I am an off and on runner depending on how hurt I am at the time. When I am on, I will run every morning and probably push myself too hard. When I am not, it’s usually due to an injury and I’m stepping back to make sure everything has healed.
I’ve learned a lot along the path. There were some changes that I wish I knew from the start. I created this list in the hope that others can learn from my mistakes. Wherever you are in your running journey, if you aren’t doing the following, you should!
Invest in the Right Gear
- Buy Running Shorts – There was a time when I would run in basketball shorts or whatever athletic shorts I grabbed. I didn’t want to wear those short shorts while I ran, I’d look to much….like a runner. But the problem is that basketball shorts aren’t designed for running. They are so loose, causing them will bunch up while simultaneously rubbing in not-so-great places. Running shorts have a tighter fit and prevent those problems. I haven’t tried many brands, but I have been pleased with Skora running shorts and shirts. My running shorts have built in boxers, solving many of the problems experienced when running in other type of shorts. Shop around and you can find running clothes for a great price.
- Dedicated Running Shoes – Kind of like my running clothes, when I switched to have a dedicated pair of running shoes, my feet have no longer had any problems. Unlike tennis or other athletic shoes, running shoes are designed to cushion the impact. Failure to equip the proper shoes will cause the pounding to negatively affect your body. I recommend going to a store that specializes in running shoes. Let the professionals assess your gait to know what type of shoe is best for you. After you know that, you will be better informed and can seek out deals on similar pairs of shoes. Since I know Saucony’s Triumph series work well for me, I have the option of purchasing new models or snagging a deal on an outdated model in the same series.
- Use a Running App – There are a variety of running apps such as RunKeeper, Runtastik or even Apple’s Fitness app. They record and store data for each running session including maps, splits, elevation and more. I use Strava, which is like social media for runners. I follow friends and sometimes even random local people. Then you can give others thumbs up for their runs. I form route segments, and it will record and keep track of everyone with the app who runs that segment. This is a good way to get ot know other runners in your area. You can become local legend when you run that segment more than others, but it also keeps track of the top 10 fastest times in that segment. Making segments in the middle of my routes then working to secure those titles gives me goals to focus on. Strava also lets you record your shoes then tracks how many miles you put on that pair. Like tires for your vehicle, running shoes are only designed to handle a specified number of miles. Tracking usage helps you know when you should look at replacing them. If you run with a Garmin, Apple Watch or other type of tracker, you can link them to the various apps for automated updates of your session data. Of course, using a running app can also help to become more accountable, if that is what you might need. I’m a huge fan of Strava because it motivates me.
Make a Plan
- Be consistent – Running is an example of something that gets easier when you are consistent with it. There was a time where I could run 7 miles every morning, do 13 on Saturday then take Sunday off for recovery before easily repeating the cycle the next week. But when you get out of practice, it’s hard to get back to where you were once at. It takes time to dial things back down, and start over again. This isn’t a bad thing. The fact that you might not be as fast or you can’t run as far is just how it works. But it’s ok with just doing it, and doing it consistently. You will find yourself running further, faster, and not feeling like you have ran a marathon each time.
- Multitask – Distraction for some like myself really helps the run go by quicker. Sometimes I opt for music that is upbeat to help establish a faster pace. Other times I’ll queue some 90s music to remind me of good times in the past. I found for myself that the Apple AirPods work the best for me, but anything comfortable would work as well. Spotify is where I find types of music that satisfy my music needs. Yes, it has commercials, but it does the job well for me. Other apps like Apple Music or Pandora or even music saved on your phone are options. Other times I find myself thinking about the day ahead of me and the tasks I need to get done. When focusing on these things, miles go by without notice and I end the run feeling like it wasn’t that bad. Listening to podcasts or running with other people are additional options to consider. On the weekends when I do my long runs, my kids hop on their bicycles and ride alongside me. It usually works out, but sometimes they have given up and I’ve needed to cut my run short. But for me doing something else while running usually helps my mental game.
- Pace Yourself – Don’t always run the fastest you can. When I first started running, I would go as fast as I could until I had to stop. This is not the way. In fact, even the best runners out there will purposely run slower at times. It’s not the time that really matters, but its more the miles you get in. Wherever you are, you can slowly increase how far you run. Again, if you have the time to get those miles in, then who cares how fast you run.
- Diversify Your Workout – Run outside instead of a treadmill when you can. Running actually can be easier when running outside. There are times when a treadmill is needed either due to weather or for cross training. But when its nice outside, take advantage of that and get the bonus Vitamin D benefit. I live in Nebraska, so everywhere is flat and the treadmill works great for incline workouts. But being outside just makes running easier. You can adjust your speed on the fly, instead of being stuck at a constant speed the entire time.
- Have a water plan – Hydration is important and can help you recover after runs. This can mean that you have a dedicated water bottle that you use so you can make sure you get the water you need. There are many different types of water bottles. They vary in weight and style; some utilize a straw while others are designed to keep your water cold longer. I currently use an aluminum type Colorado style water bottle that I use throughout the day. Whether you are a fan of the viral Stanley tumblers, prefer a Bindle Bottle to stash things, or simply want something basic, the options are endless. Get something you like, something that looks cool, or something that is functional.
Every runner is different so some of these tips might help, while others might not. It you’re able to glean even one piece of advice from what took me years to figure out, then I’ll consider this article a success. So take what you think might help, and leave what you think won’t. I hope you can continue to run, be active, hit personal records, and become local legends in your communities. Happy Running!
What piece of advice would you offer to new runners?