While I’m running around DC doing fabulous–or not so fabulous–things, I’ve got another guest post for you today! It comes from Emily of Journey to the Center of Manhattan, and it’s all about how to start running. Emily ran with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, so if you’re thinking of trying it out, this is definitely a post for you! Plus, she’s got great advice for you newbies; but even for the seasoned folks among us, these are great ideas and reminders. Take it away, Emily!
I’ve always wanted to be able to run. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to start running, whether it was to get in shape, lose weight, or justify buying cute workout clothes.
Finally, last spring, I realized how sedentary and out of shape I had gotten, and knew I had to do something about it. I just didn’t know how to make it stick!
I always thought that, to be able to run, you just had to go out and run every day or as long and as hard as you could. While this works for some people, it didn’t work for me, and might not work for you either. Every previous attempt at developing some sort of running fitness base started out with me doing something like this:
1. Go out and run as long as I could until I was red in the face and people were asking me if I needed a doctor (no joke – this happened. A lot!)
2. Become too sore to move for the next five days.
3. Try to run again and feel miserable.
4. Develop shin splints.
5. Eat lots of ice cream.
6. Accept that I wasn’t cut out for running.
I don’t know what combination of things came together last spring to make this time different, but there are a few things that stand out in my mind that helped me through the inevitable hurdles I encountered on my journey to fitness.
I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training to run the NYC Marathon. Yeah, signing up for a marathon my first time out of the gate was a little extreme. But I figured if I could stick with the training long enough to do the marathon, I could get myself in reasonably good shape. Having a team made the greatest difference between this attempt and any/all of my previous, short-lived attempts.
Joining a team was probably the single biggest factor that contributed to my ability to keep running almost a year later. I can’t stress this one enough and cannot say enough great things about my experience. Having a coached team gives you all sorts of resources, a training program, and teammates that will help you get through rough patches in your training. Having experienced coaches was also a huge factor in my successful running development. If something hurt, or I was nervous or intimidated, the coaches were there and were able to give me knowledgeable information and assurances that what I was experiencing was normal. Additionally, they gave me all sorts of tips and corrections on my form which made my workouts significantly more comfortable.
Secondly, find an attainable goal for yourself and commit to your training. People will tell you that if you want something badly enough, you will go after it regardless of the cost or obstacles. This is the key with developing a fitness base. You cannot cut corners and expect positive results. Additionally, when you know you have given 100% to something, you will feel proud and successful no matter what the ultimate outcome. I may have been the slowest person out there – and may days I was (there’s a reason I’m not writing about running FAST) – but I committed to every practice and worked my tail off to increase my fitness and make my training a permanent part of my life. Consistency is the key to developing any sort of habit, and running is no exception.
On the other hand, pushing every single workout to the point where you feel like you’re going to die is not productive. This is another area where having coaches really helped me. I enjoy pushing and challenging myself, but I had no idea how to train smartly to build a fitness base. I would have a tendency to skip rest days and push each workout until I hated it and felt too fatigued to move the next day. Looking back on it, it’s a wonder my coaches put up with me as much as they did. But I digress. If the day calls for 2-3 miles at a slow, comfortable pace, make that pace comfortable, even if it means staying at the back of the pack. (I’ll join you back there).
Which brings me to my next suggestion: start off with walk breaks. I trained for the marathon using a set of run/walk intervals. I would run for 3-4 minutes, then take a minute walk break. This was crucial to getting in mileage when I was not physically ready to run continuously. In addition, the walk breaks help prevent injuries. A common misconception with walk breaks is that they are easy and for recovery. While they do let your running muscles recover a little bit, in order to be productive, the walking has to be done at a fairly hard effort level. On the plus side, evidence is emerging that when done effectively, run/walk intervals can be effective in fat burning.
And finally, find something you enjoy about the workout. I can’t stress this enough, because there will be days when your workout sucks, or you just want to stay in bed an extra hour. Find friends to support you, fund a cause to believe in, get a chance to listen to music, write down how great you feel after a good workout, or find a small reward that motivates you. No matter how hard you work, it’s not going to stick if you can’t identify a reason to do it regularly. I kept a notebook where I wrote down every health benefit I was getting from regular exercise and every time I worked out, I would re-read all of the great things I was doing for myself, and reminded myself that I was worth it. Cheesy? Maybe (okay, extremely cheesy) but it really helps me remember why I am waking up in the morning to go for a run.
I hope these tips work for you as well as they have for me. Good luck, and if things get tough, remember the words of Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
Have you ever trained with a team?
Seasoned runners, what’s your best advice for newbies?