Yesterday I made my return to running after taking most of last year off from lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement. After two years of marathon training and being locked into a mandatory running schedule, I was ready for a little break and instead became totally obsessed with Flywheel as my cardio ass-kicking of choice. But now, with a new city to explore and a lack of Flywheel… I’m making a comeback.
I had big plans for yesterday’s run – I mapped out a route along the Embarcadero, I wore a Chicago Marathon race shirt for a little extra confidence boost and charged up my Nike Sportwatch. I was ready to knock out a 5K and get back into things with a good playlist and some much needed stress relief. But running had other plans for me and I was humbled by eating some pavement after running a block (oof! First time that has ever happened and boy, was it embarrassing. I’m talking full on run to trip to fall… AND there were plenty of witnesses). But with a bruised ego, a bloody knee and a ruined favorite pair of Zella leggings, I trucked on and spent the majority of my 5K run remembering the many lessons I’ve learned over the miles. And now that I’m back at beginner runner status myself, I wanted to share a few tips in case you’re thinking about signing up for a race or would like to get outside and make running a habit.
- Find The Right Gear: From head to toe, finding the right gear is critical for both your comfort and to prevent injury. Head to a sporting goods store that specializes in running and have your stride analyzed – the pros will study your foot and ankle movement and recommend the best type of shoe for the amount of support you need. You may not end up with the neon pink sneakers you had your eye on, but listen to the pros and it will make a world of a difference (I used to battle severe shin splits but with the right shoes + insoles, I haven’t had any issues!). When it comes to the rest of your running gear, make sure you have a supportive sports bra and sweat-wicking fabrics. See below for some more gear recommendations and favorites ;)
- Mind Over Matter: Listen, running sucks sometimes. Maybe that sometimes only happens occasionally, but let’s face it… running isn’t very fun. When I first started running I was constantly at war with that little voice in my head that loved to remind me of this fact. “This is hard. You’re tired. Maybe you should just walk. What if you only run 1 mile instead of three? No one will know. Just run tomorrow instead.” You’ll probably deal with these nags whether it’s your first run or your thousandth run, it’s just how you deal with them. Try not to think and instead focus on your music or your breathing – don’t obsess over your distance, pace or run duration and just try and shut everything off. Running is definitely just as much of a mental exercise as it is physical!
- Distance > Speed: This is actually one of my favorite things about running – it’s about the distance you cover, no matter how fast you go or if you win or lose. Everyone gets a medal and every one is celebrated for their accomplishment; whether it’s your first 5K or a full marathon. How far you can run is more important than how fast you can go, so don’t beat yourself up over walking a bit or not setting a personal best on every single run. Getting it done is what’s most important; once you’re comfortable with your chosen distance and have built up endurance, then you can focus on improving your speed.
- Learn to Pace Yourself: Sure, you might feel great in the beginning of your run – those legs are fresh and ready to go but if you go all out early, you’ll be hurting later. After getting a few runs under your belt, figure out what your average pace is and try and stick to that for the entirety of your run. It may feel like you’re crawling in the beginning but it’s much better to save that energy for the second half of your distance or for a sprint at the end to finish strong. Pacing yourself can be difficult to figure out and get a feel for, but having energy left at the end is a far, far better feeling than burning yourself out early.
- Stick With It: No one is a running pro after only a few runs, hell… no one even really likes running all that much after only a few runs. Your talent for running and your enjoyment of running will build over time. You’ll become stronger, both physically and mentally, and figure out what distance works best for you, what your goals are for yourself as a runner and why you run. If you’re on the fence about things, just go ahead and sign up for a race. Make sure you also tell some people about that race too. This will hold you accountable and you’ll have a goal that you’re working toward with a team of people behind you to support and celebrate with you.