As far as sports go, running isn’t too difficult to figure out. Maybe that new ‘space-out’ thing they’re doing in South Korea is easier, but that’s about it. You put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can for as long as it takes to reach the finish line. It’s not rocket science.
However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the noise that surrounds our simple sport. I laughed when I saw a recent headline published by one of the leading running magazines: “How to Run Nonstop for 30 Minutes.” I mean, c’mon people… you’ll just have to figure out some of life’s little mysteries all by yourselves.
Given the deluge of profit-driven and infotainment content, it’s hard for many beginners to find sound and practical advice. Well, you’ve come to the right place. No fluff, no sponsored drivel, just some practical tips to help you become a runner.
Buy Good Shoes
You don’t have to break the bank to start running. But, you do need good running shoes. Visit a reliable running specialty store and get fitted. Forget minimalist, maximalist, spring-loaded, running shoe fads. Find a running shoe that compliments your biomechanics.
Next, you’ll need a pair of shorts, a tech tee, and some decent socks. That will eventually lead to seasonal gear as the weather changes. But, start small. Buying gear is the easy part. Start running and see if you like it before spending a lot of hard-earned money. If all goes well, a GPS watch should be on your wish list.
Eat Real Food
Eat healthy foods that once had a life of their own, not factory-made snacks and meals. Include a rainbow of colors and eat mostly plants. Reduce the amount of sugar you eat and drink mostly water.
Sports gels, sports drinks and specialty items sold to runners to help them stay energized on the run are mostly unnecessary. Your body has sufficient reserves to run for an hour without any extra fuel. If you are serious enough to run for longer than that, do your research and choose wisely. Most sports drinks are full of sugar and sodium which can help you through the second half of a marathon as your glycogen stores and electrolytes disappear. But, if you drink them under normal circumstances, they’ll make you fat, not fit.
Rest When You’re Tired
Learn to listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. Most injuries that occur during the first few months of training are overuse injuries. Your cardiovascular health will probably improve faster than your connective tissues. So, when you feel pain, treat it with respect. Small things can quickly turn into big things. Many runners have had their training plans derailed by stubborn persistence in the face of injury.
The number one recovery method for runners is sleep. Make sure you have a dark, cool, comfortable place to sleep and stay there for 7-8 hours each night. If you cut your sleep short, you will impair muscle growth and negate the benefits of your workouts.
Train with Purpose
The best way to become a better runner is to run. If you want to run farther, increase your weekly mileage. If you want to run faster, increase the pace of your training runs. Alternate hard runs with easy days and rest days to stay healthy and avoid overtraining.
If you decide you want to compete in races, develop a training plan that is specific to your running goals. Know the purpose of every run and understand why it’s important and how it fits into your larger training plan. Find a training group, a coach, or buy a good book to help you set realistic goals and design an effective training regimen.
Enjoy Every Run
I love the feeling of moving through space on my own two feet with the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin. Running allows me to let go and tune in. It’s my chance to play.
The secret to becoming a runner is finding joy in running. You may not feel it at first, but give yourself a chance. Your patience and resolve will be rewarded. Running starts as a chore and transforms over time until your daily run becomes an extraordinary privilege.