I get asked “how to run” pretty often, so I decided to put down what I usually respond with anyway. It’s long but it is honest.
- I would suggest you start with 1 mile. I know, it’s a sad little number when you compare yourself to others, but 1 is a good place to start and chances are everyone else started there too. If you’re exhausted and want to die by the time you make it to the half way point, you’re starting out too fast. If 1 mile feels like too much to start with, do 1 for 1 the whole mile: run 1 minute, walk 1 minute.
- Start your run at a speed that feels embarrassingly slow. You’ll think “self, why don’t I just walk, this is pathetic.” But by the time you’re done and you find that you don’t want to die you’ll realize it was the smart thing to do.
- Assume it will take you at least 3-4 weeks to learn what pace you are comfortable running at.
- Increase your mileage slowly at first. No more than +10% per week. (If your long run is 5 miles, next week your long run should be no more than 5.5 miles. This slow increase will prevent injury.)
- Remember, you always have time for a run. Trust me on this. If you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time today” while you’re checking your FB profile… you’re doing it wrong. Just bitch about not having time or not wanting to run while you lace up your sneakers and put on your highlighter colored clothes. You’ll be out the door before you know what hit you. Besides, nothing makes you feel lamer than sitting in front of your computer in your workout gear.
- Try to run every other day to start with and increase as you get more comfortable.
- Invest in some good tech clothes that you feel good in. If you like wearing them, putting them on and going outside for a run in them is almost like a reward. Personally, I’m a Nike fan for clothes but an Asics fan for shoes. Get what you like and what looks good on you. To hell with what any adverts say. If you feel good and look good you will look for an excuse to run!
- I personally did not use anything to get me started. I didn’t do a program, or join a club. I decided to start running. Well, I guess there was a reason I decided to start running: I signed up and paid for a race and realized “shit, I haven’t run since I left the Navy. I better get my ass in gear!!” Be a self motivator. If you have to look to outside sources to keep you going then you’re going to fail. Keep your chin up and let it be a journey in self discovery. You’ll be addicted before you know it.
- Don’t forget to exercise your upper body. Get some kettel bells, dumb bells or a pull up bar. Get a yoga ball or a medicine ball. Resistance bands or a curl bar. Something. It’s easy to forget you have an upper half when you spend most of your time on the road.
- Something pissing you off? Write it (or the person’s name) on the bottom of your running shoes with a sharpie. There is a lot of gratification found when you pound “money problems” into the pavement over the course of 8 or 9 miles. By the time you get home, the word will have worn itself away and hopefully, so will your anger. Nothing will be solved, but you’ll feel better.
- Try getting up early and running before work/school. The next time you run try going after work/school. Decide which you prefer. Me, I like to go at the end of the day to blow off all my steam and to clear my head.
Now I am going to give you a standard list of running rules that I wrote up. Most of these are learned through personal trial and error and some of these I have picked up from various articles.
- Drink about a half gallon of water a day.
- Never stretch your muscles when they are “cold.” Instead “warm up” by walking or doing a light jog for about 5 minutes and then stretch if you feel like you need it. I don’t stretch before I go out.
- Stretch when you get home. Plan on taking about 15-30 minutes to stretch your body. Don’t forget your shoulders, back and neck!!
- Ice the back of your knees when you first start running. You’re body isn’t used to the abuse yet and you will swell.
- “Don’t run the first half like a fool and don’t run the second half like a wuss.”
- Do strength training on your quads and your hams. Strengthening them will protect your knees.
- Get good shoes and go shopping for them late in the day (your feet will be swollen and you may go up a half size. Just accept this and know that your feet will swell a whole lot more on your long runs.)
- Be aware of your iliotibial band. Know what it is, what it feels like when it hurts and how to stretch it. You can thank me for this advice later.
- Never increase your distance more than 10% per week or you risk injury. (Please see previous bullet point and remember that being a motivated nut case can get you hurt.) Instead of trying to run really far really early on - just run more often.
- Sign up for a race. Nothing keeps you motivated like paying $50 to run in a large group of sweaty strangers.
- Find a route you enjoy. If you like the scenery you are more likely to want to go. Find lots of routes you enjoy. Explore your town. Find a park to run in. Head out on a paved bike trail and run on it. Nature is much better to run through than suburbia. Run your town. It makes you feel important when you can say that. :D
- Don’t run at night unless the roads are REALLY well lit: you’re harder to see than you think you are. If you need to run at night, invest in a reflective belt or vest and a head lamp. Yes, a head lamp. Yes, I’m serious.
- Carbs/fiber and protein. Eat them. Dump the bad carbs and eat the good carbs. If you’re really sore for a few days after you exercise, it’s probably because you don’t have enough protein in your diet. Try a protein shake after you run. It’s been my saving grace. Drink it within 30 minutes of your workout.
- Music sounds much different when you’re running. You may think you like your running music, but try something different. Try something you would never listen to normally. Dance mixes, rap, heavy metal. They may really get you pumped. Don’t worry - you never have to admit it to anyone. Or - try running without it. Some people find the pounding of their feet and the sound of their breathing is better than any music in the world.
- Join some groups. I suggest looking at www.runnersworld.com and www.active.com. Both of them have lots of information for running, races, what to eat and what to expect. They also have some very funny stories from beginner runners. You are not alone. Sometimes you need a reminder.
- Watch your stride. If you are landing on your heel then your stride is too long. To test how long your stride should be, stand up straight and lean forward until you start to fall. When you catch yourself with your foot look at the distance between your feet. This is your stride. If you heel strike you actually slow yourself down with every step (it acts as a break.)
- Find a mantra. Change it when you need to. Say it to yourself often while you run. Mine is currently “The truth is, I can always run faster, but sometimes the truth hurts.” Find something that gets you going. “It’s just like walking, only faster” is also another favorite of mine. Sometimes I use negative mantras and other times I use positive mantras. The key is to find something that keeps you going.
- Your mind will want to quit long before your body does. You’ll start bargaining with yourself. Don’t listen. That voice is loud and bitchy. Tell it to shut the fuck up. It’s going to try to make deals with you. It’s going to tell you “Just run to the post, then you can walk.” No. Tell it to bite your sweet, sexy ass. Your body can go much farther than that post, but your mind is weak. Don’t let it be. Let running strengthen your mind and your body. Take complete control.
- Find quotes and photos that motivate you. Make a folder full of them. Put them as your screen saver or wallpaper. Sometimes I need to look at a few to get me off my ass, but there is always at least one that does the trick. Find quotes and pictures that belong together and make it happen in MS Paint or on www.picnik.com
- “You rarely regret the run you do, you always regret the one you skip.” This is truth.
- You will have a million and 1 epiphanies while you’re out running by yourself. You will most likely forget all of them by the time you get home. Just revel in the knowledge that you had them. Don’t worry - you will have more.
Ask more questions that I may not have covered and I will find answers for you from as good a source as I can. Feel free to provide information you have discovered as well. Let this be a growing guide.