Written By Barefoot Dawsy
It wasn’t long ago that I viewed runners as a bizarre mix of health nuts and madmen. The thought of running down the block, let alone running a marathon was absurd and laughable. And these people say they even enjoy it! Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that, guys.
Then the bizarre happened. I became a runner.
Wait, what? How do you go from hating and ridiculing an entire sport to loving it to the point of writing about and extolling its benefits? Well, I’ll admit, it was tough at first, but I found a bunch of tricks that made it fun and easy, and it wasn’t long until I was hooked. Want to know what they are? OK, here ya go!
Be Honest With Yourself
If you’ve never been a runner, or used to run but haven’t in years, you’re going to have to face the fact that you’re probably more out of shape than you thought. This may even be the case if you’re otherwise active since running is a different motion to other sports.
Once you accept that you’re an absolute beginner, it becomes easier to make the right choices when you learn how to run. As much as you’d probably like to do it, you’re probably not going to head out the door and knock off 5k nonstop. The reality is that you’re likely going to find that 30 seconds of running is a challenge.
Take it slow at first. Book in 30 minutes of exercise for each session, but don’t expect to run this whole time right off the bat. Start by walking 5 minutes then lightly jogging 30 seconds, then repeating. Once you’ve done this, you will have a better idea of where you’re at, and you can play with the walking/running bits until you find the right combination.
Improve At Each Session
One of the big mistakes that new runners end up doing is picking a route and just running it, then going home. They ‘put in the hours’ running, and think that’s enough. The problem with this approach is that all it does is get you used to running one distance at one speed.
To get better as a runner, you need to be constantly pushing your limits.
So, for each of your running sessions, aim to improve on your previous best. Run a little longer, or a little faster. Each little improvement will get you one step closer to being a good runner, and once you’ve achieved this, you will almost certainly find that you actually enjoy running!
Track Your Progress
It may feel like you’re not making any progress, but when you look back and see just how far you’ve come, it can be a real boost. A great way to help you gain this perspective is to track every workout.
Get yourself a journal or open a spreadsheet and track your distance run, and time running. You can be as simple or fancy as you like, but the main thing is to try to give yourself some record of your progress.
In as short as 6 weeks, if you stick with it and push yourself a little each session, I guarantee you’ll look back and laugh at how bad you were and smile at how much you’ve improved.
Go Slower Than You Think You Can
Another big mistake that new runners make is to take off as fast as they can, or faster than they should. They start at a good pace and it feels fine, but within a short time, they’re huffing and puffing, and probably swearing and cursing the sport of running.
So, when you’re first starting out, just take it easy. A neat little trick is to make sure you’re breathing only through your nose. If you find yourself needing to mouth-breathe, it means you’re pushing a little too hard. Slow down, get your nose going again, and keep on jogging.
Alternatively, if you are running with a friend, try to keep a pace that allows you to speak to each other as you run. This will make sure you’re not overdoing it, and let you run further.
Take Small Steps
When you start running, it’s best to get into good habits right away. This will help you avoid injuries and run more efficiently, which will in turn help you become a better runner faster. There are millions of lines written about good running form out there, and once you’ve become addicted to it, you’ll find the resources you need.
In the meantime, focus on just one thing: small steps. Taking small steps will automatically improve your form and stop you from making a number of very common mistakes in form. Your feet will land under your centre of gravity, and you will run a little slower.
As you get more confident and your running base builds, you will find your stride naturally lengthening, but at first, try to keep those steps small, and you will be rewarded.
Make It Enjoyable
Lastly, when you run with a smile on your face, it’s hard not to want to keep going back. There are a lot of ways to make running fun. Try running with friends, or signing up for a race. There are a lot of fun, themed races, like Zombie runs, mud runs, and obstacle courses. Likewise, there are scenic runs, and runs that attract thousands of people.
If you’re a big nerd like me, you might find that tinkering with your form as you run is enough of a distraction to keep you interested.
Once you get through the first 6 or so weeks, or hit one of the big mile markers like the 5k, running becomes truly addictive. Give it a chance, work within your limits, keep improving, and try your best to make it enjoyable, and you too will become one of those crazy running people you’ve heard so much about!