7 things I wish I knew when I started running

Halis Akyildiz/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesThese tips can make your runs easier. (not me pictured)
  • Following some running tips that can save you time and from pain.
  • Using ice and stretching is very important.
  • Making sure your shoes are good for your feet can change your running experience.

In the grand scheme of things, I’d still consider myself somewhat of a beginner at running. While I’d love to run a marathon or even a half-marathon one day, I’m not quite there yet. That being said, I have been running for a while now – long enough to learn these lessons which would have saved me a lot of time, effort, and pain if only I’d known them when I started.

Below I’ve shared my tips for running that just might help you if you’re beginning your running journey.

Start slower than you think you need to

If you’re relatively in shape, it may be tempting to get out there and truly give it your all when you begin running. Please don’t do this. This may be OK the first time or two, but chances are, you’ll end up with an unanticipated injury that will derail your running career before you really get started. Running is a beast in its own right and you need to ease yourself into it.

“It can be easy to do too much before you’re ready for it,” Art Liberman, coauthor of “The Everything Running Book” and founder of marathontraining.com, told Runner’s World. “You don’t realise it because initially, you might feel great.”

Ice is your new best friend

If you do overdo it and end up with any lingering soreness (or outright serious muscle pain), it helps to have some ice packs handy. Icing any sore spots for no more than 20 minutes at a time, two or three times a day will help bring down inflammation and reduce pain. It’s probably helpful to invest in some gel packs to keep in the freezer in moments of need – I have three and I use them several times a week.

Ditto for stretching, foam rolling, and strength training

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was not stretching after a run. Doing so increases flexibility and reduces the tightness that can build up in your muscles, and it only takes a few minutes to feel the benefits. Foam rolling provides similar benefits, reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and helping to prevent injury. Spending a good 15-20 minutes after a run doing one or both of these things will make a noticeable difference – at least it has for me.

In addition, on days that you’re not running, strength training should definitely be an addition to your fitness routine. After all, strong legs will not only improve your running pace and cadence, it can also reduce your chances of injuring yourself when doing so. Make sure you’re adding in moderate training for quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors. I recommend the Myrtl routine in particular.

Running on a treadmill won’t prepare you for running on a track or outside

When I started the Couch to 5K program, I did so on a treadmill since it was the middle of winter and the weather outside wasn’t all that hospitable. About halfway through the program, I decided to use my gym’s indoor track to see if there was a difference in my speed and stamina. There was a big difference.

Turns out, since the treadmill’s belt is rotating, it provides runners with easier leg turnover, meaning you have to put less effort in to go faster. There’s also the fact that the treadmill absorbs shock, which is easier on joints but doesn’t do much in the way of helping to condition your soft tissue the way running on a track or outdoors does.

Once I made the switch, I felt like I was starting over in many ways and had to re-build the stamina I thought I had. If you want to build up to doing longer distances or running outdoors, you should find a way to add in those types of runs as early as possible.

Good shoes are paramount

Running marathoniStockYou can consult with a professional about which shoes are best.

Seriously, I can’t say this enough. When I first started running, I was doing so in shoes that looked great but landed me with an MCL injury within the first week. It’s probably a good idea to have your gait analysed by a professional – you can usually get this done at any major running store, and it will entail you running on a treadmill or even outdoors for a few minutes so the person doing the assessment can determine your footfall.

The answer to this will determine what type of shoes you need. I’m an overpronator so I need stability running shoes. Now that I have them, my MCL issues are gone and they haven’t cropped up again since.

It’s not just your fitness-your nutrition is important too

You can be as fit as a fiddle and still struggle with running if you’re not fuelling your body properly. It probably goes without saying, but runners need a healthy diet full of good protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, and for most people, some quality carbohydrates. I personally follow the keto diet and since my body is adapted to burning fat as fuel, I haven’t experienced any negative side effects thus far with not using carbs to fuel my runs.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone, so it’s important do what works best for you and it may be worth talking to a nutritionist if you have any concerns.

Nothing feels better than finishing a run you struggled to start

It can be hard to get motivated some days. If the weather is bad or you didn’t sleep well the night before, it’s sometimes easier to just turn off your alarm and stay in bed in the morning. But I speak from personal experience when I say that some of the best runs I’ve ever had have been the ones I nearly skipped out on.

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