My cousin Maggie emailed me the other day asking for suggestions for beginning runners. She had read my story and knew that the whole running thing didn’t exactly come easy to me … but once I knew I could do it, I quickly became addicted to that runner’s high!
The fact is, there are two mistakes many people make when they first start running (and they are easily corrected!): expecting it to be easy from day one, and doing more than your body is ready for. I’ll admit it: I’m not the most patient person when it comes to getting the hang of something (if you’d ask my former trainers how I would react to something I couldn’t get right away, they’d probably just laugh … because I would actually get angry at myself if I didn’t pick it up the first try. For the record, by the third try, I almost always had it down).
That said, here are a few tips to get you on the road to becoming a runner:
- Time and Distance. Don’t do too much too soon – all you do is end up hurting yourself. After years of shin splints and hip flexor pulls, I’ve learned to start small. Despite being very conditioned, I never run more than 2 miles at a time if I’ve taken off more than a few weeks from running (even if I’ve been a regular on the elliptical, Spinner or stairmill). Reduce the stress on your body right off the bat, and you’ll reduce your risk of injury, too.
- Hills. Don’t be afraid of them. You’ll work different muscles as you are going up or down hill vs. running on a flat surface – and after you’ve gone up hills, the flats are SO much easier (plus, you can burn more calories with less speed).
- Intervals. Maybe run for 2 minutes, walk for a minute. As it gets easier, run for 3 minutes, walk for a minute. You’ll find the more you do these, the easier it will be to tack on a little extra time, and it won’t feel quite as hard. They are also GREAT for adding speed – but I’d wait a little on speed intervals, because if you’re going fast enough, they can be KILLER.
- Play the if/or game. This one has helped me a lot with both distance and time. Basically, it’s I can stop if I get to X or Y, whichever is last. Which usually turns into, okay, I reached Y, so I’ll keep going to Z. Trust me, you’ll do a lot more than you expect this way, because it encourages you to keep going!
Still looking for a few more ideas to help you get on the road (or track, or treadmill, or trail…)? Head on over to Runner’s World. They have a world of tips, training plans, nutrition guides, posture corrections, and more to help you get started. The beautiful thing about running is that everyone can do it – all it takes is the want to get started and a good pair of shoes (and with the growing popularity of barefoot running, you may not even need that)! Good luck!