True story: When I first started running in my mid-twenties, I made it a whole two blocks, started hyperventilating like a hyena, and then proceeded to cry…like, ugly cry. I honestly thought there was something wrong with my body and my head, and that I might be dying. Those sure were good times. But, I kept at it. And the next few weeks/months that I went out, I calmed myself down and proceeded to run. It wasn’t pretty or fast, and my chest bounced more than kids on a trampoline, but I ran. An entire year after that, I did my first 5k; and a year after that I completed my first marathon. I did not win any of these races, but you bet your booty I completed them. And there were maybe some tears at the end – happy tears of course.
So here I am, on the other side of that first race finish line, whispering into your ear, “You can do this.” Well, I kinda want to yell it to you, but that might be too much since we just met. At the beginning of my running career, I made so many mistakes that, had I avoided them, it would have made the whole journey a whole lot easier and with far less cussing. So here I am gathering my failures, transforming them like magic, and handing you the lessons of my journey. I have also been coaching new runners for the last twelve years, so I have seen these traits in others, noted and researched them. I would like to impart these words of wisdom to those of you who are thinking about running.
Before heading out. Get yourself equipped. For starters, you’ll need good shoes and a supportive bra! There are a million other fun gadgets you can spend your money on, but this is the most important. You can add to your collection when you hit some milestones as celebration swag (more on that later).
Start off slow. Start off walking for 15 minutes to get your body warmed up, and then start jogging slow. Like really slow. I know, I know; it’s neither sexy nor glamourous, but it is attainable, and that is the name of the game. You need to walk? Go right ahead! But first, try to slow down even more. I don’t care if that 99-year-old grandpa is passing you, it’s all about going forward. If you need to stop and walk? Great! Just find a landmark or something in your sight to start running again. You brain really likes visual start and finish lines. Tell yourself, “I will start running at the end of this block.”
Find your spot. Find a safe place to run and stick to that spot till you get the hang of it. It’ll be calming to your head and that will make it less work. Your head takes up a lot of energy protesting, complaining and throwing a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Make it happy as much as possible by appeasing it with routine and the comfort of familiar surroundings. Think of a well-lit high school track or a few blocks around your house. The more routine, the less your brain will put up a fight and the more your body will get out of it.
Buddy Up. This is really helpful for two reasons; it keeps you accountable, and is a great way to keep your head happy. Humans are pack runners, if we are in a pack (even if it’s one other person) you feel less vulnerable and feel less likely to be “picked off” (another primal brain effect). Chatting also keeps your head engaged and less focused on the five-alarm ringing in your head.
Commit. Sign up for a race! Try one two months out with the mind set of just finishing the race. Walking during a race is completely acceptable, unless you are in the Olympics. (If that’s the case, then why are reading this?) Your first 5k goal is completing it, having fun, and being ready to sign up for another race.
Treat Yo Self! Celebrate your awesomeness with something fun that you really enjoy. A new bra, a cute pair of socks, a trip to Tahiti?? It will make you keep up the effort if there is a prize at the end. It’s also a good way to start your running wardrobe.
So, what are you waiting for? Download my beginner 5K training plan and get going. We’ll be here cheering for you!
How can we help you get to your first starting line? Share your running questions in the comments below.
Beth Baker is the Founder & Chief Running Officer of Running Evolution. She has personally coached over 2,500 non-runners to run distances from 5ks to marathons and has recently launched a running coach certification program. Beth is a certified running coach through Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), and a certified personal trainer. She has run 6 marathons and 15 half marathons and she cries every time she watches finishers complete their first 5k. Give her a high-five on Twitter and Instagram.