I see a lot of people starting their running journeys, and it makes my heart so happy. Running is a great way to maintain level and strong mental health, keep yourself healthy and in-shape (notice I didn’t say “skinny”), and get outdoors while maintaining good ol’ social distancing.
So, how do you get started safely, and what should you focus on during your first week as a member of the running community? What should you avoid? How much should you run? Keep reading — Coach Court has all the tips!
Your new relationship with running is like any other new relationship: During that falling-in-love phase, y’all can’t stay away from each other. Once you hit that runners high, you’ll be hooked, and you won’t want to stop running. You will probably want to run daily, and you will probably want to increase your mileage quicker than you should.
Totally normal. We all do crazy things when we are falling in love, right?! The only issue is that a torn or broken something-or-other might be a little more expensive (and difficult) to fix than a broken heart. So, hear me out — I was a new runner once, too, and I tore a lot of things because I didn’t want to stop running.
Tip 1: Get the right gear.
People like to think that running is a cheap form of exercise because it doesn’t require a ton of equipment. I hate to break it to you, but running correctly can be pricey. Make sure you have the following in-check as you get started:
- The correct shoes based on a gait analysis
- Moisture-wicking clothing
- Some kind of water bottle, such as this handheld by Nathan Sports
- Running socks (trust me!)
- Foam roller
- KT Tape
- Tiger Balm
- NUUN Hydration
- Flip Belt
- GU Gels
These are just a few essentials. Also, buy peanut butter and bread. Getting the proper shoes, equipment, and recovery tolls is essential to ensuring you can run, run, and run. If you have discount rack Nikes and carry a 16 oz plastic water bottle, running will not be as enjoyable as it should.
Tip 2: Take walk breaks when necessary.
I know; I know — is it really “running” if you take walk breaks? Short answer: YES. However, not everyone is into walk breaks, and I get that. Taking short walk breaks at the start of your running journey will help you build strength and endurance, and it will also help you avoid injury. If you heart rate skyrockets above about 70% max or you hurt somehow, a walk break will be your best friend.
Walk breaks can help ward off pesky and common running ailments such as ITBS, shin splints, and more. As a new runner, you should consider scheduling walk breaks. If you don’t schedule them, simply take them when you feel like you need them. I promise it will benefit you in the future!
Tip 3: Pay attention to how many “efforts” you complete per day and week.
Running is strenuous, and you should balance running with other “efforts.” Efforts are activities that cause you to exert yourself somehow. Often times, we don’t take into account the daily or weekly activities that add to our physical efforts: cutting the grass, walking the dog, chasing our kids around, raking leaves, scrubbing floors and doing housework — these are all considered efforts.
Of course, other physical exercise falls into the category of “efforts” as well. If you bike ten miles, do yoga, lift weights, etc. — you are exerting yourself. So, when you have a scheduled “rest day” on your running plan, and you decide to bike fifteen miles and cut the grass, are you resting? Nah, not really.
Look, I get that you can’t neglect cutting the grass because you have a rest day on the calendar. In the running world, we try as best we can to make rest days actual rest days. It will likely benefit you more to 1) not cycle or do another form of exercise on your day off, and 2) try to cut the grass on one of your running days. The philosophy is that it’s better to do more physical activity during workout days so that you can rest as much as you can on rest days! This is just one way running can become a lifestyle change.
Tip 4: Pay attention to how your body feels (note: the following is for informational purposes only and is not intended to treat or diagnose).
Runners may develop health conditions throughout their training. Female runners, for example, develop iron deficiency anemia more often than we realize. I am currently on an iron regimen because I am one of them. Seeing a doctor regularly to check on your iron and other levels (such as vitamin D) is key to continuing your journey as a runner.
There is also the difference between what runners consider “normal” pain vs. what could be a serious injury. Shin splints and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) are not uncommon and may not signify an injury that requires treatment. However, if you’re out on a run and pain increases with every step and/or you find yourself altering your form/strike to avoid pain, you should stop and seek a professional opinion.
Many running ailments can be treated with foam rolling, RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), running most runs at a conversational pace (see below), and resting (like, really resting) on rest days.
Tip 5: Do not run every training run as a race.
Read carefully: Save racing for race day. Let me say it louder for the people in the back: SAVE RACING FOR RACE DAY.
When you train, most of your runs will be at what we call a “conversational pace.” You should be running at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation in full sentences. You don’t need to be able to recite The Constitution, but if you’re running with a friend, you should be able to fit in single, full sentences to the conversation.
If you have a heart rate monitor, you should not run at a pace that exceeds 65-70% of your maximum heart rate.
Why? Easy running allows you to build cumulative fatigue (tired by operational legs) and helps you build aerobic endurance. If you plan on running anything from the mile to an ultra marathon, you should be concerned with building aerobic endurance. When you really start training, you’ll likely see a workout day on your plan, and this is your time to push the pace. Until then, run easy and save racing paces for races!
Tip 6: Find and seek information from a registered dietitian.
Proper nutrition is a huge part of running performance. You can’t eat 1000 calories a day, eliminate carbs, or eat a bunch of chemical-filled-but-empty low-fat and fat-free foods. That’s right — it’s time to break out the pasta dishes.
Several registered dietitians I know offer affordable plans and advice to help you learn about how food impacts performance. I received a sample meal plan from one of my RD friends, Heather, and it was fantastic.
Look, guys: Running and diet culture do not co-exist. They just don’t. Learning about what food to eat to fuel your body is essential. If you see a long-distance race in your future someday, you MUST incorporate proper nutrition!
Also, I am telling you seek a REGISTERED DIETITIAN. These are board certified individuals. I am not telling you to take advice from a Beachbody Coach, your friend who sells keto crap, or anyone else. An RD is the way to go.
Tip 7: Seek running advice from certified run coaches.
Wink wink (that’s me!). Be very careful with standardized apps such as C25K and other programs. They’re better than nothing, but so it goes: Everyone’s couch is different. Someone sedentary vs. someone who cycles 120 miles a week have different starting points, no?
Run coaches love to talk running. We can give you a personalized assessment and help you set and meet your goals. Fill out the form below to get in touch with me and see if we can work together to meet your goals!
Welcome to running! I know you’ll love it.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission if you buy something using the links in this blog post. Nothing in this blog post should be taken as medical advice. Before beginning any exercise routine, discuss it with your healthcare provider.