It's been a year since I started running. That is, when I truly started running. There have surely been attempts before that, few and far between, each one ending the same way: in a lot of disappointment, lower self-esteem and soreness that left me out of commission for a week. Not quite the runner's high I wanted to return for.
I was starting to eat well but my physical activity was next to non-existent and I felt it. I decided to take a final stab at running but this time did more research on where to begin. Lo and behold, I was doing it all wrong. These are the lessons I learned when I started running.
1. Invest in comfortable running shoes before anything else.
Okay, this one's obvious but is also the most important. If a reason to shop is a motivator for you, this is it. Getting a new pair of kicks set the tone for my couch-to-5k journey. Aside from a sports bra for the ladies, you don't have to get athletic apparel and running accessories right away. For me, old sexy oversized tees were in full effect.
2. Walking is okay and I'd say, even necessary.
This is huge. One of the biggest mistakes for beginner runners is starting off too fast. I went from 100 to 0 real quick and it sucks. You'll have greater success if you alternate running and walking, and gradually stretch your run segments over time.
3. There’s an app for that.
There are plenty of running plans available online but I swear by the 5k Runner app. It tells you exactly when to run and when to walk during your session, and works you up to 5k in about 8 weeks. If it isn't feeling right, I just repeat the previous run until I'm ready for the next step. The best $3 I ever spent.
4. You're supposed to breathe a certain way.
We think about training our heart and legs when running but what we're also doing is training our lungs. There's a tendency to take fast, shallow breaths when you first start out. This is also an indication for you to slow down because what you really need are slow, deep breaths not only to move oxygen efficiently to your muscles but to also help strengthen the diaphragm. This takes practice and feels really awkward at first.
5. You will hate a lot of your runs.
This doesn't change after a year and I don't think it ever does. There's always going to be a bad stretch, bad run or bad race. Sometimes I'll wonder how today's 3km can possibly be worse than last week's 15km run. Sometimes the last kilometre will feel like an eternity. Almost every run is a battle against an impulse to give up. But the moment I hit that run or stride where I'm feeling myself again, I'm reminded of why I keep going.
6. You won't want to run every time.
When the weather sucks or I'm just in a funk, lacing up can be the hardest thing. But it isn't the end of the world if you can't make it happen every time and you aren't any less disciplined. You can beat yourself up over it and get out the next day, or you can simply, just, get out the next day.
7. It matters what I eat and when.
You can't out-run a bad diet. I notice a huge difference when I don't eat well. Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration is one of the most sure-fire ways to enhance performance. Minimally-processed, whole, quality foods will facilitate recovery and help replenish stores, allowing our bodies to adapt to the stress better. But, be sure to wait at least 1 hour after any big meal unless you want to smell or regurgitate that awesome brunch you had :)
8. Running with others helps, and it doesn’t.
My husband ran with me at the beginning and I owe part of my success to him. He got me out the door when I wanted to eat infinity popsicles in bed instead. With another run partner, I felt preoccupied with how she was doing, if my pace was okay and overall more inclined to cut the run short. Running with others can help maintain accountability and motivation but can also be distracting depending on the type of runner you are and the type of person you choose to run with.
Joining a running group is another option I've yet to explore but has been helpful to many. There are several free, beginner-friendly running groups in Toronto you can check out: the Parkdale Roadrunners, Nike Run Club, Night Terrors Run Club, the Food Runners and the Castle Runners.
9. Telling others you're running helps, and it doesn’t.
Part of me was excited to tell people, especially my few runner friends. Some people will be genuinely excited and become huge sources of motivation and inspiration. My coworker designed all my training programs after I reached 5k, essentially outlining what I was capable of, whether or not I was convinced of it at the time.
But there was also a very strong part of me that wanted to train in secrecy should I happen to fail and expose my shortcomings. (I kinda just wanted to emerge one day into the light as an established runner.) It's up to you who you want to tell, but make sure it's someone you trust and know will help you, not hurt you.
10. Working out gets a little easier.
As my endurance improved from running, I noticed I was better able to get through home workouts I struggled with in the past. In this way, running can act as a sort of springboard into the scary world of exercise for beginners.
11. Your sense of distance changes.
Nothing seemed to be within walking distance in our neighbourhood (aside from that awesome strip of auto repair shops). As the distance I was able to run increased, I felt closer and more connected to my community. The grocery store is now only 5 minutes away. Access to the Beaches, Rosetta McClain Gardens and Massey Creek Trail is now 15-20 minutes away. This has been by far the most rewarding aspect of learning to run.
12. You're a runner every time you show up.
I didn't consider myself a runner for a long time. I was slow, I didn't run that often and couldn't last very long consistently. I didn't think I was worthy of a runner's title. Truth is, being a slower runner, clocking in fewer distances or not competing in races doesn't make you any less of a runner. Don't sell yourself short. Just showing up time after time counts. You're a runner every time you lace up and put one foot in front of the other.
Are you thinking of learning to run or have a running story to share? Leave us a note below!