5 tips for new runners
As a long-distance runner for several years, the most common comments I get from nonrunners are “I get winded very easily” or “I only run if someone is chasing me.” But the truth is, most seasoned runners I know of didn’t knock out a long easy mile on their very first go.
Running is a low cost, efficient, and fun way to build up cardiovascular strength. I have shared 13.1 reasons why everyone should give running a try in my previous blog. I hope I could convince you to start running! Here’s how to make it happen. The biggest thing when you first start is establishing the habit and just getting used to being on your feet. Don’t sweat about hitting a pace or a certain distance. Just set a time goal. An excellent way to build the habit for beginner runners is to get outside for 20 minutes, three days a week. From there, you can start bumping up to four days and adding more time. Soon your body will actually start craving the activity. The best time to get your runs in is first thing in the morning. According to David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, “There is such a thing as decision fatigue. Which simply means that at a certain point in the day, we can no longer make any decisions very well.” We have a limited number of good decisions and need to allocate it like capital. Rock suggests getting the most important work done first thing in the morning. Getting your run in first thing in the morning will not only get you started on this healthy habit quickly, but it will also boost your metabolism.
Here are five tips to help ensure success with your new running habit.
Start slow and be patient
Anyone can run. It takes time to build up aerobic capacity and specificity for the sport of running. I always see that new runners have this ability to get ahead of themselves and pile on too much too soon. Set SMART ( Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals for running. Start slow and then build up from there. This way, you will set yourself up for success with small wins and truly embody being a runner.
Most of the certified running coaches I have worked with recommend beginner runners start with a run/walk three times a week, in which they run for one minute and walk for 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes per session. The runners can increase the running segment each week by 30 seconds and increase the running time by 10% each week. Realistically, it’s recommended that new runners stick with run-walk intervals for the first six weeks of running. This run/walk method will help them build their aerobic base and get their bodies ready for endurance work. If a person was already very active, then it will be easier to add mileage sooner. Cross-training with other cardio-activities as cycling or swimming helps, and it can give new runners a leg up when they start running. Group exercise classes like indoor cycling and aerobics classes can also help to get the heart and lungs ready to take the next step and add running.
Don’t Skip the Warm-up
When you’re just starting to learn how to run, embody being a runner. Take time to warm up properly. Dynamic warm-up exercises raise your body temperature, boost your metabolism, and accelerate your muscles’ supply of energy. Research has shown that dynamic warm-up before running minimizes the risk of injury. This is one lesson many runners learn the hard way, and that includes me. New research has shown that warm up exercises can help build joint cartilage, increase the load-bearing surface, and help distribute loads more evenly. A dynamic warm-up takes only ten minutes. Don’t skip warm-up exercises before you run.
Build a social connection
It’s important to find strength in numbers. A failsafe way to make sure that you actually get your runs in is joining a running group or finding a friend to run with. Group runs are an easy way to meet up with other runners. When you are part of the group, you belong to the community. The running community is one of the most supportive groups of people I have ever met. These days, it’s not hard to find a free group running option. I joined the New York Road Runners group during the pandemic to stay motivated. You can find your local road running group in your county or town. The beauty of running groups is that they attract runners of all levels. These groups are there to make the sport of running fun. The more fun you will have, the easier it will be to commit to running.
If you are an introvert like me, and the thought of joining a big group is daunting (it was totally intimidating to me for years), then consider texting a friend that you just ran three miles. Don’t discount the digital connection when it comes to running groups and running the community. Download the Strava app, log your runs on the app, and then just watch the flood of kudos coming in. I love the running community on Strava. Having the support and camaraderie will help you stay motivated and inspired.
Many new runners are not cognizant of the fueling requirements. Many runners hit the pavement on an empty stomach for a variety of reasons. It’s definitely not ideal to do that. The most crucial reason to fuel is that the liver glycogen gets depleted overnight. A light breakfast before a workout can help bring your blood sugar back up and maintain normal levels. According to the Academy of Sports Nutrition, a general rule of thumb is to eat about 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight up to one hour before a workout. The meal timing, amount, and type of food will vary by runner, so experiment with it before running. Soon you will find out the right combination of foods your body accepts. There are plenty of healthy options to choose from, like bananas, oatmeal, and cereal when it comes to carbs. If you are going for a run longer than an hour, 30–60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is recommended. Try out a variety of sports products such as Skratch Fruit Drops, CLIF Shot Blocks, gels, or even gummy candies. Consuming one serving of each product or candy often provides somewhere between 30–60g of carbohydrates. Don’t forget to drink water and stay hydrated before, during, and after the run.
Invest in running gear
Don’t skimp on running gear. When you get started as a runner, you’ll need a good pair of running shoes and proper clothing that are the right fit for you.
The best way to get the right shoe for your runs is to visit a specialty running store where trained professionals will evaluate your running gait and recommend proper footwear for your runs. You can even take the shoes on a test drive; most stores will let you return the shoes if they don’t feel good. Proper running shoes will reduce your risk of injury and promote comfortable running.
It’s a smart idea to avoid wearing 100 percent cotton as a runner. Running specific clothes are lightweight, breathable, and designed to move with your body. These clothes are less likely to chafe your skin (Ouch! It happens and is painful). Running in technical fabrics helps the runners stay dry and warm during the cold winter days.
Ladies! You need a supportive sports bra. Make sure your running bra is made for high impact activities. Test it out in the fitting room. Do jumping jacks or run-in place to make sure you have enough support. Most sports bras need to be replaced after 72 washes, when the elasticity is lost, or if your weight changes significantly.
A few additional items aren’t a must but can make your running experience more enjoyable, like a running watch and running belt.
Following these few tips on how to approach running as a first-timer will help you stay on track and enjoy the sport of running for years to come. Do not despair. Have some patience and celebrate small successes. I promise, once you get in the habit of running, it is a lot of fun.
About the Author
Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach. She is a 200 HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”