So you already have your information on gear and also some injuries, now it's time to run your first mile. If you are new to running, chances are you'll be thinking one of two things right now, 1) a mile is really, really far & that's pretty much impossible or 2) a mile isn't that far & that will be a piece of cake. The first mile of any race or run can make or break you; it's where you set your pace and where you can lose most of your energy quickly if you're out of the gates too fast. The first mile is a great gauge, because believe me; once you're able to run a mile easily, you're much more capable of pushing yourself to go further.
Give yourself a goal, and make it an event. Sign up for a race or fun run, challenge a friend to a race, do something that gives you a definite date and forces you to have a deadline. Many 5Ks also have a 1 mile untimed fun run attached to them, you can sign up for one of those if you don't think that you're quite ready for 3.1 miles yet. It's great because you're donating to charity & you're not likely to just blow off something that you've pre-paid for. You can also start with a 5K, new ones seem to be appearing daily everywhere, so chances are, there's one close to where you live. Even if you can't run all 3 miles, it's a great feeling to finish the race and then you have a time to work off of and improve upon. 5Ks are where I got the running bug, I was mad at myself because I was in relatively good shape, yet couldn't run 3 miles. Eventually I became obsessed with getting faster & faster times and look at where I am today; I just ran my first half marathon. You can too!
One common problem that new runners will face are breathing cramps / aka runner's cramps / aka side stiches. It's a big change to go from training on a treadmill to running outside, so don't be surprised if you can run a lot further and/or faster on a treadmill than you can in the park. The temperature of the air in your gym is regulated, you don't have the cold or humidity that you do outside and you're keeping a consistent speed on a flat, smooth surface when you're on a treadmill. When you move outside, the air is a huge factor, your clothing is another factor and chances are you're not a human treadmill, so your pace is going to fluctuate. Start off slowly, it's better to run 3 miles at a 15:00/m (spelled out that means a 15 minute mile) pace than run a quarter mile quickly and walk 2.75 more miles. It's great to run with a friend, but if that friend is faster than you and can't slow their pace, you're going to end up winded and frustrated. You'll have trouble breathing at first, but you have to let your body and lungs get used to running outdoors, keep at it, building up endurance doesn't happen in one lap around the park. I've run 17 5Ks already this year and I've had to stop and walk during almost all of them because I'm pushing myself to run as fast as I can and not keeping a consistent pace, this takes time, but running is definitely a sport that requires you to put into it what you want out of it. The bottom line: if you slack off, you're not going to get the results you want.
This time of year is great to start running, but if you decide you want to wait, fall into winter is a great time to start running as well. You can try to hang on to the last bit of warm weather (unless you live somewhere that is warm year round) and give yourself the confidence and drive you need to stick to the gym over the winter. The problem is, if you don't start now you may never start. It's so easy to get lazy, but you have to be a self-motivator and you have to stick with it. I took 1 month off from running this past summer and my 5K time went up by 5 minutes, I got back to it and each week I was dropping at least a minute from my time, don't give up on yourself (if you need some positive reinforcement, I am an excellent motivator, send me a message). If you have trouble pushing yourself to go for a run, get a friend to go with you. It's best to pick a friend that's already going to the gym on a regular basis because you know that whether or not you're there, they will be and that's either going to make you feel guilty or lazy and should be the kick in the pants that you need. If you don't have a friend like that, you can probably find someone that wants to get into better shape and you can try to hold each other accountable. Besides, there's usually eye candy at the gym, and the ladies tend to love their cardio equipment. If that's not enough to make you consider joining Globo Gym, here's a tip, a lot of the larger gyms put the treadmills behind the elliptical machines and we're not dumb guys, we know you're not looking at the gym TVs when that happens - nobody is that interested in midafternoon ESPN without the sound.
Gyms aren't for everyone either, I realize this. Almost every running store I can think of has a running group, and there are tons of other organizations that have them as well. These are great tools because you have people who are experts in running offering you free advice and support just for showing up! Running groups normally have a variety of distances that you can run with people of every skill level, so don't be intimidated. This is a great way to make friends too, and then perhaps you'll be able to find someone who runs at your pace and voila, a running buddy. Running groups tend to operate on a set day of the week, but usually switch up the routes so that you're not getting bored. However, I will be getting into more detail regarding running buddies and running groups in a future article.
So the moral of the story is, start slow and give yourself a goal and a deadline. You're the only one accountable for your progress when you become a runner. It's a great feeling once you get that first mile under your belt and you can only go longer from there (yes, gentlemen, that IS what she said). Not everyone is built to be a distance runner, half marathons aren't for every person, so push yourself, but know your limits. If you don't think that you'll be able to motivate yourself to stick with running, find a friend, or make a new friend to run with. There will be obstacles and normal issues you have to deal with while your body adjusts to you becoming a runner, but keep going, the end results are definitely worth it. Until next time, get your feet off of the coffee table and into some running shoes!
Do you live in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, or Tampa? If so, you should check out this great running event: The City 5K
Check out the previous articles in this series here: