Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Running for Beginners

I've been running consistently (save for injuries) for about a year now, and I still feel like a fraud labeling myself as a runner. If I've learned anything from running blogs, it's that I'm not the only one who feels that way. I'm not a pro and I'm certainly not super fast, but I've come a long way from where I started. Especially for new runners, the sport can be extremely intimidating-- I still look at other runners and think "why can't I be like that? Why can't it be so effortless?!"

From 228 to 168, one year of running progress.
I certainly haven't figured it all out, but here's a bit about my story and my tips for getting started:

I started a training program for The Color Run in October of 2012, shortly before I joined Weight Watchers. I did C25K (Couch to 5K), although I wasn’t as consistent as I could’ve been. I have no idea how long it took me, but I’d guess about 40 minutes. Next, I signed up for a Santa Hustle 5K in early December, shortly after joining WW. I actually was slightly better about training, but I was disappointed with how much I had to walk this race, and I finished in the 38 minutes and change.

After those two 5Ks, I stopped running until about February of 2013. I had issues with shin splints, and I was frustrated with how poorly I felt about walking so much during the Santa Hustle. But I recommitted to running in February of last year and for some reason, it suddenly clicked for me. I was about 30lbs lighter than when I had started, I was noticeably faster, and I really wanted to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad runs… but though discipline, hundreds of miles, a great training plan and way too many early mornings, it's gotten easier over time and I even did something I never imagined I'd do: run a half marathon.

From someone who started at the very beginning and worked my way into only moderately loathing, than tolerating, and now actually enjoying running, here are my top 5 tips for starting to run:

Old shoes and new kicks after my half marathon. 
#5) Get fitted for real running shoes at a real running store. Running puts a ton of stress on your body—it’s critical that you have your feet evaluated by a professional to make sure your shoes provide proper support! Seriously, you will be shocked at the difference that good shoes make in your running.

#4) Drink your water. Take your weight and divide it in half. That’s how much water you should aim to drink each day. Some experts differ, but this is my daily goal and running is much easier when you’ve properly fueled. That, and being properly hydrated will help you avoid the dreaded side-stiches that can be a symptom of dehydration.

#3) Start a training plan. It’s not realistic to go jog an easy 3-miles when you’re a new runner (even running 30 seconds might be difficult when you’re starting!). C25K is an 8-10 week program that works up from run/walking to running a full 5K. You can start a few weeks into the program if it’s too easy, or you can modify and repeat weeks, as needed, if it’s progressing too quickly. I used the Zen Labs C25K app for iPhone – it’s free!

My first race where I didn't walk at all!
#2) Endurance > Speed. When you’re a new runner, speed doesn’t matter. Focus on improving your distance or time spent running, rather than your speed. If you want to stop, just try to slooooow down instead. You can run longer if you don't gas yourself out by going too fast.

Can you guess which sibling got the running genes?
#1) Sign up for a race! You’ll be much more motivated to train when you have a goal race in mind! Give yourself at least 8 weeks to train for a 5K if you’re a beginner, and find a fun local race to sign up for. No matter your pace, running a race is a good way to feel like a real runner, and to see what a fun and welcoming community the running world can be!

What are your top tips for starting a running plan?


  1. Oh why oh why don't you think you're a runner? Honestly you are! It doesn't matter the pace and it doesn't matter your weight. If you wog a mile you are a runner!!! Now I was with you and even after completing a marathon I didn't consider myself a runner it took a my team triumph captain to let me know I was doing what they never could because if their disability. So yes I am a runner. I may not be fast but really who cares as long as you finish. Ok off my soap box. Now I feel like new runners need to be consistent and find a plan that works got them. I never used a "plan" I just created my own. Always do the cross training and leg exercises you may not feel like you need them now but without them you will eventually end up with some injury.

  2. I didn't identify myself as a runner when I first started running. I don't know why it was so hard for me to say it, but it just was. So, I totally understand where you're coming from. Now, I just look at my medals and say, "I AM a runner!" Although, I sometimes have to walk a little bit, too. You gotta do what you gotta do to cross that finish line! :)

    These are great tips, by the way. I really need to focus on drinking more water, so I'm definitely going to try tip #4.

  3. I would like to add to the "get fitted for shoes" part. Don't trust the person who is fitting you for shoes 100 %. Most of them work for comission. I was given a pair of stability shoes to run in, but after a year I just recently realized that they were the wrong kind of shoes for me. If your shoes don't feel right after a week, return them and keep trying!

  4. Thanks for all of the tips! I've started C25K a couple of times but have never made it past week 3 or 4. I think part of my struggle is that I haven't signed up for a 5k to help motivate me to finish the program. I use the program just to have a plan when I go to the gym. Some day I will sign up for a race...