a RUNNER.
If you need someone to give you permission to claim this title, I will. Welcome to the club! Starting right now, pat yourself on the back and embrace the exciting new journey you're about to begin.
I’ve packed this article with my best tips for new runners. These steps are easy to accomplish and will lead you in the right direction.
Let’s dive in and do this together!
Easy Pre-run Preparation for Long-Term Success
A simple first step is to claim, “I AM a runner.” If you’re not ready to speak it out loud, at the very least, say it to yourself.
I’ve suffered both knee and back issues over the last 15 years, but I still manage to run every week and participate in half marathons with only minor limitations. I’ve accomplished this through proper training, sufficient rest, healthy eating habits, and strength training to provide additional support to my joints.
Most importantly, I focus on what I can do as opposed to what I can’t do. We all have limitations; the key is safely working around them to maximize your potential.
Compared to other sports, running is inexpensive. There are unlimited roads, parks, and trails you can run on for free. Although you can purchase all kind of cool running accessories,the only specialized equipment that’s a must is a pair of good running shoes. Don’t skimp on the one piece of gear that will protect your valuable feet, knees, and hips.
There’s no reason to be overwhelmed with the choices of shoes. These specialized running stores will provide expert advice not available to you at the big box stores. They’ll quickly educate you on how to avoid these common mistakes when buying running shoes.
Avoid this pitfall by setting little goals that lead up to one big victory. Achieving and of course celebrating your smaller goals leads to increased motivation and builds your running confidence. I recommend using the SMART method to structure your plan.
Setting a specific goal to run a 5k in an 8-week timeframe would be a realistic and attainable goal for many people. To accomplish this, set mini goals that push you toward the finish line. For example, start by running one mile, three times a week. Then gradually increase your mileage every week until you’ve conquered the 5k.
If your ultimate goal is to run marathons, that’s fantastic! However, setting smaller goals beforehand is the key to long-term success, since thoughts of running 26.2 miles can be overwhelming. Just stay focused on the next step in your journey—you’ll get there!
If you're unsure how to structure a training plan, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of apps such as RunKeeper that can quickly provide you with a training plan and track your progress, or you can download our 5k training plan for beginners.
When I’m feeling sluggish, I tell myself, “Just run 10 minutes.” Permitting myself to cut back helps me to push through rather than do nothing. Nearly every time I use this strategy, I end up running more than 10 minutes. I’ve never finished a run and regretted it!
Do you like fashion? Buy a new pair of running shoes or a new T-shirt. It might revitalize your desire to lace up and hit the trails. Set these items in plain sight on days you’re likely to struggle.
Are you a dog lover? Running with your dog can initiate a desire to put your feet in motion. My cattle dog, Bailey, not only enjoys the exercise but expects our weekly outings. Seeing her follow me around with excited anticipation forces me to think twice about skipping our adventures. I can’t count how many times this “doggie guilt” has helped me overcome my laziness—and for this I’m grateful!
Are you a social person? Joining a running group is one of the best ways to boost motivation. Plus, it increases accountability by scheduling your events. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is naturally energizing. My husband is not a runner and has absolutely no desire to discuss the latest running gear. I respect that his interests are different, but I don’t allow this to squash my motivation. I attend races and local events with my running buddies who are supportive and love discussing our shared passion.
How to find a running group or training class:
Have you identified your “why?” It’s easier to stay on track when you pinpoint why you're challenging your mind and body. Only you can answer this question. Initially, I started running to lose weight. Now, my “why” is much broader. I started peeling back that onion and discovered that running is essential to relieving my stress. It transformed my way of thinking and revealed that I’m capable of more than I ever imagined. Weight loss is still a “why;” however, now it’s a secondary benefit. Icing on the cake, baby!
Time to Run
A light jog and a few simple dynamic stretches will get you pumped and ready for action. Try to accomplish this 5-10 minute before your run.
Here are a few ideas for your warm-up routine:
There’s a place for speed training, but it’s not the first step. Remember, it’s ok to take walking breaks when necessary. Using walk-run intervals are good training options to build endurance. Most injuries suffered by runners are bone and joint injuries, which are usually a result of increasing training loads too soon.
Additionally, H2O helps to prevent issues such as muscle cramps, headaches, and heat-related injuries. Remember, by the time you’re thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Factors such as heat, humidity, exercise intensity, and sweat rates may increase the amount of water you need.
The following are recommendations for maintaining optimal hydration during exercise from the American Council on Exercise (ACE):
Drink 17 to 20 fl oz of water two to three hours before exercise
Drink 8 fl oz of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before exercise
Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid 30 minutes after exercise
Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise
Water is the best fluid replenisher for most individuals. Although, sports drinks will help replace lost electrolytes during high-intensity exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes.
Get out of your head and away from negative thoughts or self-doubt. Resist the urge to stare blankly at the dull path under your feet. Don’t fixate on every foot strike or count down the minutes until you’re done. Lift your chin and open your eyes to discover the beauty of everything around you. I’m always surprised by what I discover when I become mindful about living in the moment. You’ll perceive the workout to be easier and more enjoyable, trust me.
Rest, relax, and recharge. Then you’ll be primed to attack the next leg of your journey.
A few years ago, I cut back my running days to attend a weightlifting class. Initially, I feared the new program would ruin my hard-earned progress. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the opposite to be true. My stronger leg muscles support and protect my aging knees and back. The most significant benefit of my new training regimen is that I experience less fatigue and a faster recovery.
If your onlygoal is to become a better runner, the majority of your training time should be spent running to improve your aerobic capacity. However, everyone can benefit from core strengthening and dynamic flexibility exercises.
“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
-John F. Kennedy
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