I have taken up running at least 10 times in the last 12 years, but it never lasted long – until one time it did. There is no great inspirational story here- I was revising for exams at vet school and running was a welcome procrastination from the textbooks! Somehow here I am three years later training for my first marathon, and I’ve been reflecting on what was different about this time. There are lots of great articles with tips for getting going: warm up, take it easy, get the right shoes, stretch, have rest days etc. But this list is a bit different- these are the top ten things that I think made the difference for me between another short-lived resolution and a new obsession! So watch out beginner runner..
1. Walk Everywhere!
One of the biggest differences for me this time round was that I had a dog. Stay with me. This meant I was regularly walking briskly for at least an hour a day, so unlike last time, running wasn’t a colossal shock to the system. Now this doesn’t mean you have to rush out to your local dog shelter (although I’m a huge advocate of the health benefits of owning a dog), but it is worth trying to increase your general fitness with brisk walking first, and then building up to running. There’s no point going for your first run, hating it, and declaring running as a form of self-torture never to be revisited! So get out walking: walk with friends, walk to work, walk to the shops. But walk with purpose, no ambling allowed!
2. Get Yourself a Running Journal – straight away
I bought myself a notebook really early on, and I wrote down every run and a little description of how it had gone. There is no greater period of excitement in your running career than the beginning- every single run you will have a new achievement: longest time running without walking, furthest distance, speediest interval, new 1 mile PB..the list goes on! Initially I used my journal as a tool to motivate myself, but as time went on it became something I really treasured. Later on you don’t have an achievement every time you go out, but looking back at how excited you were the first time you ran continuously for ten minutes shows how far you’ve come, and reminds you to be proud of yourself.
3. Proper Trainers
So I know I said this list would be a bit different, but this is so important. I started running in a cheap pair of trainers, enthusiastically. And within 4 weeks I had an ankle injury. Lucky for me a close friend took me to the running shop for my birthday and bought me properly fitted shoes, my beloved Brooks. I’ve never had ankle issues since (in fact my ankles probably the only part of my lower body that I haven’t injured!). Running is great because it’s easy and it’s cheap, but this is one area you really don’t want to skimp on. So get yourself to a running shop (I love Up&Running with a treadmill for a fitting and don’t risk injuring yourself before you’ve even got going.
4. Take the Pressure off with Intervals
To stick with it, you need to enjoy it. The standard advice of taking it slow is super important – you definitely do not want to start off thinking you’re Ussain Bolt – but slow running is hard too! I found it really demotivating that I was still knackered even when I ran like a snail. What really helped me was intervals. With walk/run intervals you can enjoy running at a reasonable pace, but not feel exhausted. Start out with whatever you can do, whether it’s 30 seconds run with 2 minutes walk, or a little more running. It’s exciting to see the running increasing and the walking decreasing. Or you can stay with run/walk – there’s a famous marathon plan using walk intervals that’s used by athletes all over the world (check out Jeff Galloway to read about that). Do be careful- you don’t need to sprint in the run intervals, but I did enjoy feeling like I was doing ‘proper running’, whatever that is
So this was a biggie for me: The Stats! Nowadays there are so many free ways to track your runs and get loads of delicious data to pour over afterwards. You don’t need to run out and buy a fancy sports watch (although if you do you’ll love it!). I started off with Runkeeper and then progressed to Strava– both free apps on your phone. Without the stats I definitely wouldn’t have carried on, it’s addictive and they help you to recognise the achievements as they happen.
6. Go to your first Parkrun ASAP
This is one of my biggest regrets as a beginner runner. I waited so long before I was brave enough to enter a race or go to a parkrun. If you can walk 5km, you can do a parkrun. That’s it. Get out there, soak up the love and support of your fellow runners, and set yourself a base line. You’ll get a guaranteed PB, and you’re only going to get quicker. Parkrun gives me the most amazing feeling- you’re standing there at 9am, surrounded by hundreds of other people (and thousands across the world) who have all decided to get off their asses and start their weekend with something positive. It can’t fail to make you feel happy, I promise. And consider volunteering, this gives you as much of a buzz as running it.
Find your nearest Parkrun here
7. Get Yourself Some Really Jazzy Clothes
This is an optional one, because running doesn’t have to cost you money. But I love jazzy running gear. I’m not brave enough to wear crazy clothes in the rest of my life so I embrace it in my running. When I don’t feel like going out I put on my favourite outfit and it makes me want to get out and do it. Make sure you get comfortable, sweat wicking material that fits you well, but choose yourself some bright prints. I love Sweaty Betty but I tend to get it from eBay because it can be pretty pricey.
8. Shout About It!
Don’t keep quiet about your amazing new venture- you’re a runner now, shout about it! Get others involved: drag your friends and family out running with you, or at least supporting at your first parkrun or event. Telling the world makes you accountable, and you’re less likely to give up after a fortnight because you’ve told everyone. Yes, peer pressure can be a positive tool!
9. Get Involved
There’s loads of ways to connect with the running community, and we’re a lovely bunch. You can do it from the sofa on social media- ThisGirlCan and UKRunChat are all great places for online motivation (you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at thisvetruns). If you’re a bit braver there are some amazing running clubs that cater for absolutely all abilities. Don’t feel you have to reach a certain level before joining, there’s loads of great beginner groups and its much more fun with other people.
10. Be Proud!!
Never, ever feel like you are not a real runner. There is nothing you need to achieve before you can call yourself a runner so don’t accept any negativity- from yourself or anyone else. Whatever your distance or your pace, you are getting out there doing something amazing for you. So be proud, new runner!
I am so excited that you’re starting on this new adventure. So good luck, and be prepared to get addicted!
Love ThisVetRuns xxx
PS If you want to hear more tips and motivation for starting running, and sticking with it, follow my Facebook page here 🙂