For many people, running is held up on a pedestal. It’s either completely unattainable or the hardest workout they could choose for the day. There is no middle ground. For a long time, I fell in this camp. I thought running was absolutely impossible. Every run left me feeling miserable, tired, and unable to walk the next day.
Then, I started to learn more about running. I learned that it doesn’t have to be that way. I learned that I could run “easy” and still make progress. It truly was mind-opening to me. I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy running – until I started running correctly.
Today, we’re doing just that. I’m sharing my top five tips to start running (or start running further distances and/or faster times). Let’s dive in.
Find your gear.
You don’t need a host of gear to run. That’s really the beauty of it. But, that being said, there is some gear that I can’t live without. My three non-negotiables are: running shoes that fit your feet, shorts or leggings that don’t fall down, and a supportive and comfortable sports bra.
Running shoes are plentiful. There are a host of brands, styles, and components that all can contribute to a successful run or a future injury. Take time with a running shoe professional to get your gait analyzed and choose a shoe that’s best for you. This might take trial and error. If you don’t have access to this, be sure to order some shoes online where they allow you to run in them and then return them, if they don’t work for you.
Second, shorts and leggings. As a female, and just someone who loves matching, I love a good outfit…especially athletic clothes. But there are only a handful of brands that I will run in. The LAST thing you want to worry about is pulling up your shorts or leggings every few steps. Or worse, wearing clothes that cause chaffing and discomfort while you’re running. Again, this is a personal choice. Take time to think about it and try a few things out before committing.
Finally, this one’s for the women listening. A quality sports bra is essential. Both for health, but also comfort. This is not the time for one that’s “just okay”. This is time to splurge. Good news, as you’ll learn later, you really only need one to start. Then, you can add to your collection as you start running more and more. Make sure the size and fit are comfortable in everyday life first. Then, test on short runs before taking it out for a longer adventure.
Once we have clothes that will work, we dive into the actual physical act of running.
RAMP stands for range of motion work, activation, and movement preparation. Think of this like a warm-up, but more specific to your goals of the running session, as well as the movement ability of your body.
While this is typically very specialized to you, there are a handful of general movements that are helpful when heading out for a run (or even a walk)!
Foam Rolling/Lacrosse Ball Soft Tissue: hips, upper back, calves, feet
Hip Flexor Mobilization
Glute and Hip Activation: Bridge, Clam Shell, Reverse Clam Shell
T-Spine (Upper Back) Extension and Rotation
World’s Greatest Stretch
Marching and Skipping Drills
Instead of just throwing on your shoes and heading out the door, take 10-15 minutes to RAMP. This both sets you up for a more successful run, as well as decreasing risk of injury in the future.
It’s time to throw out the pace that you should be running at and start SLOW. When you start, it’s not the time for pace calculators, race paces, and personal records. This is typically the most challenging part of running for most people – especially if you’re trying to run faster.
In order to run faster, it’s actually beneficial to run slower.
Yes, you heard that correctly. Run slower in order to run faster. One of the adaptations that occurs when we run slower, is that the body produces more mitochondria. If you remember from biology, mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It’s what produces energy. When we have greater mitochondrial density in the muscles, we can produce more energy. More energy equals both faster and/or further distances.
We run slower in order to run faster in the long-term.
If you’re just starting to run for the first time, walking might be the best first step. There is an aspect of training that includes “time spent on feet” and in this phase, walking can help just as much as running. Of course, this doesn’t last forever. If you want to run, you’ll have to actually run and get used to the impact of that movement. But, as we’re starting to spend more time on our feet, it can come in the form of either running or walking – typically a combination of both.
While it can be tough to start with a run/walk hybrid, starting slow builds the base of our pyramid. Like we talked about in a previous episode, the pyramid can only be as tall as the base is wide. Spending the time up front to build the base prevents us from having to backtrack and add to that base later.
The “right” pace for you is the one that you can maintain for the amount of time you want to run, that allows you to feel GOOD running, and not be so sore you can’t walk the next day. At least for now, when we’re just starting out. If you are trying to run faster or further, you’ll want to focus on finding your pace zones. This brings us to tip number four:
Find your pace zones.
Knowing your speed zones allows you to avoid the grey zone. This grey zone, or Zone 3 on a 5-Zone model, is where the pace is too fast to build mitochondria or easy enough to recover from, and too slow to qualify as speed work.
To do this, you take time to calculate your paces based on a 5k time trial, mile time trial, or other running effort. That’s why you’ll want to have some experience before diving into pace zones. If you’re just starting, you can make it a goal to build up to one of these efforts, so you’re able to test.
Once you have your time, you can plug it into a calculator such as the one linked below.
Running zones could be an entire blog post within themselves, but the key takeaway: About 80% of your training should be in Zone 1-2. We want to AVOID zone 3; typically this is too fast for the zone 1-2 benefits and too slow for speed benefits. Then the remaining amount of training should be in zone 4-5; this will be speed work and other short intervals.
As you have your times, this may be a good time to reach out to a coach for additional guidance OR even for help getting to the point of finding these times with you.
When pursuing any new goal, it’s tempting to get after it at 100%. But we shouldn’t run every day of the week. Even if we’re training seriously, we don’t need to run every day of the week. The body needs time for rest, regeneration, and recovery – as well as time to fit in other aspect of training, such as strength training and cross training.
It’s not the training that makes us better. It’s the recovering from training. We have to stay at a volume and intensity of running that we’re able to recover from. If we cannot, we’re inevitably heading down the path of burn out and/or injury.
Taking time to recover, fueling ourselves appropriately, staying hydrated, and getting quality sleep all helps to prevent injury, avoid feelings of burnout, and keep you running in the long-term!
Are you looking to start running from scratch? Take time to work through each of these variables. But, most importantly, take it easy on yourself. Give yourself grace in the process of starting to run. Your body will adapt, but it takes time. Be patient. The same advice goes for those looking to run further or faster. Be kind. Give yourself grace. Be patient. The time, distance, and PR’s will come.