This week’s Friday Five is a free theme, and I decided to talk about the five things I’ve learned since beginning to run. I’ve read quite a few of these and am excited to throw in my few pieces of advice!
- Take your time. Focus on slowly building up mileage each week. Think about progress in the long run and know that one day you will run double digits week with ease, but that day doesn’t have to be today. Too much too soon can be a recipe for injury! Where do you think the ice packs in “ice packs + races” came from? Additionally, don’t prioritize speed in the very beginning. A mile is a mile if you run it in six minutes or twelve! And it is one whole mile more than what someone on their couch achieved while you took the initiative to get out there. Speed will come. Trust me, I’m still waiting. It’s simply important that you got out there and did what you could, when you could.
- Know when to rest. I can’t stress this one enough. You don’t need to run seven days a week (or six or five). You also don’t need to follow what your roommate does or what Running World tells you. Find what works for you! If you feel pain that is out of the ordinary, stop! Rest! Consult a medical professional if need be. Do what you think is best, but don’t power through pain and hope it resolves itself. Do yourself a favor, and listen to your body. A day of rest now might mean you won’t have to take off weeks if your little problem turns into a big one. Looking at you shin splints… and as a little add-in, strengthening is so important to staying healthy! Squats, lunges, planks — you name it — will make you a stronger runner, especially in areas where you’re known to be injury-prone.
- Pick a race; pick a goal. I think the single-handed reason I stuck with running this time round was that I chose a goal — a race! Having that day in the future where I was expected to run a certain number of miles kept me accountable to my training and reminded me that all of this running, core work and ouch-that’s-hard leg work was intended to prime me for a future achievement. And sure, I got hurt and had to listen to #2 and rest, but that just made my desire to finish a new race goal fire brighter. See you this fall, Navy Air Force Half Marathon!
- Invest in good gear. You’ll hear often that all you need is a pair of shoes and an open road to commit to running — and at its core, this is true — but as in most things, a little investment will take you a long way. First off, visit your local running store and get fitted for a pair of shoes that suits your feet and your stride. When I bought my first pair of Brooks last summer, they replaced a pair of Nike trainers I’d had since my freshman year of college. The latter wasn’t suited for much more than the rec center elliptical machine. As my running habit grew into winter, I relied on a good pair of thermal leggings, gloves, base layers and even Yaktrax to keep me running in below freezing temperature. This summer, I’ve found that a handheld water bottle and these shorts make running just a little more enjoyable in the rising heat. Again — these might not be essential, but it’s good to invest in a practice you’ll commit to several times a week for the foreseeable future! You’re also going to want to put those $100+ running shoes to use…
- Connect with other runners. Find a running buddy! Read running blogs + books! (Find my favorite blogs here. Get on the bandwagon and read Born to Run now.) Join a training group or a fun run at your local running store (still on my summer to-do list). If you’re bit by that running bug, running might be all that you can talk about. I needed like-minded people to seek for advice and sometimes, commiseration. Doing this can also help prevent driving the non-runners in your life bananas. Sorry, guys.
What have you learned since you started running? What kind of advice would you offer new runners?