How to Start Running and Minimize Potential Beginner’s mistakes and Injuries
It is inevitable, a runner will eventually get injured at one point or another. But it does not have to be from the onset of your running debut. In fact, many beginners will get hurt during the first few weeks of their training. Many will give up running with statements like their knees are shot, their ankles are weak, their cardio is inexistent, etc. Some, on the other hand, will persevere. They will eventually overcome their first injury and go on to become runners.
In this post, I would like to offer my perspective on starting to run without getting injured. Now, I want to be clear about one thing. What I offer is my own experience, what worked (or not) for me specifically. Each person is unique, but I believe that what I have learned throughout my years of running may work for many of you. Be smart and safe, regardless of age, by getting a proper physical from a healthcare professional who KNOWS about running before you lace up and sprint out the gate!
You must identify clearly WHY you want to run. It will determine how to go about your training. Many take up running to lose weight, be fitter, be tougher, take control of their diabetes, race, increase focus, be more productive, or enjoy being outdoors. There is a myriad of reasons why you may want to run. It is for you to find out.
You must realize that running requires a significant amount of time to train properly. Many claim they cannot work out for lack of time. That is bullshit! (OK, you are going to have to get used to my occasional language). In the past, I have asked people to log everything they did in their day and take down the duration for each task. The amount of time spent doing useless things was staggering! Everyone can find one hour per day to exercise. If you cannot, get in touch with me. I will help you carve out that one hour out of your heavy schedule. Running takes time. To see any significant result, an hour of running is a minimum. But not from day one! You should ramp up your training progressively to eventually get to one hour. Only then should you continue to train for an hour per session. The question then becomes how many sessions per week and how fast. The answer to these two questions is quite simple: You do everything gradually. GRADUALLY! If you want to become a good runner, you MUST understand that you will not achieve that objective overnight and progressing is a gradual process. If you decide to go too fast, too quickly, too often, you will significantly increase your chances of getting injured. Healing from these injuries takes time, weeks, months, or more. Do not drain your motivation by overextending yourself too early. Give yourself a chance to build a good base before getting too excited.
Get proper shoes. I do not mean purchasing the most expensive, most technologically advanced, or the most hyped-up brand. What I mean by proper shoes means those that will be the right ones for YOU. You will not have enough experience to identify what shoes are best for you. You should rely on the advice of professionals. I recommend going to an independent running store, not a chain, where you will probably get better advice, most of the time. You will have the opportunity to test out a few pairs and, possibly, have an in-depth chat with the staff about your running objectives. Because your brother-in-law bought that $250 pair of running shoes does not make it the right one for you, nor does it necessarily make him an expert on the subject (unless he is a proper runner, but then, he will recommend the same thing I just did). Your shoes are by far the most crucial investment in your running success. Get the wrong ones, and you may be sorry. Get the right ones, and you will minimize your chances of getting injured while enjoying your workout.
Be honest and transparent with your family (if applicable). You will not be available at specific times because these time slots are YOURS, and people must respect them. This is not the time to stop and buy milk, pick up your children, or do anything else. This is RUNNING time! Running requires focus.
Accept that you may not progress as fast as you thought you would. Everyone is different. You must stick with it and give yourself a chance to develop the habit of running. Your running will get better and easier with time, it always does, but you must persevere. For example, if you are trying to lose weight and do not see immediate results, you should not focus on the scale, but on running. Weight loss is a byproduct of running. Focus on running, and do not obsess over the weight thing. Of course, your diet is something thing you must focus on, but not while running! If you think you do not run fast enough to your liking, you must accept that to run fast, you have to learn to run slowly first. In other words, you must give your body a chance to adapt to the impact running has on your joints, your cardiopulmonary system and your mind. Gradually, you will run faster without even doing it intentionally. Only then should you start focusing on speed (if it is an objective).
Pay attention to how you fuel your body. Yes, you should be mindful about what you consume, even if you do not want to lose weight. The funny thing about running is that you develop a habit of paying attention to what you eat. I do not mean to cut everything unhealthy out of your diet. I mean know when to restrict and when to indulge. That requires some discipline, but you can develop it gradually. Do not go all out and starve yourself! Do not get fanatical either. Veganism is not for everyone. The Paleo diet either! I will not get into these diet trends, but I will say this: Everything in moderation and balanced works. There are many nutrition gurus out there, each preaching their own thing. Compare, ask around, and consult a certified nutrition professional (one that ACTUALLY studied the topic).
Running is not a chore. It is not a religion either. You should not HAVE to run, but you should WANT to run instead. On the other hand, do not succumb to the “I don’t feel like it today” syndrome too often because it develops a bad habit and weakens your mental strength.
Accept that resting is a component of running progress. It is easy to go on a streak and feel constantly depleted, tired, and burnt out. You must learn to rest when it is time to rest. That does not mean play tennis! It means REST. Going for a long walk is considered a form of rest by some (I do). But sometimes, kicking back, raising your legs and watching TV are OK. Be aware, there is something called overtraining, and it has consequences!
Learn to run alone. Yes, I know, running in a group is fun (to some), but running alone has its specific benefits. So, if you like running in a group, run alone at least once a week and reap the benefit of both settings.
Running tends to change people for the best. Unfortunately, it can sometimes change people for the worst. Do not become a compulsive runner and ignore everyone and everything else. In other words, do not freak out because you did not run. Do not drive people nuts because you have to put in a run today. Be careful of addiction and self-destructive behaviour. Running is supposed to be fun. It is not a chore or your job. None will die if you do not run. You are not saving lives either!
There is much more to discuss around the topic of starting to run. Contact me if you want to talk about a specific topic. I will be happy to help you.
I want to conclude with the following. Running has transformed me with time, and if you engage in this sport by gradually dosing your efforts according to your availability and abilities, you will progress. You will also realize that you will be more productive in other areas of your life because your mind will be (or seem) clearer. You will feel stronger and up to whatever task. You will become mentally tougher and won’t shy away from a challenge. As a matter of fact, if you do things related to running properly, people WILL notice your transformation. They may ask you about what made you different. The answer will be: running.