I was thinking the other day while I was on a run how there are so many things that when you come into the sport of running that you might not know. I think that people think it's super simple and it is to an extent, but there are so many things that I wish I had known from the get go that would have made the process of "becoming a runner" much easier. I would say that when I was in college, I didn't research enough therefore I was just running miles and knew very little. There is science to just about everything in life, and there's a lot of things that you should be doing as a runner. So, let's get to that list.
1. Make sure that you buy the right shoes
The last thing that you want to do is buy neutral shoes that are for a pronating foot. You will end up getting yourself injured, so you want to make sure that whatever shoes that you chose are designed to fit the way that you run. You can go to any running store, and get assessed, but here is a blog that I wrote on that topic. The rule of thumb is 300-500 miles on each shoe, but I'm horrible and getting my shoes switched out is about how I am with my oil change. I always wait too long. Oops.
2. Educate yourself about the sport
What is a tempo run? Fartlek? Easy Run? What paces should you be going for all of those? See THIS link ! Buy books that educate you about the science behind it all and how you can be better. This might not be something that you like, but learn about pro runners within the sport. Follow their social medias because they will absolutely motivate you to want to be better. There are different methods to training, so you could go on amazon and search for books and read up on all of the different methods and why those coaches believe that to work best. There's the Daniel method, Hanson method, Galloway, or 80/20 by Matt Fitzgerald. There are MANY different viewpoints and finding what will work best for you with your scheduling, life circumstances, and everything in between is SO important.
This is the first training cycle where I think I'm finally coming into what works for me. I've tried many different methods, but it seems that my body is handling moderately high mileage but at slower paces without blasting speed work because speed work always ends up in some form of injury for me, but I had to test MANY routes over the past 2.5 years to figure that out. Of course, I'm not going to want to run this high of mileage all the time though so I'll have to figure out how I want to do training in the future!
3. Find friends that want to do it with you
There have been studies that prove that having a friend with you in any sort of journey is always going to make you more successful. As humans, we are made to be social beings, and even though I'm a very introverted runner, I feel really energized when I go on group runs and I feel like people understand me within my friends that are actually runners. You don't want to annoy your friends that don't enjoy running with talking about it, and you want someone who can share in that passion with you. That also does NOT mean that you need only running friends. Duh. Most of mine aren't actually, but I just think it's important to have a few! :)
4. Eat well
You want to eat enough but not too much. You really want to find that happy balance of what really fuels you but doesn't leave you feeling gross, gaining weight, and lethargic (unless of course you need to gain weight and then that's not who I'm talking about lol). You want to eat the majority of your foods as whole, plant based sources and I don't say that from the standpoint of my switch to plant based eating but rather, we all know that whole naturally based foods are going to make us feel better. The other basic rule is that you want to make sure that you have enough carbs to support what you are doing. You don't want to get out on your runs and to feel like your legs are lead because you didn't eat enough the night before the long run. You'll learn over time as you experience these things.
I personally believe that tracking your intake when you become a runner is SO SO valuable, and I know I've preached it into the ground, but it's not meant to be an obsessive thing but rather something that lets you know EXACTLY what you are doing and whether you need to make adjustments for your training. I feel like it's just another discipline just like stretching.
5. NOT EVERY RUN IS A GOOD RUN!!!
This is so so important. I've talked about my first 16 mile run a lot, but it was so awful. I don't think that I had eaten enough the night before or something, and I thought that's how runs had to be. I thought that's just what it felt like when you got that high in mileage and wondered how I would ever make it to a marathon. That's absolutely NOT what it should have felt like and I'm thankful I hung in there to figure that out. You need to know that there are going to be many bad days, and there will even be bad weeks. I've felt pretty awful this week even though last week was great. I also think I have a cold coming on, but I digress. The point is that you can't give running a solid chance if you don't do this.
Last, but not least...
6. Staying in the correct heart rate zone for your runs
This isn't technical like it sounds. I just simply mean that if you are going to be a runner, then you can't go out for a 10 mile run and do it in zone 4 heart rate (super fast for you). You will absolutely hate running and think how you don't understand why anyone would do it. You can't go sprint a 5K and wonder how anyone does a marathon. That's because you run those at ENTIRELY different speeds. You sprint a 5K. You settle into a marathon. If you are going outside of your zone 2 heart rate then you will never make it to the finish line, but if you do settle into an easy heart rate then you'll see what it's like to really fall in love with running. You'll understand how people are able to continue forward. This might be super slow at first, and you can improve that over time, so don't give up if you feel like you are just too slow. If you choose a friend to run with that's faster than you and you guys are running 9-10min/miles and you feel like you're dying and don't understand why your friend is not, that's because they have either the endurance or the natural speed and their heart rate is lower than yours currently was, and you just need to slow down.
I really just hope to spread awareness about how great of a sport that it can be!!! <3