“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
. – George Sheehan
I recently sent out a message on Twitter asking what questions my fellow runners had. I received a few interesting topics that I will blog about, but this one struck me. The tweet from Tricia was this:
@Wise_Running “what i want to know is how to start from scratch at 40yr old woman”
I followed up by asking, “When is the last time you ran 1 mile? 2 miles? more?”
Tricia responded, “ummm….. college 20 yrs ago :0) I walk couple miles day and elliptical – I really did mean from scratch (correct shoes etc)”.
Wow! That is a big request. Moreover, this is an absolutely critical juncture for Tricia. She wants to transition from a walker to a runner. Her experience in the next month or two will determine whether she likes running or not. No pressure, right?
So here it is. This blog post is for all of the newbie runners out there.
Step 1: Realize Who You Are
You become a runner when you take that first bouncy step, that first longer stride. You don’t have to be fast. You don’t have to run forever. If you start running, you are a runner. Welcome to the club.
Step 2: Get Good Shoes
Running can feel torturous if you have the wrong shoes. Do not begin any serious attempt at running until you have shoes designed for running. Everyone has different needs, but I will not leave it at that. Go to your nearest running store. Do not go to a sporting goods store, a department store, or a discount store. Go to your nearest running store. The workers there run. They are runners. They want you to enjoy running and they have a way of analyzing your needs and helping you select a good shoe to get you started. You can go discount or online AFTER you have found your good running shoes. For the first round, have the experts help you choose and reward them for their effort by buying the shoes from their store.
What other running gear do you actually need? Not much. There are many kinds of clothing and accessories available, but if you are just beginning there is no need to get it all. Let your needs arise and inform your purchases. If the weather is nice, all you need is shorts, a t-shirt, and supportive undergarments. As your needs become clear, your local running store can steer you the right direction on the gear that address these needs.
Step 3: Set a Goal
If you aim for nothing, you are bound to achieve that. You have to determine a goal before you can decide how to proceed. A good goal is specific, measurable, & just a step or two ahead of where you are today. If you have not been exercising at all, your goal will be much lower than the newbie runner who has been seriously walking, using the elliptical machine, or doing aerobics. If you have lived a sedentary lifestyle, I strongly urge you to become a walker first and gradually graduate to becoming a runner. If you have been vigorously exercising, then you may be more prepared than you think. If that is the case, then plan for your first 5k.
Important Note: Signing up for a 5K or other road races does not mean that you are committing to try to win. Most runners are racing themselves; they set goals and use a race to check their progress. It is also a social occasion to meet fellow runners and celebrate each others’ progress.
Step 4: Get a plan
Do not just run what you feel like running on the days you feel like running. Get a plan. If you try to make the plan yourself, there are two major mistakes that newbie runners commonly make. One of these would be going too far and/or too fast. That leads to injury. The other mistake would be to go too short and/or too slow. Since everyone has a different level of fitness at the beginning, I can’t say in this blog what will be right for you. Carefully find your level of fitness and get a plan that fits.
There are several training plans that you can find out on the internet for free. I like the free plans on http://www.halhigdon.com/training/, but there are plenty more out there. Some of these will fit your stage of development as a runner. Find the one that makes sense to you. You can also have a tailor-made plan developed for you by a running coach. A running coach is like a personal trainer, but specializes in running.
Step 5: Follow the Plan
Once you find or purchase a plan that fits your particular needs, it is time to step out and do it. As a newbie runner, your main goal is to just get running. It is not to be speedy; that can come later. For now it is enough to go forth and run on the days that your plan says to run. Just follow the plan. You can tweak it later, after you build some experience.
REMEMBER: Fast progress leads to injuries! Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!
Step 6: Join a Club
Fellow runners are your greatest source of encouragement and knowledge. Track clubs and road runners clubs have members of all skill & experience levels. It is a great place for newbie runners to get connected with other newbies as well as some veterans that can help guide their journey. My club has several weekly running groups that meet and run anywhere from 7 minute miles up to 12 minute miles.
Step 7: Have Fun
Yes, running is hard work, but you should enjoy the ride. Run with friends, laugh, joke, share. Enjoy the bonus of endorphins. A good workout will reward you with this form of natural high.
Don’t beat yourself up over a missed run, a bad run, or an injury. We all have bad days. Running is no different. If you have more good days than bad days, eventually you will accomplish your goals. You will begin to build confidence as you gradually become a better runner. Enjoy the process!
Stay safe. Stick with it. Get connected to other runners.
“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor
Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:
The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners
Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life