My Running Advice
To anyone considering taking up running, or racing in their first 5K, I want to offer some advice from my own experience. Since I have only been running for about 6 months now, I am certainly not an expert, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but writing this list helped me to reflect and think about the things I've learned these last 6 months. This is also part of my submission to the Runner's Lounge book project.
Don’t worry about your pace. In the beginning you will be slow. Everyone is. Heck, I still am. You will see others running faster and be tempted to become frustrated. Don’t. Just take it easy and run at your own pace. Over time speed will come and you will become faster, but don’t make that your primary goal.
Run where you are. By that I mean, make running convenient for you. Don’t make it such a chore that you have to drive somewhere to do it, or have to have someone with you. Just open your front door and start running. Put one foot in front of the other. Run around your neighborhood. You’ll be surprised at the things you’ll learn about your neighbors by just running around. And, you will eliminate some of the excuses for not running if all you have to do is open the door and put one foot in front of the other.
Be flexible. If the run you had planned doesn’t work out due to scheduling or weather, don’t worry about it. Do it another day, or at another time. It’s good to try to pre-plan runs, but if they don’t work out exactly as you had anticipated, don’t sweat it. Life happens and things get busy. Just work in your runs as you are able.
Listen to yourself. That means listen to what your body and mind are telling you, before during, and after your runs. The three things that I really try to pay attention to when running are my body, my breathing, and my mental state. Honestly, I think mental state is probably most important. When my mental state is right, it usually doesn’t matter how my body feels. And when all three things, body, breathing, and mental state, are clicking, then it makes for a great run.
Get the right tools. For me, this meant investing in some high quality shoes, buying some clothing that “wicks” (yes, I had to learn what that term meant), and getting some shiny things to wear when I run in the dark. In the winter here, it is dark pretty much all the time before and after work, so I needed to find a way to run safely on the streets in my neighborhood.
Track your runs. I have two ways that I track my runs. I know, it's probably overkill. I have a paper journal that I write in after my runs. I put down how far I went, how I felt, what the weather was like, and anything else I want to put down. It’s an old fashioned paper and pen journal, and it is fun to look back and read my thoughts about previous runs. I also track my running with my Nike+ sensor through the Nike+ web site, and that has proven to be a great way to electronically track and record my runs. There are also many other websites and tracking tools out there.
Get connected to the running community. Don’t be a lone ranger. Find a podcast, a blog, a website, a friend, or a running group, that you can get connected to. Support and encouragement is very important and getting connected helps with your motivation and continued success with your running. Getting to know others that love running gives you a place to share your experiences, both good and bad, with running. Runners are great people, and very welcoming to talk about running with others. I have learned a lot about running by just asking questions to others.
Get the right fuel. Think about what you are putting into your body. Running and exercise is just half of the equation. Eating right is the other half. If you eat right, you will be well fueled for a good run. And conversely, if you eat wrong, you will pay for it on that long run.
Stretch. This is something that I learned I was not very good at, and took me getting injured to realize it. I got plantar faciitis in my left foot. Every time I got out of bed in the morning, I could hardly put my heel on the floor because of the pain. As I walked around, the foot loosened up and it was fine. But I learned that this was likely due to me not stretching. Your feet and legs take quite a pounding on the pavement, so treat them well and stretch them out. Stretch more after your runs. Do just a light stretch before your run just to loosen up, and then stretch more after your muscles are warmed up, either mid run or afterwards.