One of the beautiful things about running is that it is almost impossible to master. There will always be room for improvement, new terrain to tackle, unique race formats to explore, and PRs to chase. And sometimes it can be overwhelming for new runners to know where to start. When I think back, there are a few tips I wish I would have taken to heart when I was just getting started, so I wanted to share them with you here in the hopes that you will benefit from a few of the hard lessons I had to learn. This is not intended to be comprehensive and there is plenty of great advice out there so be sure to do your research and see what works best for you (see #3 below)!
- Start Slower to Get Faster
One of the first things I would tell my newbie self would be to SLOW DOWN and focus on aerobic development. Simply because a strong aerobic base is foundational for running both fast AND far yet is misunderstood by many new runners. Like many people, when I first started hitting the pavement, I carried the mindset of “No guts, no glory!” I would push up the throttle, try and beat my last outing, and grit through the suck. All in the name of burned calories and new PRs. It wasn’t very fun. And although I had heard terms like “conversational pace” and “long slow run,” I completely ignored them. It wasn’t until I began to have the patience to consistently run comfortably (vs. my daily time trials), that I saw sharp increases in my overall speed and endurance. Today, most of my running is spent on “easy mileage” and I am the fastest I have ever been.
Tip: Try running for time vs. distance on easy days so that you aren’t tempted to increase pace to finish earlier. A 30-minute run is a 30-minute run no matter how fast you tick off the mileage.
- Focus on Variety
This one is huge and is something I wish I would have learned a little earlier on. Often times running becomes “more of the same” and it can be easy to fall into a running “rut.” But including variety in our running not only helps protect against mental burnout, it can play a large role in injury prevention as well. And it doesn’t have to be drastic. If you have a favorite loop, be sure to reverse course to balance out strain on IT bands. If you normally run sidewalks, spend some time on trails, dirt or grass to strengthen your stabilizers. And be sure to include different pacing into your training as well. Sprinting, tempo runs, base runs and recovery runs all serve different purposes and result in different mechanical stresses on the body. And some runs like progression, fartlek and interval runs have variety built in! For more info on different types of running check out this Roadrunner Sports article.
Tip: Following a training plan, or at least mapping out your runs a week in advance, will help ensure you build in variety and pinpoint the best runs to try out a new route or terrain.
- Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
If there is one thing I have learned about what works best for me, it’s that it probably only works best for me! I have spent a lot of time researching topics like “top running nutrition” or “best trail shoes” or “running recovery hacks” and it never fails that there are multiple solutions with passionate advocates for each. And then it finally clicked…we are all different! So, while Maurten may work best for our buddy, UCAN may be the fit for you. The only way to know is to EXPERIMENT! And it’s important to be OK with having different results than those around you. This goes for shoes, terrain, race distance, training style, nutrition and just about every other category you can imagine. I would love to go back to my newbie self and explain that it’s not a matter of finding “the best,” but rather finding “the best for me.” The research is the same because that is where the ideas come from, but the perspective change is where the magic has happened because it becomes a trial and error game vs. being tied to a solution that may not be the right fit.
Tip: It can be overwhelming to sift through the amount of info and solutions available. Do some research, identify some recommendations that you identify with, and then choose one to begin testing. It is not pass / fail and it is OK to change your mind. Experiment with different options and have fun!
What Would You Tell Your New Runner Self?
I would love to hear from you! Reach out and let me know what advice you wish you could go back and give your newbie self. Or even key advice that you tell your new runner friends now!