Fitness

3 Tips for Beginning Runners From a Beginning Runner

I finally got around to writing about my half marathon experience — Better late than never, right?

While completing a half marathon is an athletic accomplishment, I don’t consider myself an athlete. That’s probably because sports and I have a complicated, some might say negative relationship.

I did my time in tee ball and gymnastics as a kid — I hated them both. I was on a swim team … and not half bad … for a couple of years. But when the coaches started to demand more from us, I was out. I tried basketball and volleyball — I wasn’t very good, to put it nicely. And when it came to those stupid physical fitness tests in elementary school, I cheated my way through every single challenge. Take running the mile for example — I’d kind of run the first lap, walk the second and third laps, and finish with some running. Minimal effort was the key (might explain why gym was the one class I could never get an A in).

So no one was as surprised as I was when I decided to try running for fitness in college.

Since I know what it’s like to be unathletic, completely new to running, to try my hand (or legs) at something I didn’t think I’d be any good at let alone enjoy … let alone do for 2 1/2 hours straight … I’m sharing my key pieces of advice for anyone who wants to start running.

Find a Good Beginner Running Program

Running isn’t a complicated activity on the surface, but there are lots of easy mistakes that can be made, mistakes that can cause injury. If you’ve never been into running before, you could risk trying to do too much too soon. Following a beginner running plan is smart.

When I decided to try running for fitness in college, I found the Couch to 5K program. And I returned to it in recent years when I wanted to get back into running after a hiatus, graduating from a print-out in college to an app on my iPhone. Most recently, I got back to running using the Pooch to 5K program with Bailey as my running partner.

After finishing the 5K at the 2010 The North Face Endurance Challenge

Sweaty after finishing my first 5K in over a decade at Wisconsin’s 2010 The North Face Endurance Challenge.

I have absolutely loved these beginner programs! They build running time and mileage gradually. I like that they’re both time-based — It’s much easier running around my neighborhood following time intervals instead of distance intervals. And in both cases, I could take the program at my own pace. Feel like repeating a week? Feel like repeating EVERY week and doubling the program time? Go for it! It’s actually encouraged.

Go at Your Own Pace

On that same note, don’t feel the need, the need for speed. Run at a pace that works for you and your level of fitness.

Some folks get overly obsessed with pace. But if you’re just beginning and you’re just running for fitness, why worry about it? Even the slowest runner is lapping the people sitting on the couch, or so they say.

About to run another Nicolet Bay 5K in Door County

Before picture at the 2012 Nicolet Bay 5K in Door County, part of the Door County Half Marathon event. I PR’d that day!

Obviously, over time as your fitness level increases and as you participate in races, you might want to work on running faster. I did. When I started running again a few years back, it was pretty cool to see my time improve from my first 5K in a decade to subsequent races. But when it came to my half marathon, I didn’t care if I was the slowest person out there.

Trust me, anyone who questions your pace is someone you probably shouldn’t be listening to.

Listen to the “Right” People

Which brings me to my final point — Know whose advice to take and whose advice to leave.

As you share with people that you’re beginning a running program, you’ll start to receive what I’m going to assume is well-meaning advice from people who are seasoned runners. However, sometimes the advice you get isn’t the best for someone just starting out. When the advice starts coming your way, weigh it against trusted sources like Runner’s World, your doctor, etc.

Honestly, the best friends won’t force advice on you. They’ll wait until you ask the questions. And when you do, they’ll temper the advice for where you’re at in your running journey.

Before running the 5K at the 2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge

Ready to run another The North Face Endurance Challenge 5K, this one in 2012. I love this event!

What do you think?

If you’re like me and started running from scratch, what tips would you give people in our shoes?

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