With the arrival of a New Year, you may have decided to start running! If you have, CONGRATULATIONS on the best decision of your life! This was a decision I made five years ago and I haven’t looked back since. That’s not to say it has been easy. In fact, I really struggled at the beginning and I think it’s fair to say I didn’t actually enjoy it for several months. Even today, there are times I struggle but I never regret becoming a runner. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me in so many ways. I’m no running expert but there’s a lot I’ve learnt along the way and in this post I’m sharing some practical tips on how YOU can get started.
A Beginner’s Guide To Running
1: Know The Journey Is Long. When I started running, I didn’t know how hard it would be. I was so frustrated at my slow progress. I struggled to run between lampposts, my breathing was erratic, my lungs were sore and very quickly, my ego was bruised. It is in these first few weeks that many people give up. So when you start running, don’t have unrealistic expectations. It took me several weeks of consistent running just to manage 5km and even longer to run 10km. Unless you have some hidden super-running genes, the journey will be long!
2: Get Good Shoes. Until recently, it was hard to find good running shoes in Botswana but in the last year I’m excited to say our options have increased. Online running store Tishpul, the Grip Runner in Sebele Mall and Athlete’s Corner in Setlhoa Retail Park all have speciality running shoes and relevant expertise to provide guidance on what shoes might suit you. Always choose shoes you feel comfortable in. Also, going up a size from your normal shoes is key. My preferred shoes at the moment are Brooks Adrenaline and Asics GT-2000 which both offer stability.
3: Set A Fun Goal. When I first started running, I set a challenge to run 17 races in 2017. This felt outrageous at the time but it kept me going. The following year my goal was a Half Marathon. After five years of running, I can honestly say setting goals is why I’m still here. When the pandemic brought a screeching halt to races, I had to think of other ways to keep motivated such as having an annual mileage goal. Set a goal that is fun as this will keep you focused on tough days. If races return in 2022, sign up for one! It’s so exciting and a great way to measure your progress. If you’re concerned about coming last, read this post, I’ve been there!
4: Find A Simple Training Plan: One mistake I made over and over again was being overly ambitious in my training, ultimately sabotaging myself. I would go from zero exercise to trying to run every day. Of course, this wasn’t sustainable and risked injury. Find a training plan that starts off slowly and gradually builds up. For example, 20 minutes of walking, 3 times a week. Then when you move onto running, walk-run intervals are fantastic. There are many resources online and running magazines are great. When assessing any plan, ask yourself: Is it realistic? Is there a slow, steady progression? I’ve also used a coach on and off throughout the years. For more information on how a coach can help you, here are some of my thoughts.
5: Record Everything. There is nothing more satisfying than recording your progress. It is great for accountability but also serves as a record for how far you’ve come. Every time I’m faced with a goal that seems too big, I remember what once seemed impossible. There are many running apps you can use and the traditional pen and paper works just as well. I don’t run anywhere without my Garmin which gives me all kinds of information including accurate distances, times, paces and even personal bests. Click here for a detailed review.
6: Find An Accountability Partner. In the beginning, I was embarrassed at how slow I was so I wasn’t keen to run with someone. But a month into it, my cousin asked to join me and I quickly discovered how fun it was to run with her. But more than that, knowing I had to meet her for a run meant there was no escape! My blog and social media also keep me accountable and of course, joining a running group/club is another great way to stay accountable.
7: Hydrate And Fuel Properly. In her post, Naema shared that a 2% dehydration can affect your body’s ability to perform. This is why “it is so important to stay hydrated, replenishing water and electrolytes throughout the day and most especially during and after those longer runs.” When you first start running, you’ll probably find you need to dramatically increase your water intake.
Good nutrition is important – Naema highlights that we need to ensure the right carbohydrate-protein mix, be mindful of runger tendencies and ensure effective pre- and post-run fuelling. When I started running, I rewarded myself with unhealthy snacks and was then surprised when I put on weight! Poor nutrition can also lead to sluggish runs as I wrote about here.
8: Don’t Just Run. I love running so admittedly it’s hard for me to do anything else. But it’s important that you do! Incorporating strength training a couple of times a week can improve your speed and running economy as physiotherapist Arifa shared here. Cross training like hiking, cycling or swimming also helps you to build other muscles and keeps things interesting. Also, stretching or mobility work like yoga and pilates can help to improve recovery times.
9: Listen To Your Body. I once ignored a pain in my knee for several weeks. When I finally got it checked, I was taken off running for about five weeks. Listening to your body is very important and the trick is to figure out if you just need to take a day off or you need to get it seen to. I usually get niggles when I’ve neglected my post-run stretches and I take it as a warning to get back to my stretching routine. But if you get a sudden or sharp pain during your run, start with the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and then a doctor’s visit if pain continues.
10: Remember Your Why. Running gives me time to reflect and space to breathe. It helps me stay connected to myself and it keeps me resilient when times are tough. It gives me structure and sets the tone for my week, allowing me to work, be a mum, blog, etc. This is why I run. Why do you want to start running? Your answer will always be the thing that brings you back when you lose your way or start making excuses. For more on this, read this post!
I hope this helps to get you running this year! If it does, please do let me know 🙂 If you’re an experienced runner what more would you add to this post? Do you remember what it was like when you first started running? Why do you run?
’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running. Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.