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12 things I wish I had known when I first started running


When I first started running, I was clueless. I knew that I wanted to learn to run, I wanted to lose weight, and I wanted to finish a 5k.  I somehow managed to accomplish all of these things but I failed miserably several times along the way.  If you are a beginner, hopefully you will learn from my mistakes, and if you are a seasoned runner, laugh along with me as I re-live many of my epic rookie moments.

1.  No one is judging you

When I first started learning to run I was very self conscious.  I was a size 20 and I got winded just walking a quarter mile.  I knew people had to be secretly laughing at me behind my back.  How could they not?  I was the fat girl trying to run.  It turns out, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Anytime I actually encountered another runner they would smile, wave, or say something supportive like “good job” and “keep it up.”  It turns out, the only person who was actually judging me, was me.

2.  Slow down

Let me guess, you have tried to run, over and over again, and determined that it is “just too hard.”  Chances are, you are going too fast.  Yup, thats right, I made that mistake too!  I was following the couch to 5k plan and during the run intervals I would run as fast as I possibly could.  This of course left me doubled over gasping for air and trying not to vomit when I was supposed to be “recovering.”  If running feels really hard, slow down.  Trust me, you will be more successful and increase your chances of sticking with it and even enjoying it!

3.  Its ok to take walk breaks

I went through the couch to 5k plan three times before I could run an entire 5k without walking.  I was so happy the day I finally ran the entire distance without stopping, but soon discovered that if I continued to take walk breaks, I could go a lot faster!  I could “run” a 5k in 43 minutes, but if I “ran/walked” it  using 2:1 intervals, I could cover the same distance in 36 minutes.

4.  Join a training group

If you are a beginner and are intimidated by the thought of running, check with your local running store.  Many of them offer a beginner training group.  Fleetfeet offers a group called No Boundaries, which is designed to help a complete beginner finish their first 5k.  The program offers coached workouts (for both runners and walkers) along with several short seminars on gear, nutrition, injury prevention, etc.  They also have mentors (who have alread been through the program) to complete the workouts with you and offer you help, encouragement, and advice.  I wish I had known about this group when I first started.

5. Running on a treadmill is easier than running outside

I am awesome on a treadmill!  Controled temperatures, no wind resistance, and a moving belt that does some of the work for you, make running on a treadmill much easier than running outside.  Let me guess, you are thinking “great!  I will just run on a treadmill!”  There is only one problem with this strategy, your race is not on a treadmill.  It is always best to train in conditions that will mimic your race.  If your race is very hilly, find a hill to “practice” on.

6. There’s an app for that

Since the majority of the population owns a smart phone, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a gps watch, tracker, etc. to get started.  There are a number of free apps that map your route, track your pace, and even estimate the number of calories you burned.  There are too many to count but a few of the popular ones are Runkeeper, Endomondo, and Map My Run.

7. Not every run is easy

You will have some runs that are awesome!  It feels super easy, the weather is great, and the time seems to fly by.  You will also have some where every step you take is a chore, you feel tired, your legs feel like they weight 150 pounds each, and you may have to stop and walk…a lot!  Luckily, most runs will be in the middle (relatively enjoyable and you will always feel good at the end), and while all runs are not great, I have never come home from a bad run regretting having gone out the door.

8. Eat to succeed

You started running to lose weight, and eating extra food sounds counterproductive right?  Wrong!  In order to be successful at running you need to fuel your body.  Not fueling properly will result in not having energy on the run.  Not having energy on the run will result in a bad run.  Several bad runs in a row will make you want to quit.   Don’t let the vicious cycle continue.  A light snack like toast with peanut butter will be plenty to give you the energy to have a great time!

9. Get fitted for shoes

You just started running a month ago and everything hurts (knees, hips, back)…chances are, you are running in the wrong shoes.  Yup, I did this one too!  I went to the shoe store and bought the most expensive running shoes they carried.  The were super comfortable with lots of cushion and pretty soon my knees were killing me.  It turns out they were not the right shoe for my foot type…and they were a size too small!  That’s right, you need to buy at least a half size up when buying running shoes.  Don’t leave this one to chance.  Go to your local running store and get fit for shoes.  An expert will watch you walk barefoot, then have you try several pairs of shoes. They will then watch you walk or run in them to make sure the shoes align your hips, knees, and feet so that you can run without pain.

