I did a lot of research before I started running. There were so many training plans out there, so many tips and tricks on how to be a runner. So many of them were filled with tons of jargon (fartlek?!? WTF is a fartlek?), that I initially felt overwhelmed. Luckily now, there are awesome people out there like Kelly Roberts who talk about the true struggles and anger that newbie runners can face. She wasn’t really around when I started running, so I had to learn the hard way. So here we go. Here are five things that I wish SOMEONE would have told me when I started out on my running journey.
- It’s going to suck bad before it gets better
I am going to say the most cliched running statement ever. It isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t expect to go out one or two times and be able to run consistently for 5k. It’s not going to happen if you are a newbie runner. It likely won’t happen for experienced runners who took a break from the trails. I love the idea of interval training, and I still use it during my longer runs and my half marathons. Ease into things. Try Couch to 5k. Do the 60sec/90sec run/walk intervals. They are tough but you will get stronger. Work your way up to 10/1’s. These bad boys have gotten me through 2 half marathons. Power through the bad runs, because as trite as it sounds, they are the ones that mean the most and make you the strongest. DON’T GIVE UP. Keep going and you will be surprised at how your body will adapt to running. Also, your legs will look rad. Like seriously. I stare at my legs in utter awe now.
- Do not compare yourself to anyone. Ever. Except yourself. Even then, be kind
I’m an extremely competitive person. I hate to lose. I hate to lose so much that often I won’t participate in things I know I will be bad at. I’ve been known to flip a Monopoly board after losing. Running has brought out my competitive streak even more. At first, I compared myself to any and all runners that I knew. My partner. My friends. Elite runners. I learned the hard way that your heart and spirit will be crushed if you continue on this compare path. Be kind to yourself. TRY YOUR HARDEST to not compare yourself to anyone else. There are so many factors as to how fast of a runner someone will be. I learned early on to not even consider myself to be in the same speed realm as my partner – a 30 something male who’s been incredibly active his entire life. I also learned to not compare myself to my taller, fitter, longer legged friends. I try to only compare myself to me. But even then, when I’ve been struggling with my training, it hurts to look at where I was a week, month, year ago. Each run, just like each runner, is different. Run with all your heart. Leave it all out there. Do your best. Then be proud you got out there at all. I will never run an 8 minute mile. Hell, I might not ever run a 9 minute mile. But that does mean I don’t stop working towards it. Learning to be a better me by putting one foot in front of the other on the running trails.
- The chafe struggle is real and Body Glide will be your new best friend
I sweat a lot. Like a lot a lot. More than my partner a lot. This means, sadly, I chafe everywhere when I run. People don’t talk about the struggle of stepping into a shower after a long run and feeling like the water is molten lava hitting your sensitive spots. Crotch chafe is real, my friends. Real effing painful. (Maybe TMI?!?) The solution is Body Glide. I swear, I’ve kept them in business for the last three years. My typical pre-long run routine entails eating a granola bar while my partner rub this greasy wonder all around my sports bra (he is the luckiest man in the world, I know). Lube up anywhere you think might chafe (think upper arms, bikini line, feet, waistband…) You won’t regret it.
- Buy good shoes and check your shoe size
Long distance running is hell on your tender toes. When I first started out, I was running in old, cheap, garbage shoes, which left me with the angriest feet. Buying a decent pair of runners was a game changer. I am likely one of the few people who was partial to Reeboks, but recently had to switch it up since my favourite pair was discontinued. I currently train in a pair of Nike Air Zoom Elite 8’s and still getting used to them. The biggest change for me was when I went up half a size in my shoes. Not only did my feet stop hurting as much, the blisters decreased. Yay! If you can, go to your local running shop (for me it’s the Running Room ) and get someone to check out your gait. Shoes will make your break your runs. Invest in your feet and they will be good to you.
- What works for others might not work for you
When I began training for my first half marathon, I did what any good library nerd would do – researched the hell out of training plans. I found one on good ol’ Pinterest and figured it would work for me. Wrong. As with many training plans, it consisted of five runs a week and cross training. It was a beginner training plan, so it consisted for about five months of training. Within three months, I was burnt out. I cried during every run. I hated everything. I was sore and exhausted. Mentally and physically burnt out. I realized then that I am never going to be a five runs a week kind of runner. Three runs is perfect for me. I tried to train smarter not longer: one long slow run a week, one fast interval/pace run a week, and either a shorter run or hill/stair training. This, coupled with personal training sessions once a week and the occasional yoga session, is my ideal training plan. I get recovery days, which are key for my body and mind. Please listen to your body and plan your training accordingly. If you can be a five runs a week time of runner, that’s rad! Good for you. But it’s okay if you can’t.
Do you you have any advice you wish you could share with past-you before lacing up your running shoes for the first time? Let me know.