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!