There is something about being outside on a run that I find beautiful and pure. It reconnects me to God, the simplicity of life, and there is just something about having the fresh air in your face that is so satisfying. I always loved to run and as a child I would spend time running up and down my parents’ driveway. It was long, about 100 yards. I was a hyperactive child so running was great to burn off some of that. Anyway, that driveway was great because it was a bit of a hill. Not a steep hill, but enough of one where the downhill run was effortless. Given this background you would think I would have been a track or cross country athlete as soon as I hit high school. Well, I tried. My freshman year I was eager to start and showed up for my first practice. I wish I could say it was a great experience. It was not. Our coach was having us run full out without any warm up and without conditioning us to run fast or far. He also yelled at us. I felt awful, my lungs hurt, my body hurt, and I felt defeated after each practice. I hated it. I lasted two weeks and quit. It was the only thing I have ever quit.
The formula for hating running was laid. Too much, too soon, too hard. My body could not handle it and I gave it up. Now fast forward some decades later, I had a dear friend that reintroduced me to running. She was patient and encouraged me to take breaks. She aimed me in the right direction with some good coaching and advise. I found some great beginner programs and did a lot of reading from Runner’s World.
Here are the highlights of what I learned over the years:
You will walk a lot in the beginning. Your lungs and joints will be happy you did this. It takes time for your lungs, joints and muscles to adapt to this new activity. It pains me (and those that do this) to hear people go to a 5k without any training and push themselves to injury or argue that it was the worst thing they ever did. A great program to avoid this is interval training. This is simply a run/walk program. In the beginning, you walk for 2 minutes, then run for 30 seconds. Or 1 minute off (walk), one minute on (run), etc. I used utility poles when I started. Run to one, then walk for two or three. Over time it becomes a longer stretch of running than walking and before you know it, you will be running without the walking. It generally takes around 9-11 weeks/3 days a week for a typical Couch to 5k program. This can take longer if you have any health issues or no fitness experience. Be patient and your hard work will pay off.
Invest in good running shoes. This is critical. If you wear the cheap off brands at Payless or Ross, your feet will hate you. Same goes for old or ill-fitting shoes. These shoes are not meant for long distance running (or any running for that matter) Go to your local running shoe store. The employees are knowledgeable and most of them offer free gait analysis so you get the right pair. Road Runner Sports, Foot Traffic, and Fleet Feet are awesome stores! Expect to pay $70-150 per pair.
Don’t forget socks. Non-cotton is the best. You want something that will fit your foot well and draw sweat away. Take into consideration of your ankle coverage too. I don’t like the no shows but other runners love them. Try different brands to see which you like best. My personal favorite are Thorlos.
Schedule your workouts. You will never find time for your runs unless you make some time for them in your schedule. Plug them into your calendar on your phone, computer, appointment planner, refrigerator, whatever it takes. Treat them as unbreakable appointments that you can’t miss. Tell your family and friends about them and your goals so you have accountability and a good cheering section.
Don’t cheat your running plan. Whether you are training for a 5k or a full marathon, the plan is in place to have you at your optimum condition and as free from injury as possible on race day. Of course, no plan is an injury-free guarantee, but sticking to the plan is the safest way to train. You need to be diligent about following it. Resist the urge to pile on miles to the plan, even if you’re feeling great. Doing too much before your body is ready puts you at risk for getting hurt, and often you won’t know that you’re overdoing it until it’s too late.
And the best part…
Find your running tribe. I found some of my favorite friendships and people though running. The company of others in a group run makes the run more fun and effortless. It’s still work but you have others to encourage you and help you through the tough stuff. Plus, racing together is so much fun! You will have shared experiences you can talk about for years. There are many local running clubs in Oregon that offer free group runs. I run with the Molalla Running Club. We meet every Saturday at 8am for our group run. To find a running club near you, go to http://www.runningintheusa.com/club/list/oror ask any of the running stores in your area.