How to Start Running

I get asked this question all the time by people who are interested in beginning a running program. Some  of them are seeking a good way to shed a few pounds, some were athletes during their younger days and running was only a part of game day or a form of punishment. Others haven’t run more than a few steps since grade school. But what most of the folks who ask me how to start running all have in common is that they seem to be searching for “something”. That “something” is what the majority of runners have already discovered: a healthy way to disconnect and find balance.

I get asked this question all the time by people who are interested in beginning a running program. Some  of them are seeking a good way to shed a few pounds, some were athletes during their younger days and running was only a part of game day or a form of punishment. Others haven’t run more than a few steps since grade school. But what most of the folks who ask me how to start running all have in common is that they seem to be searching for “something”. That “something” is what the majority of runners have already discovered: a healthy way to disconnect and find balance.

There’s no question that running allows you the most bang for your buck when talking about balancing time spent and health benefits. This knowledge can create problems for the beginner, as their excitement and motivation to get fit and into a new hobby might cause them to overdo it.

Most of us have been there in some way- I know I have! You hit the road on day one, fresh off of a decade-long fitness un-cleanse, and proceed to run too far, too fast. You get out there and run further and/or faster than your body is ready for. You feel great for the rest of the day, eating healthy and feeling good about yourself. You make big plans that night, setting your running gear out and setting your alarm early. You’re going to sip some black coffee, stretch and hit the road before anyone else is even awake the next morning!

When the alarm goes off, you pop up, still riding the wave of motivation and- BAM! The soreness is everywhere. You’re aching from head to toe, in places you didn’t think could get sore. Back down into your bed you go, telling yourself, “I’ll run this evening after Ioosen up throughout the day”. The evening comes and goes and you’re so tired and still very sore. Then you repeat the same nighttime routine, clothes out and alarm set, hopes high.

Day two wake up is even worse! How can this be? 

The soreness you feel is the result of tiny tears in your muscles from intense training. When allowed to recover and repair, your muscles will rebuild and grow stronger. While there’s likely no way to avoid some soreness if you’ve been inactive for a long time, you can surely mitigate these symptoms by easing back into being regularly active. Ride the wave, the hype, the motivation… but do it wisely and with purpose and care. Over the next few entries I’ll share the best ways to make your journey as seamless, and least painful, as possible.

Set up for success – Plan and get pumped! You’re choosing to make a huge change in your life and are inspired to do so. Stay with it and set yourself up for success.

Buy new shoes – this always seems to help, at least in the short term. This purchase can provide some good early motivation, but more importantly, you probably need them. Most running shoes should be retired after running in them for somewhere between 250 and 500 miles, depending on the model, quality and your body specifics. You’ll want to retire a minimal shoe (minimal cushioning and often Zero Drop or very close) after closer to the 250 mile end of the spectrum; a more cushioned shoe, closer to the 500 mile end of the spectrum. This will vary by runner. A heavier runner should gravitate towards more cushioned shoes and also expect less miles out of them. Your body will thank you for sure. 

Drink a glass of water immediately upon waking. 6-8 hours (or possibly longer) has likely passed since you had anything to drink. You’ll feel better when you hydrate first thing in the morning. 

Set out your running gear the night before. This is especially helpful when you’re waking up early to run. Minimizing steps, distractions and obstacles is the best way to make quality changes in your life. Take the decision-making out of it and turn it into a routine. 

I would recommend experimenting with an empty stomach if you’re running first thing in the morning, if at all possible. However, if you must eat something before exercising, set it out or prepare it the night before to ensure the process is speedy and again, an autopilot routine, in the morning. A banana is something light that works for me personally. A more filling pre-run snack is dry bread or plain oatmeal. The heavier the pre-run snack, the more time you’ll want to give your body to digest it before you run. For example, you can run almost immediately after eating a banana, but you’ll want to wait at least an hour (preferably two) after eating a bowl of oatmeal.

