I started running at the ripe old age of 30. Trying a new sport as a full-grown adult is definitely not an easy feat. For example, I learned to ski at the age of 4, and the muscle memory is so ingrained in me that my legs effortlessly glide down a mountain without much thought. On the contrary, running wasn’t and still isn’t like that for me. Every training step takes thought, energy and effort, and I still struggle to find my groove some days. But I can honestly say that picking up running was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I truly believe that every person can become a runner if they so desire. For anyone who is thinking of picking up the sport, I’m sharing 6 steps to make the transition a little easier.
1. Just start. You’re probably expecting a better tip than “just do it”, but, seriously, the first step is lacing up your sneakers and getting out the door. Almost anyone can run a few steps, and that’s exactly where you should start. Keep this in mind–no matter how much you do on your first day, it’s still more than you did the day before.
2. Start slowly and steadily. When I was in grammar school, I had to run a mile as part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. All of my classmates would line up at the start and take off in an all-out sprint. Needless to say, I ended up exhausted within the first few minutes, and I decided then and there that I HATED.
Now, I’ve realized that my conclusion about running was wrong because I was doing it wrong. Of course I ended up gassed out after taking off at top speed—and that would surely happen to me today if I did the same thing. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from long distance running, it’s to start slow. And I mean REALLY slow. When you’re first starting out, run at a pace that feels almost too slow and continue to do so for as long as you can. You may be surprised that you can run for longer than you thought.
3. Don’t be afraid to walk. ‘Walk’ is definitely a dirty little four-letter word among runners, but it shouldn’t be! I love to take walk breaks, especially during a long run. Taking some time to walk helps your legs recover, which allows you to run longer and eventually increases your endurance. If you set out to run 2 miles and you need to walk ½ mile to achieve that goal, do it. No one has to know.
4. Seek out support. During my marathon training, my boyfriend Bill encouraged me to run almost daily. He would ask, “How many miles today?” After a while, I nicknamed him “coach”. Now, after the marathon, he still takes a look at the weather and tells me whether or not it’s a good day for me to run. I must admit that some days I wanted to ignore him and blow off my run, but I rarely did and I always felt great afterwards. Maybe you don’t have a “coach” at home, but you can easily find a support system from a local runner’s group or a friend in your area who also wants to try running.
5. Know your nutrition. Figuring out what my stomach can tolerate has been one of the most challenge aspects of my running routine. I’m a big eater of fiber-filled veggies and beans and lots of spices, but I will end up with terrible stomach issues if I eat that stuff before a long run. There are so many nuances of what to eat when, and it’s definitely an important thing to figure out. For some tips, read “What To Eat Before A Gym Session”.
6. Get the right running shoes. You know those cute lightweight sneakers that everyone wears at the gym? Those are TERRIBLE for running. I started running in those, and thank goodness I switched to running shoes. If you are serious about becoming a runner, I would suggest going to a sports store and talking to a knowledgeable sales rep about shoes. Some stores even put you on a treadmill to determine the right shoe for you. Trust me, it’s worth it. The first time I found the right shoes, I felt like I was running on pillows.
Lastly, my friend Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN wrote this awesome post about things she wish she knew before becoming a runner. Check it out!