I’ve been planning to write this post for many months, but my race schedule has resulted in my pre-empting other posts for race reports. However, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to share my 7 Tips for Newbie Runners!
Although I no longer consider myself a ‘newbie’ in the technical sense – I’m coming up on 7 years into my running ‘career’ – I’m still very green compared to many of those in my running circle. And those newbie days are not so distant that I don’t remember them pretty clearly.
So here they are: 7 pieces of advice (one for each year that I’ve been running!) for some of the newer runners out there!
1. Find a running buddy/crew. This advice applies to everyone – newbie or otherwise. But I think it’s especially important when you’re a less experienced runner. Having a running buddy is valuable for a variety of reasons: you keep each other accountable; you have more fun; you motivate each other; misery loves company; you can learn from each other. I can’t even count the number of times that I would have convinced myself to hit snooze one more time and stay in bed if it weren’t for the fact that I had promised my running buddy (or buddies) that I’d be out for that run.
If you honestly don’t know another runner – which may be the case if you’re just getting started – find a running crew. This is pretty straightforward if you’re living in a large urban centre – there are probably multiple groups to choose from, either sponsored by a local running store or organized by local fitness buffs. It may take time to find the right fit for you, but persevere. Personally, I think having a running crew is even better than having just one running buddy, because you’re almost guaranteed to have company.
2. Invest in good technical gear. When I ran my first couple of races, I wore the cotton event t-shirt provided with race entry. Cotton chafes, holds moisture, and doesn’t breathe. I also wore long warm-up pants, which were way too big for me and likely impacted my overall speed. Get yourself a decent technical shirt or two, ones that fit well and make you feel good, and a good pair of shorts/tights. Depending on the weather where you live, some additional layers may be required.
Back in the old days, I had some
well-worn barely used running shoes that I had picked up somewhere along the way – likely bought without anything but price in mind. Take the time to try on different types of shoes, find the size and fit that works best for you, and talk to the professionals. I recommend going to a dedicated running store, rather than a generic sporting goods store – they can provide more tailored advice.
Running gear shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. Keep an eye out for sales at your local sports stores. Talk to the folks in your running crew (see Point 1) – runners love to give advice!
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is one that I still struggle with. It’s easy to look at that girl who makes every stride look effortless, or the guy dressed in an Elmo costume in the middle of July who still runs faster than you, and wonder why it’s so easy for them. And so hard for you.
Everybody – and every body – is different. We are all uniquely built. We have different backgrounds, different histories and relationships with athletics, different struggles (both physical and emotional), different day-to-day lives. This may seem self-evident, but it never hurts to be reminded.
Unless you are an elite runner, or competing for a spot on the Olympic team, the only person your should be comparing yourself to is you. Yesterday’s you. The you from a year ago. Former couch potato you. And even then, be gentle with yourself because today’s you might just be having a bad day.
4. Track your progress. Technology has come a long way in the past few years. Don’t feel that you need to invest in the most pimped out GPS watch with heart rate monitor that the internet has to offer. I started with a Nike+ foot pod that connected to my
fancy basic iPod Nano. Tracking distance and speed, even though it wasn’t tremendously accurate, kept me motivated. I could watch my improvement, see how much I’d progressed, and feel a little smug about my accomplishments.
It may feel like your progress is slow at first, but it’s rewarding to look back and see how far you’ve come.
5. Set a goal. Maybe it’s to run for 10 minutes without stopping. Maybe it’s your first 5k race. Maybe it’s to run a half marathon. The goal should be achievable, but also challenging. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, make it a SMART (specific, meaningful, action oriented, realistic, timely) goal! For me, though, signing up for my first 8k race after watching an inspiring movie was enough to motivate me to begin on the journey to where I am today.
Once you’ve achieved your goal – celebrate it! Then set yourself another one. Stretch yourself a bit more. Fall short of your goal? Learn from your mistakes…and set another goal!
6. Be consistent. Sometimes just getting out the door is a struggle. When the weather turns nasty or darkness comes early, or when life simply gets in the way, skipping a run can be easy. The key is to integrate running into your weekly routine, to find a time that works for you, and stick to it. For me, being part of a Saturday morning running group has kept me accountable, and roused me from sleep even on mornings of torrential rain.
Book runs into your calendar. Make appointments with yourself, or with your running buddy. Figure out if you’re more inspired to run in the morning, or if a post-work workout is better for you. Once running is ingrained into your schedule, you’ll know it because you’ll have a sense of something missing when you miss a run.
7. Do it because you love it. This may sound a bit glib, and believe me there are days when I do not love running. When I started out, there were a lot of painful days when I thought i) I couldn’t go on and/or ii) I would never run again. I still feel that way on occasion. But once running gets into your blood, it really becomes a part of you. Yes, you do it for the sense of satisfaction it gives you. Yes, you do it for the t-shirts and the medals. Yes, you do it for bragging rights.
In the end, though, you do it because you love it.
What have I missed? What advice would you give to a newbie runner?
If you are a newbie – or not a runner at all – what advice and/or questions do you have?