Set multiple alarms – phone alarm, watch alarm, old school alarm clock. Set an alarm you have to get out of bed to turn off. Get creative if you have to by setting a timer on the oven if you can hear it from your bedroom. I personally set an alarm on my watch and phone, both on vibrate. The phone lays on the edge of the bed next to me. I also set my coffee maker to brew about 10 mins before my alarm is set. If you’re like me and prone to hitting snooze at times, I suggest trying to hold yourself to a strict “no snooze” rule from the start.

Get an accountability running partner or group! Meeting a friend or small group to run with is a great accountability option- when someone else is getting up to meet us somewhere, we are less likely to blow the morning activity off because they’re counting on us too!

Create an accountability system! I’m talking about your friends, family and co-workers you can share your fitness goals with, especially those who won’t shy away from checking in with you (or giving you a hard time if you slack off!). One or more of the people in your accountability system may even turn into running partners! Post on social media about it- join running and fitness related groups, especially if you’re afraid of oversharing on your personal platforms. These can be great daily tools to keep you on track. Use tech to connect with friends or meet new ones who share your interests (my personal recommendations include Strava, Garmin Connect, Myfitnesspal, Zwift, Runkeeper, Trackster). 

Download a “Couch-to-5k” style app! This brand of app is amazing. You listen to music while the app tells you when to start and stop running and walking. It gradually, over about 12 weeks time, increases your running time from 30 seconds with walking intervals, to at the end of the 12 week training period, running for over 30 minutes with no walking intervals. It’s hard to compete with this convenience and structure for early training. I suggest using one of these programs to people with zero running experience who reach out to me for coaching unless they want me to actually run with them.

Graduate from app to coach after consistently running. I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and offer personalized coaching services to fit the needs of runners and athletes of all kinds and at all levels, both local and at-a-distance. You can visit my website here for more info: www.adamsrunning.com. 

In my next post I’ll get a little more specific and dive into other related topics. I’ll relay what works for me personally and some things that don’t!

It’s Hot

There are studies out there have compared the benefits of heat training to that of altitude training. While altitude training has been found to increase the body’s red blood cell count, training in extreme heat while slightly dehydrated can stimulate the body to produce more plasma. 

I think it’s a little unreasonable to have to wring your shorts off after and easy paced run. This has become an everyday thing lately as it’s been 90+ degrees with 612% humidity. I try my best to get my run in before 8 am, but because of other obligations it’s not always possible. I struggled through 6 miles (8 scheduled) the other day. I did, after all, run at 1 pm out of necessity but I was unaware that it might have been the hottest hour of the summer thus far. My weather app read a “real feel” of 119•F.

There are studies out there have compared the benefits of heat training to that of altitude training. While altitude training has been found to increase the body’s red blood cell count, training in extreme heat while slightly dehydrated can stimulate the body to produce more plasma.

I truly hope that all of us are gaining a little more plasma and not just a layer of mental toughness. Either way, if you are out at anytime in the South Carolina summer I applaud your effort, because at a minimum that is very impressive.

I have yet to do many structured workouts as the summer is typically base-ville for everyone’s fall racing; a little speed here and  there just to keep the legs active. But I am personally going to extend my base until September in hopes of staying motivated through November.  I’m keeping my hopes of a fast 5k alive for at least one more fall season, and there will be plenty of updates along the way!

One Month, One Mile

So as I am patiently waiting for the start of my race I look down and notice that the soles of my shoes are melting off. The same happened with the backup pair! Granted it is in the upper 90s in South Carolina which usually means that it feels closer to 200 degrees and I have been standing on the track for over an hour. I traveled 4 hours from Bluffton to Greenville to race in the South Carolina Open and Masters Track Classic. I was already working with a handicap after that drive but a one hour delay didn’t help either. Needless to say I did not finish this race season the way I would have liked but it did however start with some promise.

So as I am patiently waiting for the start of my race I look down and notice that the soles of my shoes are melting off. The same happened with the backup pair! Granted it is in the upper 90s in South Carolina which usually means that it feels closer to 200 degrees and I have been standing on the track for over an hour. I traveled 4 hours from Bluffton to Greenville to race in the South Carolina Open and Masters Track Classic. I was already working with a handicap after that drive but a one hour delay didn’t help either. Needless to say I did not finish this race season the way I would have liked but it did however start with some promise.