10. Get the right clothes for your body type

Everyone loves those cute running shorts.  You know, the ones with the built in liner that give your legs room to move and come in cute colors.  They are cute, unless like me, you have chub rub. Trust me, there is nothing cute about shorts that creep up to your crotch because your legs rub together when you run, and there certainly is nothing cute about the chafing that comes as a result of the wrong clothes!  My thighs rub together!  Its how I am made and nothing I can do is going to change that.  Enter spandex!  I love running in compression shorts and running skirts from Sparkle Skirts (guaranteed not to ride up!)

11. Get a good bra

Ladies, there is nothing cute or comfortable about the girls bouncing around while you run.  There is also no need for multiple jog bras layered up to keep the girls in check either.  Go to your local running store (do you see a trend?) and get fitted for a bra.  Yes, they may be a little more expensive but by the time you layer up two cheaper jog bras to keep the girls in check you have already probably spent more than you would have on a good bra in the first place.

12. Just say no to cotton

My first 5k marked a huge change in my life and also marked the biggest rookie mistake of all time…I wore cotton socks!  My friend’s mom, who had been encouraging me through all of my training, finished the race and came back to find me.  She asked how I was doing and I told her I was pretty sure I had a blister…her response…”oh no! We didn’t talk about socks did we? You shouldn’t wear cotton socks.”  Great…now you tell me!  Trust me on this one, cotton socks = blisters so bad you can’t walk for a week!  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, many big box stores offer tech socks at a reasonable price…just be sure to look for the word “wicking” in the description.

These are just a few of the tips I learned along the way and if revealing a few of my more embarrasing moments helps other to avoid the same disasters then by all means laugh away!

Speed Training for Beginner Runners

fartlekWe all want to get faster.  We all want to accomplish something we have never done before: a new distance, a new PR, this is what makes us runners.  When I first started running I was terrified of speed workouts.  I heard other runners use the terms 400 meter repeats, Yasso 800s, and tempo runs.  I was a run/walker who could barely run one minute at a time.  How on earth could I possibly run 400 meters?  After four years of running, I finally mustered up the courage to sign up for speed workouts with my local running store.  I showed up the first day shaking in my Brooks, but ended up having the time of my life and I fell in love with speed work!

Speed work is for everyone!  Runners, walkers, and run/walkers can all benefit from the boost a speed workout will give you.  Speed work makes you stronger, burns a few extra calories, and best of all makes you faster.  The trick that I quickly learned is that you have to modify the workout to meet your individual needs.  If you are a beginner looking to improve your pace, and a little nervous about speed workouts, the best way to start is with the fartlek.

Yes, you heard me right, fartlek…go ahead…get your giggles out now.  Fartlek is a Swedish term that means speed play and that is exactly what you do in this workout, you play with your speed.  I encourage you to try this one in your neighborhood or favorite running path because THIS WORKOUT IS NOT FOR THE TREADMILL.  Trust me, you will be bored out of your mind!

Before you start ask yourself one simple question: How far do I want to go?  If you want to go 3 miles divide your run into a half mile warm-up, 2 mile fartlek, half mile cool down.  If you are more of a time person and want to go 30 minutes, divide your run into a 5 minute warm-up, 25 minute fartlek, and a 5 minute cool down.  Adjust these numbers as you see fit. Remember, this is YOUR workout.

Start with a quarter to half mile warm-up.  You can walk, jog, or even dance yourself down the road but remember to take it easy.  Once you have completed your warm-up look ahead and select a point in the distance (a mailbox, tree, street sign, etc.) and run to it, picking up your pace a little.  Once you have reached your “spot,” slow down for two minutes then pick another point in the distance and repeat for the fartlek portion of your workout.  Once your fartlek distance/time is complete, cool down.

*If you are already a runner, your recovery period should be a slow jog, if you are a run/walker, try walking for the first minute and jogging the second minute.  If you are a walker, your fartlek should consist of power walking to your selected point and recovering at a comfortable pace.

I think you will discover that time flies by with this type of workout and before you know it you will be done and on your way to Sonic to buy a drink the size of your face…or maybe thats just me.


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