I first started running in college. I had really profound reasons for starting this new form of exercise. Kidding. I started running because everyone else was and I assumed they knew what they were doing. I thought, “If all these happy people are running…I should do it!”
It turns out no one knows what they are doing and I was pretty miserable those first few runs.
Eventually, I formed a habit and I’m happy to say, my son has too. We now lace up together (he’s way faster, so really he runs ahead then waits for me to catch up periodically) and I treasure the time together (But let’s face it, we aren’t really together because he’s so far ahead of me.)
If you’re thinking of adding running to your fitness routine, here are my top 10 tips to get you going. PS: I offer these tips not as a fitness professional or coach, but as a middle-aged mom who has maintained a running habit for more than 20 years.
1. Start running gradually.
Running is a challenging workout, no doubt about it. Unless you’re Forrest Gump, most of us can’t just get up and run for miles one afternoon (bless his heart). Whether it’s a measure of time or distance, give yourself a small goal to start with and work your way up week by week to avoid injuring yourself or getting burned out mentally.
I started with trying to run for the length of two songs on my Discman. Remember those?! Then I moved to three songs, then four. Then an entire Alanis Morissette CD in which I was probably rage-crying about an ex-boyfriend.
PS: I’m not a coach, but I count it as a “run” even when I take frequent walk breaks.
2. Choose the right time.
If you have a time of day you normally work out already, stick with it. There’s no law saying you have to be someone who runs before work or at dusk. You know what time of day you feel most motivated and energized, but as with any new workout, you may need to try a few different times to find your golden hour.
If I don’t go first thing in the morning, it doesn’t happen.
3. Plan your meals accordingly.
There’s plenty of debate when it comes to eating before and after exercise. Some people can’t eat before a workout, others need a huge breakfast. You know your body. I generally can’t exercise on a full stomach. If I’m going on a longer run, I’ll bring an electrolyte drink.
4. Find the right gear.
You won’t keep running if you’re uncomfortable. Period. So if that super cute matching set you bought off Instagram is riding up or anything is falling out, say buh-bye. Layers of breathable fabrics that move with you are best and be sure to get yourself fitted for proper running shoes.
It’s worth the time to go to a specialized store to get a pair of shoes that fits right.
5. If it hurts, stop.
After having Lola, my hips really hurt when I was running. I went to see a physical therapist and I learned about all the fun changes that happen to a woman’s body after carrying a child. FUN! I was pretty diligent about doing the exercises to reduce pain and build muscle in places I needed.
Last year, my knee felt wonky. (Thank you 40s!) I did some “strength for runners” workouts on my Peloton App and it really helped.
At the store where I got my first properly fitting running shoes, they noticed I was hitting the ground WAY too hard and you could hear my foot hit the pavement loudly. Pro tip: That’s not good. I signed up for an inexpensive run training program with the store and learned that there’s actually a correct way to run. Who knew? (kidding, I promise.)
The lesson here is, there are resources from actual professionals to help you run pain-free.
6. Change up your route.
Repetitive workouts can make you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Shake things up during your run by trying different routes on different days of the week, working games into your run like looking out for specific colors or turning it into a circuit. For example, you can stop every 10 minutes for some push-ups or squats.
7. Schedule it in.
Pretend your run is a class you’re paying for and the cancellation policy sucks. Add your run to your calendar so you can plan accordingly. Remember that this is valuable time for you to clear your mind and focus on taking care of yourself. That’s just as important as that new Housewives episode you refuse to miss.
8. Balance it out with strength training.
Running is excellent cardio. But strength training is just as important. (See above about my wonky knee) As we get older, strength training is necessary for the health of our bones and joints and all the things.
9. Never skip your stretches.
The importance of stretching cannot be overstated. Running can be very taxing on the body, which is why taking five minutes to stretch before and afterward will help you avoid injury and keep progressing. Don’t just come to a dead stop from a sprint and sit down, or you’re in for a rude awakening the next morning.
10. Be patient with yourself.
Any new habit or practice takes time. You need to be patient with yourself and your limitations (we all have them), which will improve with time. Stop comparing yourself to the other runners you see out there and take breaks or walk when you need to. The point is you’re moving and for that, your body is grateful.
Are you a runner? Share your tips in the comments.