Running is one of the few constants in my life and it is something I have loved for quite some time. I started running 5K races with my family when I was around middle school age and I've been logging miles ever since. I've ran more 5K races than I can remember and a handful of 10Ks. I missed my junior prom to run a half-marathon (that ended up being sold out so I ended up just missing prom, but that's another story for another day), ran my first half in high school, and my second half-marathon this past April. I'm currently training for another. I'm not very "good" if good is defined by speed, but that's one of the reasons why I love running so much. Everyone can do it, whether you're young or old, heavy or thin, fast or slow. All you need is a pair of running shoes and some motivation. I'm no expert by any means, but I've been doing this running thing for almost ten years now so I've learned a few things along the way. I still have a lot to learn, but I get questions from time to time from friends who are new to the sport, so i just wanted to share the few tips I have for anyone out there looking to get started. People have written entire books telling beginners how to get started, so this is a very concise list of just a few tips. Happy running!
1. Invest in a good pair of running shoes.
I cannot stress this enough. Anyone who asks me for advice, this is the first thing I stress to them. You will begin to hate running with the wrong pair of shoes. You might even injure yourself with the wrong pair of shoes. Shoes are important! They are what are protecting your feet, legs and providing support for the impact your entire body will receive while running. My favorite brand of all time for distance running is Asics, but check out this website for a yearly running shoe review. My Nike's are cute for working out at the gym or walking, but the second I pass about mile two, I start to get shin-splints and feel terrible no matter how in shape I am. The entire quality of your run can depend on what shoes you wear. Every foot is different, and everyone has different needs in a running shoe, so I suggest getting fitted by a professional or sitting down and really trying on a few pairs to get the right fit. I prefer Asics with quite a bit of cushion and arch support. I'm currently running in Brooks Ghost 8s, and the cushion is amazing, but the fit isn't what I typically prefer for my feet.
2. Speaking of shoes, don't change shoes right before your race day.
If you choose to sign up for a race, which you should, they're incredibly fun, give your feet time to get accustomed to your new running shoes. If not, you could be on mile five with a blister you didn't realize would happen.
3. Food is your friend.
Food is fuel. Having a healthy relationship with food is incredibly important in any situation, but when you're running, it's vital. I can sense the differences in how food makes me feel on a run very clearly. If I deprive myself or I fill my body with junk, my body doesn't perform well at all during a run. I feel like a car out of gas! When I realize food is fuel and I treat it that way, my body feels so much better while I run. Post-run intake is also very important. Fill your body with nutrients that are going to fuel your muscles.
4. If you're a lady, make sure your sports bra is well-fitting.
Life is too short to get rubbed raw on your underarms because your sports bra doesn't fit quite right.
5. And if you're not a lady, petroleum jelly and bandages become your friend on long runs.
If you've ever witnessed all the blood stained shirts on men after a marathon, you'll know the value of vaseline and bandages. Bare chests + long mileage + salt in sweat = horrible chafing.
6. Wear non-cotton, moisture wicking clothing.
Cotton is great for being comfortable and cheap, it's not so great at wicking away moisture. I learned this lesson the hard way on mile 7 the other day when I forgot to wear my good tights. Let's just say I've been close buds with diaper rash ointment for the past week. Moisture, rubbing, and the salt your body is releasing in sweat over time on longer runs adds up to chafing, and trust me, you don't want that. So look for items that are made from materials that wick away moisture. Think dri-fit by Nike.
7. Don't increase your mileage too quickly.
Increasing your weekly mileage might sound exciting, but too many added miles too quickly can lead to injury. If you look into the research behind when to increase your mileage, you're probably going to be overwhelmed with articles about the ten and twenty percent rule, different plans, etc. Definitely research it for yourself, but I just suggest to listen to your body and take it very slow and easy in the beginning. Every body is built differently, so listen to your body and give it about two to three weeks to get used to your current mileage levels before advancing onto the next level.
8. Rest days are good days.
Rest days are boring at times, but your body needs them. If the boredom is too much, try doing low-impact exercise like swimming or yoga on those days.
9. Register for a race.
Whether it's a mile walk/run, a 5K or an Ultra Marathon, registering for a race helps build motivation and a solid goal to work towards. Plus, they're just really fun! The running community is one of the best parts of running. People are generally pretty friendly, and the atmosphere of most races I've been to is so encouraging and uplifting. Also, once you start actually putting money towards a race, it really helps get you out the door on days you don't feel like running. Races make you feel like you're part of something. If you live in Oklahoma, my favorite race is the OKC Memorial in April.
10. Spotify Premium is life.
Spotify Premium is seriously life. You can download running playlists to play when you don't want to use data or have no access to wifi. There are even discounts for students.
11. Prevent chafing with a product such as Body Glide.
There are plenty of different brands out there, so find one that works for you.
12. Run happy.
Seriously. Don't run to be better than the runner next to you, because you hate what you look like, or anything that doesn't encourage you. Running can genuinely be fun and a form of self-care, but getting wrapped up in the competition of it all or trying to make some insane time PR will only leave you feeling negative. Be better than you were yesterday, and have fun with it.
13. Find a running app that works for you.
My favorite running app is Nike Running Club, but some other great ones are Strava or RunKeeper. I personally don't use these as often anymore because I have a Garmin running watch now, but if you're just starting out these are great to track your stats and improvements.