Taking Your First Steps to Becoming a Runner
Written for WorkingClassAthlete.com by one of our amazing readers. Want to share your stories or tips? Email Ben at [email protected]
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”-John Bingham
The above quote is going to be a mantra if you’re taking up running for the first time because trust me, it isn’t easy. Why you’re deciding to pull on those running shoes and brave the rain is more important than actually doing it.
The reason why is the energy that will keep your legs pumping when you can’t take anymore, it’s the shove that will get you out the door.
Running is all about the mind
Forget what you’ve heard about it being really hard on your body and focus on those runners you see at the park doing lap after lap. They are where you need to be because they have achieved the mental space they need to keep going.
I know this because I am a runner myself. I enter races, I like what it does to my body and I feel good but it’s not why I run. I run because I can.
When I started I was overweight and lazy, stuck in a stressful desk job and drinking to excess. Oh and I was smoking so I wasn’t the best candidate to start with. I had a friend who was blonde, thin and successful. I mean she really had the whole package-beautiful, intelligent, driven and I was jealous.
For some absurd reason I thought that she was just born that way and her life would continue getting better while mine would get worse. I would go home and eat myself into a miserable frenzy after we met just because I couldn’t stand feeling so useless any more.
One day she asked if I wanted to enter a half marathon with her
She had already done 2 in the just below average time range of 2hr10 and wanted to beat this time in a third. I said yes without thinking and then I went home to panic.
I calculated my chances of being fit enough to enter and panicked again. It was May and the race was in October. This gave me 6 months to go from my current state to being able to run 13.1 miles without dying before the finish line.
That night I opened a bottle of wine and tried to drink myself hopeful. It didn’t work and instead I came into running with a hangover and a heart full of dread. I was sure that my body wouldn’t be good enough to meet the challenge and it wasn’t. But my head was.
Get the right gear
So, if you’ve found the reason for getting out there then new trainers are essential. Some sports shops will get you on a treadmill to check how you run so they can match you to the best shoes possible.
This is a good idea if you have the time and money. Especially if you notice that your everyday shoes are worn in certain places or you suffer from joint pain. There are a lot of different trainers out there and finding ones to suit you may take a while but it is worth it if only to prevent injuries in the future.
If you find sports shops a little intimidating then you can find loads of good advice online but it really is better to get someone to look at your feet and test they fit. Also, there are always sales on in stores at certain times of year so you may actually get a better deal.
Trainers are the most important thing
Although there are a few other pieces that while they may not seem essential now will become your best friends. Ladies, you’re going to need a good sports bra.
I know for first time runners the clothing market is going to seem vast but in my experience good running leggings with a back zipped pocket for house keys and a pair of anti sweat sport socks are minimum enough to get you going. If you need music then an arm strap to hold your phone will mean you are set.
Get out there
It’s been proven that you will have a more effective workout after work than before. It’s all to do with your circadian rhythm so if you like to work with yours then choose this time to run. If you are up with the lark anyway and want to squeeze in that run before a day in the office then do it.
Contrary to what experts say the only person it matters to is you. You are doing this for yourself. It’s your time so take it whenever you want. Once you build a routine your body will start to need it, meaning it will dictate the times for you.
Once you’re all kitted out and at your doorstep ready to go it may be seem daunting so here’s the time to remember that you were literally made to run. That slightly overweight, probably very unfit bone and muscle machine that you drag around every day is going to thank you for this.
We ran for food and safety once upon a time and even though we now have cars and get food delivered, that does not mean that our bodies have adapted to it. Saying that, fitness needs to be built so start with a walk.
Not only does this warm you up but it gives you a chance to adjust to the movements, adapt to the temperature and put your head in the correct place before you begin to pick up the pace. Walk for as long as you want but as a beginner 15 minutes is probably the shortest time you need.
It is best on your warm up to walk to a park or a reservoir and there are a few reasons why
Firstly the sights of trees or a body of water will calm you and make the experience more serene. Secondly you can check out other runners, cyclists and general fitness buffs as you go. This is a great time to pick up new exercise techniques and you get to join in the general camaraderie of being out with others all doing the same thing.
Thirdly and most importantly you can track your own fitness levels. I picked a park with a 2 mile circular path when I started and it took me about 3 weeks to run around it non-stop.
This is what will motivate you
The internet will tell you how long that path is and make it your goal to complete it without stopping. It doesn’t matter so much about the length right now all that does matter is that it’s a single achievable goal.
When starting I found it really helpful to get a running app. These things are great. You pick the first level and gradually it will go from you running 1 min without stopping to 5 min without stopping. I found I didn’t need it after 5 mins but it can be used for much longer.
It’s encouraging and a little like having a Personal Trainer with you plus it takes away the problem of having to keep check of the time which is a pain. And remember don’t be discouraged if you can’t even do a minute. Nobody is fit the first time they do this it’s just going to take perseverance and practise.
While you are jogging take note of the things you see. These little landmarks are going to be vitally important to you very shortly. That swing with the red seat is going to make you feel euphoric and that wonky tree means that you will be rewarding yourself with chocolate when you get home. For now, this route should be your best friend so as it’s your first time jogging look and enjoy.
Whenever you need a boost tell yourself you are now a runner
This is it, officially you have joined the ranks of many out there who are choosing to change their lives and believe me this will change your life. Don’t let the negative thoughts in that say distance or time dictates what makes you a runner because they don’t.
Getting out there and working at it does. You run therefore you are a runner. It is that simple.And most of important of all enjoy it. It will give you more than you put in.