And most of that is true – especially the part about a secret language. I’ve been a runner for 15 years and I’m still a little confused on what a tempo run is. And every time I hear the word Fartlek, I giggle.
But if you’re crazy enough to want to join the club, it’s really pretty easy. All you have to do is walk out the door and run. There’s no entry fee, no application essay, and definitely no size and shape requirements. Everyone – and I mean EVE-RY-ONE – is welcome!
Interested? Good. Here’s the least you need to know to get started:
Tip #1: Running is hard
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Expect it to be uncomfortable in the beginning, and don’t be surprised when your inner mean girl tells you to quit. You might feel sore, you might get blisters. This is all COMPLETELY NORMAL! If you stay consistent, you’ll get better, and it won’t feel so hard (and you’ll learn how to prevent those aches & pains). Trust me – it’s worth it to hang in there for a few weeks until your body adapts, because one day you’ll go out for a run and realize that you’re actually enjoying yourself. And that will be a great day.
Tip #2: Warm Up
Always, always, always warm up before your run. It doesn’t need to be a complicated routine – just five minutes of brisk walking. Why is this so important? Because your heart, lungs and muscles need time to get up to speed. When you start your car, you let it warm up for a bit before you start driving, right? Same thing goes for your body. Let it idle for a few minutes before you hit the gas.
If you don’t you might find yourself gasping for air, or cramping up, early on in your run. That’s no fun, and it will make you want to quit. Ease into it and you’ll have a much better experience.
Tip #3: Slow down
Another rookie mistake – running too fast in the beginning. When you’re just learning, keep the pace slow and easy. Allow your body to get used to jogging for a few months before you try to teach it how to sprint. As you get stronger, you’ll naturally start to run faster, I promise. But you’re more likely to get injured early on if you act like you’re training for the Olympics instead of your neighborhood 5K. Slow down your pace so that your breathing is relaxed and even, and you can carry on a brief conversation. Eventually your body will adapt and your speed will increase.
Tip #4: You don’t need to spend a lot of dough
Seriously. Shop the sales to score some inexpensive tights and a shirt from Target or Old Navy. Hit up RoadRunnerSports.com to find last year’s models of running shoes on sale. The only real investment you need to make is a good sports bra, and you can get one for under $70 (yes, I know that sounds like a lot of money, but if you buy a quality bra, it will last you for literally years).
All that other stuff – the GPS watches, the hydration packs, the $150 shoes? Fun, yes. But not necessary. You don’t even need a gym membership – because nature is FREE!
Tip #5: Alternate running with walking
Another secret that experienced runners know? Walk breaks are important. Especially in the beginning. Start out by running for a short period of time (less than 2 minutes) and follow that up with at least the same amount of recovery walking. Then repeat. You’ll be able to run faster on the running intervals, and your legs won’t feel like lead bricks when you’re done. As you get stronger, increase the length of running intervals and decrease the walking. Even marathon runners take walk breaks – it’s essential for injury prevention, especially in the beginning.
Tip #6: Manage Expectations
Set your sights high, but your expectations low. In other words, dream of all the amazing things you want to do with your running, but expect it to take time, effort, and many steps to arrive. I assure you there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you continue to put one foot in front of the other, but remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you want to run a marathon, start by getting comfortable with a 5K, then a 10K, and so on. There’s no rush, and the reward will be all the sweeter if you enjoy the journey.