I’ve been running 3 times a week consistently for the past 18 months so compared to many I’m still a beginner runner.
In these past 18 months though, I’ve already learnt many lessons that I wish I’d known before I started running and these are still fresh in my mind.
I’ve learnt from:
- Personal experience
- The advice of fellow runners
- Reading lots and lots from the online running community
I’ve broken these lessons down into 3 sections; Pre-run, Run and Post-run.
In this first article I’m sharing with you my 8 Top Tips to consider before you start running.
1.Runing is hard, it rewards patience & resilience
Let’s be honest with each other, running is hard.
It’s both a strenuous physical activity and a significant mental challenge. You will not become Mo Farah overnight and accepting the maxim that ‘nothing worth having comes easy’ is important as a beginner if you are to achieve your goals.
2. But, running will get easier
If you want it to….
Stick with it and you’ll see progress quickly as your muscles and lungs condition and your confidence grows.
Then you’ll realise the truth – ‘running never gets easier, you just get faster’.
3. ‘Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’
You lead a busy life, we all do.
We have little difficulty finding believable reasons why we can’t go for a run. But, if we’re committed to achieving something important then we need to put the effort in and carve out the time to go running.
As I run at 5.30-6.30 in the morning, preparation for me means getting everything out the night before. Running kit all laid out in the bathroom, running watch, shoes, gloves laid out in the kitchen.
Think about how you can make it as easy as possible to get out of the house or onto the treadmill.
4. Set a goal, any goal, and instantly make yourself a better runner
One of the favourite sayings I’ve heard is ‘what gets measured gets done’.
Having a clear short-term running goal will strengthen your motivation, focus your running and make you less likely to break your habit.
So, set yourself a challenge that’s realistic but stretching and has a deadline:
- ‘I will run twice a week for the next 4 weeks’
- ‘By 1st March I will be able to run 2 miles without stopping’
This is a great article from runwell.com on the importance of setting good running goals.
Whilst one of my favourite run bloggers, Run Bulldog Run, has written a good post about what works for him.
5. Invest in a good pair of running shoes (then beg, borrow or re-purpose everything else)
As we’ve discussed earlier, running is hard on your body.
Get the right pair of running shoes and you’ll make it a lot easier, reducing the impact on your muscles & joints and minimising the time you spend injured.
Visit a good quality running shop where they’ll look at your feet size, width, arch type and then see how you run on a treadmill (your ‘gait’). Only then, look at different makes & budgets to see which you want to buy.
(I’ve got low arches and need a 4E width fit – my feet are literally flippers! – but….I only learnt this after developing very sore feet from running in normal width shoes for 6 months).
The Telegraph did a very good ‘Ask the Experts’ piece in January 2016 and you can read it here.
All of your other kit should either be cheap to buy new (you can buy good quality running socks for less than £10 a pair, running t-shirts for less than £15) or you’ll probably already have it in your wardrobe.
6. Win the battle with your enthusiasm – start low and build gradually
One of the major causes of injuries in beginner runners is over-use – running too far, too quickly.
You should look to build up your mileage at the right pace so that you give your body time to adapt and grow to meet the new demands you’re placing on it.
Factor this into your goals.
If you’re a new runner, try running 2 miles three times a week for a month. If you see no ill effects then add a sensible amount of miles onto your run length each week.
Strength Running wrote an excellent article on how to increase your mileage that is well worth you reading.
7. Warm ups matter
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but if you want to minimise your chances of injury invest 5-10 minutes getting your body ready for the ‘shock’ of a run.
Avoid static stretches that risk injury before you even start.
Instead, focus on preparing your body by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation. This will loosen your joints and increase blood flow to the muscles.
This Runners World article on ‘Why and How you should warm-up before a run’ is a great resource and a good place to start.
8. Getting mentally prepared for every run is just as important
I’ve found that running is more of a mental challenge that a physical one.
I’ve therefore evolved a set of thoughts & questions that I like to have at the front of my mind for when I go out for a run to counter this, some or all of these may work for you to:
- Why am I going for this run? What’s my motivation for running?
- A short-list of things to think about as the quicker I can get into ‘daydream mode’ the easier the run will be
- A positive inner voice. It took me a while to realise how negatively I spoke to myself – ‘you can’t do this’, ‘this is really hard’, ‘it’ll be really embarrassing if you stop – does this ring any bells with you?’. I now focus on trying to use only positive language – ‘I feel really strong’, ‘You’re doing really well’, ‘you can do this’
- I make myself come up with second halves to the following statements. You’ll be amazed how quickly it lifts your spirits and distracts you:
- ‘I am grateful for….’
- ‘I feel lucky because….’
VeryWell.com have written a good article on ‘8 Mental Tips for Long Runs’, their advice is just as relevant for beginner runners starting out.
These 8 Top Tips should help you kick off your running in good shape, well informed with what it takes to establish your habit and enjoy your running.
In the 2nd article of this series I will be sharing my 7 Top Tips for having a great run.
Please share this article if you feel others would benefit from it, it would also be great to hear your thoughts on what you do to prepare for a run.
Thanks and see you out on the road, Chris