And 10 tips for how you can learn to love running too!
As a marathoner and runner who’s been at it for over a decade, I often get into conversations with people about running. The good, the bad, the hard, the ugly, and mostly the excuses. Coming from a girl who laced up ballet slippers long before sneakers, believe me when I say anyone can become a runner if they set their mind to it. Here’s a little inspiration from my own relationship with running and my best advice to get you going.
A Mother’s Council
“The only way you’ll make friends is if you play a sport”. These were the words of advice my mom imparted on me as I prepared for my first days as a high school freshman. I had played volleyball, softball, soccer, and basketball from 2nd-8th grade but getting selected for a high school team was taking sports to another level.
The words had poured out of my mother’s mouth nonchalantly as if getting picked to play for a high school sports team was as easy as simply raising your hand and telling the coach you wanted to play. Not exactly the reality for most competitive sports teams.
Though I’d had the experience of stepping up to home base and tossing up a serve, “great hand-eye coordination” wasn’t exactly at the top of my skill list. Good enough to get by was much closer to how one would describe my athletic aptitude. Still, I knew I had to nail this high school thing. I’d seen enough TV shows and movies in my young age (thank you Grease, Clueless, and Saved by the Bell) to know that high school could be the best or worst years of your life. I was aiming for the former and I knew the fate of these four years lie in my ability to make some new high school friends right from the get-go.
Luckily, before I had too much time to worry myself silly over which team tryout I was going to embarrassingly put myself through, a friend approached me about joining the cross-country team. I was no expert in the area but I had started to run a mile or two a few days a week so I considered that a fair starting point for improvement. More importantly though, the team was in need of new recruits and was allowing anyone to join. Embarrassment could be averted, a team of new friends could be made, and no real coordination was needed. I was sold.
My high school running career ended after only two years pounding the pavement. My mother’s counsel had served me well. Joining our cross-country team was the road, so to speak, that lead to my best high school friendships. Point team mom. What I hadn’t anticipated was that her advice would also lead me to my longest lasting relationship to date, my relationship with running.
12 years later I now officially consider myself a runner. My high school running career had lasted only two seasons because I didn’t enjoy the competitiveness and exhaustive year-round training that accompanied it. What I’d learned to love was the freedom that hitting the road gave me. I loved the mental escape running provided and wanted to chase after it on my own accord not for the sake of crossing a finish line before someone else.
Over the course of the past decade, more days than not I have tied up my laces and headed to the streets for a run. Through below zero temperatures, downpours, and blistering heat I’ve kept my stride. I do it because I love it and because I’ve come to realize that running is part of what defines me. I love the feeling that for the time I’m on the road I can’t be bothered with outside problems. It’s my personal time to relieve stress, sort through my thoughts, and daydream. Not to mention, I love the feeling of strength and power that comes after completing a good long run.
Your Time to Shine
2 marathons, 1 half marathon, and a handful of shorter races later I’ve now become the friend people turn to when they are looking for running advice. Most will lament that they’d love to run but they’re just not good at it or that they’re not sure how to get started. Coming from a girl who laced up ballet slippers long before sneakers, believe me when I say anyone can become a runner if they set their mind to it.
Easier said than done you are probably thinking. Well of course, that is the case with all things. However, if you have tossed around the idea of giving running a try here is my advice for getting started.
- Get the right shoes: Shoes make all the difference in the world. Go to a running specialty store where they can measure your foot, analyze your arches and take a look at your gate. Their experts should be able to take all of this information to help you pick out the right running shoe for you. In this case it’s not about the prettiest pair. It’s about the pair that will keep you injury and pain-free. Right now I’m running in a Nike Free shoe which I like because it’s lightweight but still provides some cushioning.
- Wear the right gear: When I started running I wore cotton t-shirts. This was a bad move. Cotton traps heat and doesn’t wick away moisture. A technical fabric and design made for runners will keep you comfortable and focused on the road not how hot/itchy/chafed you are. I was also wearing simple shorts that weren’t meant for running. Depending on the weather I like to wear running shorts that are long enough to prevent chafing or Lululemon crop pants with a built-in back pocket for GU (when I’m training).
- Create great playlists. I can’t emphasize how much of a difference this makes for my own running. When I know I have a list of songs I love waiting for me I’m 10x more excited to get out of bed and get on the road. I create different playlists for the types of runs I want to have. More mellow for mornings, charged up for after work, and fun and bouncy for long weekend hauls. Check out the great playlist Catherine shared.
- Stay Light: Personally, I prefer to run with as little on me as possible. This means no water belts, no fanny packs, no phone, and no keys. I use an iPod shuffle because it’s the lightest weight option I can find. If it’s an extremely hot day I pick a place along my route that I know I can stop for a free cup of water and I unless I’m in marathon training I eat an hour before my run so I don’t need any fuel on the way.
- Start with the end in mind: Whenever I’m struggling to get myself out for a run I think about how great I am going to feel when it’s over. Energized, on an endorphin high, and lighter. I also think about how much better my food is going to taste all day because my hard work will leave me with a great appetite. What can I say, I do love an excuse for a sweat treat.
- Fuel properly: Speaking of which, it’s important to fuel up the right way before. If I run in the afternoons or evening I like to have a light snack about an hour before I run so that my belly isn’t empty but I’m not nauseated. I typically grab for a Luna bar or banana with a dab of natural peanut butter.
- Go first thing in the morning: I have found that I’m most successful at sticking to a consistent running routine when I do it first thing in the morning. I have no excuses for not doing it and it gets my day off to a great start. When I run in the morning I generally don’t eat before and save my snack for when I’m done.
- Set a Goal: Though I found that running, as part of a team sport, wasn’t up my alley, I do find it motivating to train for races. I see these as a reason to push myself beyond my own boundaries and the reason I sometimes need to add-on that extra mile. Start with a fun race like a Color Run and take it more seriously from there.
- Remember to stretch: If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I am the number one offender of not stretching. The result however has been a string of aches, pains, and injuries from my shins, to hip, to lower back. It’s not a good move and not how you want to get started. Take a few minutes for dynamic stretches before you begin your run a some time afterward for static stretching of foam rolling.
- Just get going: Ultimately, if you want to start running you just have to go for it. Let go of the excuses, put on whatever clothes and shoes you have and go for it. Don’t set any expectations of time or distance. Get out there, give it your best shot, and stick with it!
Jen has completed both the Cincinnati Flying Pig and Los Angeles Marathons. Her love to run is only trumped by her love of chocolate chip cookies and blogging for the wonderful readers of The Single Diaries.
Are you a runner? I’d love to hear how you got started, what keeps you motived, and what your top tips are. Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.