In early May I travelled to Columbia to compete in the Governors Cup Main Street Mile. I figured this would be a good opportunity to have some solid competition which would help push me to a good time. A Kenyan runner and a few post collegiate Americans were in the race who I had no business hanging with and therefor I did not try. My finishing time was 4 mins and 30 seconds. I was more than pleased considering there was a U-Turn around a cone at 800 meters and a slightly uphill finish. Mentally I gave myself credit for at least 5 seconds faster.

A little over a week later I traveled to Atlanta with my family so my wife could take part in a conference for her new business venture. I won my heat in 4 minutes and 31 seconds but was extremely satisfied because of the way the race unfolded. I sat back in the pack for the first two laps and then negative split the last 800 (2:20/ 2:10). I enjoyed a more tactical race for a change. Again this performance pointed towards promising fitness levels.

Just four days later I put on all of my firefighter bunker gear and air pack and raced past Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah in the Hero’s Heat of the 11th Savannah Mile. The race was made almost entirely of Army Rangers. I was the only firefighter that was treating it as a race. I came in 2nd to an Army Ranger. We went one and two last year as well but we both dropped our times significantly. I finished in 5 mins and 30 seconds. Every second of the race felt like I was carrying a car and it was terrible and I hated it and as usual I will run it again next year!

Overall I am happy with this short season of faster races. I truly didn’t know what to expect of myself and still feel I’m better than or more capable than the stopwatch read but I’m trying to remember that it’s all a process. One day or one full training cycle is building for the next. My journey in running has evolved and is no longer just about being the best. Im learning to enjoy the process and focus on becoming the best that I’m capable of being given all the obstacles and accumulation of life. Don’t get me wrong I still want to win… But I’m finally in a place with myself that I understand it’s not the only thing that matters.

“the race that got away”

I plan to attempt to run the 1 mile race distance a few times this spring and summer.  I’ve been consistent in my training for some time now, and I’ve started to see some results in my level of fitness hinting at good things to come. Even though success in the 1 mile race is historically enjoyed by younger runners, it was always my least impressive personal record. Of the standard middle distance events I raced in high school, the mile was the one for which I was never fully trained or rested. It’s “the race that got away”.

When my comeback began four years ago the idea of creating a new personal record for myself was constantly on my mind and kept me, literally, moving forward each day. As I struggled through the humid summer days, barely able to run each of my 2 or 3 miles at a pace 2 minutes slower than what I would’ve considered acceptable in the past, I daydreamed about the possibility of setting a personal record at this stage of life. Deep down I knew there was a possibility it was unrealistic and maybe even unattainable given how high I had set the bar for myself over a decade earlier. However, I’d always thrived on challenges; both those others set for me, and especially those I set for myself (as my own biggest critic). I was challenging myself again. This time around, it was going to be more difficult to reach the same shock value I enjoyed in my younger days, but the challenge was set just the same.

I plan to attempt to run the 1 mile race distance a few times this spring and summer.  I’ve been consistent in my training for some time now, and I’ve started to see some results in my level of fitness hinting at good things to come. Even though success in the 1 mile race is historically enjoyed by younger runners, it was always my least impressive personal record. Of the standard middle distance events I raced in high school, the mile was the one for which I was never fully trained or rested. It’s “the race that got away”.

Most people who hear “one mile in four minutes” hear just that; no distinction is made between 4 minutes and 14 seconds, and 4 minutes and 57 seconds. But the distinction in my mind is monumental: the former is my high school PR in the mile; the latter is the pace my now 34-year-old body can sustain for a 5k.  Most runners in their mid-30’s (except those running professionally) tend to focus on longer- distance races, like half and full marathons. Although I know my greatest potential now lies in those longer, grinding-type runs, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the breathlessness and lactic-acid nightmare of shorter distances.

Will I be able to tame “the race that got away” those years ago in the peak of my running career? Today, I have a chance to be both well-rested and well-trained for the mile, and I’m looking forward to seeing how fast I can go!  In my next entry I will dive back into my training over the last few months as it lead up to this shift in pace.