Spring is here and for many people, the turning of the season invites new runners to lace up and try their hand (or feet actually) at a pursuit that can transform you in multiple ways. Running is one of the fastest growing sports in North America with over 60 Million active runners in the US alone.
For many new runners their time on the run is short lived however and hopes of running into the sunset are crushed thanks to several common mistakes that rookies can make. Injury, improper gear, lack of motivation and knowledge are all potential pitfalls that can stop a new runner in their tracks.
In this post, I'll address the most common challenges by giving you some TIPS on how to start running and more importantly STAY running.
If you're a new runner read on. If you know someone that wants to start, share this post with them and help them become a runner for life. You may even get a new running buddy out of it.
Lungs Versus Legs
Although it may not feel like it the first time you head out for a run, your cardiovascular fitness will develop faster than your muscle stamina. Why does this matter?.....Well, let me take you through a classic scenario I've seen hundreds of times:
A new runner heads out and can barely make it around the block without wanting to crumble in a heap, gasping for air, quickly slapped by a reality check that running is hard. They stay with it though and the next time they're able to run a bit farther, and the time after that even farther. Going around the block suddenly is a piece of cake, in fact, it's an easy warm up. They build up in a few short weeks, able to run a good sized loop and then start to time themselves as a way to track their progress. Each time they push a bit harder and go a little bit faster and they're feeling great. Then out of nowhere BAM, injury hits and they're sidelined for days or even weeks. All of the progress they made slides and then for some, they never run again.
So what happened? The reality is that a lot of physical adaptation needs to occur in the body to be able to handle the stress running places on it. Even people who are in "great shape" have often not developed the strength needed in the kinetic chain to handle the repetitive impact, especially when starting out. Going from not running to running multiple times a week is a big deal. Add in the fact that most people are not biomechanically perfect and have some flaws in their running stride and the need to build slowly becomes even more critical.
The example of a steadily increasing intensity that I described in the example above is a recipe for disaster and a trap many new runners fall into. More is not always better, especially when starting out a new running program. Your cardio will adapt quickly, however, your muscle's ability to take the damage and recover from a run will take months to develop.
By constantly pushing harder and making faster and farther the primary goal is a big mistake. It's important to take a slow patient approach when starting to run. The bulk of your miles should be running at an easy pace and speed should not be something that is tracked until a solid base is established. Keep a long-term view and don't rush things out of the gate. This is probably the hardest thing to do as you will definitely make big gains and progress early.
Get a Plan or Get a Coach
The classic saying "People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan" is so true when it comes to new runners. Building on to the first tip of pushing too hard at the start; having a good training plan is a key to your success.
There are multiple run workouts that when properly designed and structured can optimize your results in a safe and controlled fashion. Each workout will have a slightly different benefit and will help build your base that will ultimately be the foundation for a long running career.
Get yourself a plan that is aligned with your goals and especially your current fitness levels. A plan will also help to keep you motivated, on track and accountable. If you're just flying by the seat of your pants, it's easy to take a day off in the absence of a pre-set run.
There are tons of apps and resources available online, but in my opinion (and yes I'm biased) this is where a running coach can be such a huge advantage. One of the most common athlete types I work with are people that started on their own, failed miserably and want to "do it right". Have the help of a running coach will ensure the right training load is being implemented. Close monitoring of progress and being able to quickly adjust a plan on the fly will help to avoid injury and stay on your feet. As a side bonus, a running coach will also add a level of accountability that help ensure your stay focused.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Have you ever watched yourself run? Chances are the answer is no, which is why getting a stride assessment early into your running program is a great idea. In my experience as a running coach for years now, I've seen a lot of different running styles, and the theme that I've observed time and time again is that even though running is a very natural human movement, most of us are not very good at it.
Poor posture, genetics and just bad technique can show up as a flawed running stride. By addressing any issues early (and often) you will ultimately run more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury.
Have someone take a video of you running in a controlled space. What you will often discover is what you think you look like when you run and how you actually are running is quite different. With the help of an expert, you can make adjustments that can make a huge impact.
One service that I provide that gives huge value is a vide stride analysis. Check it out HERE to learn more or comment below if you have any questions.
Don't Be A Cheapskate
When starting to run it's super important that you invest in the right gear. I see a lot of people that don't go out and get the essentials because they want to see if they like running before dropping $150 on runners.
The problem with this? Running without the right gear presents injury risk and discomfort, both issues that will force you to quit early. Just spend the money and thank me for it later.
In order of importance, here is the gear I strongly suggest you pick up:
1) Running Shoes - THE most important piece of gear you'll own. Expect to pay $100 - $200 for a good pair of running shoes. But there is a big caveat to this, so listen close. Expensive does not mean that a running shoe is good for you. Everyone has a unique foot shape, arch, and gait so it's essential that you get properly fitted by a running shoe professional. I've seen people that have been plagued by injury switch to the proper shoe and completely recover.
Don't go deal shopping for your shoes. Spend the time and money to get a pair that is perfect for you and you'll start off running on the right foot I promise!
2) Running Clothes - Another important purchase to make is in the wardrobe department. You might think that you can get by with the T-Shirt and sweats you have in your drawer but do yourself a favour and get the right clothes. Good running shorts, a wind-breaking jacket and dry wicking tops will help to keep you comfortable and prevent chaffing in all the wrong places. There's a reason why you may spend a bit more on "running" stuff and trust me when I say it's worth it.
3) GPS Watch - As you start to develop as a runner, being able to track your pace and distance will become more and more important. The good news is that there has been an explosion of technology when it comes to sports wearables, which will help you to track your runs during and after. Expect to pay $200 as a low point for a quality watch and if you feel like getting crazy these can get into the $800 range. You definitely don't need to spend that much as you can stay on the lower end and still have a great device that can GSP track while providing pace, speed, heart rate and distance.
4) Fuel/Running Belt - A simple running belt is a great purchase to make as you're getting started. These are generally lower in price and will help you to carry essential items along with fluids for longer runs.
Follow these simple steps as you start running this spring and set yourself up for success. Have a question about running I didn't answer here? Leave a coment below and I will respond.