It’s amazing the number of runners I hear utter the words, “…well, I’m not a real runner…” with some reason they’ve convinced themselves disqualifies them from the category. Maybe they don’t run “enough”, or aren’t “fast”, or don’t sign up for races, or don’t own a fancy sports watch, etc. I tell anyone who says these things the same fact, “If you lace up and voluntarily go out for a run, you are a runner!”
I understand, though, I’ve been there. Before, when I couldn’t run more than a mile, before I got proper running shoes, before I wore a race bib, before I read anything on running and back when I wore cotton. Running was hard; although I kept coming back.
You aren’t quite comfortable with your labored breathing, you get bored, you keep waiting for it to feel easy and don’t understand how someone “zones out” because when you run it is all you’re thinking about. But – like I did – you keep coming back to it.
Here are 4 ways I wish I learned earlier that would have made those runs a lot easier!
Find a Run Group
If you’re intimidated by the thought of joining a run group because you “aren’t a runner”, don’t be. First off, runners are one of the most accepting group of people I have encountered. Everyone is there to run; pace and distance aside.
Run groups range from professionally organized with set routes, pacers, and a website, to neighbors who gather for a weeknight run and determine the route on the fly. Either way, you’ll have a group of people to talk to, learn from and make the miles pass without notice.
Even if the route isn’t predetermined, you aren’t the only one deciding where or how far to run. Often, groups will have distance options where a single route will have “turnarounds”. Say the whole route is a 6 mile out-and-back (turning halfway and following the same route on the return), with a 2 and 4 mile option. If you want to run 4 miles instead of the full 6, you will turn around 2 miles into the route and head back. This is great for those times you don’t know how much you feel like running.
I remember my first experience with a run group; I figured I would do 4 miles, but when we got to the 4 mile turnaround I was having a great conversation and wasn’t ready to head back, and ended up finishing the whole 7 mile distance! The point is, you’ll most likely find yourself doing longer distances.
You’ll also have a set time and day. This may not seem like a huge deal, but how many times have you planned to run after work but, “something came up”? With a set time, place and distance, it’s easy to add this to your calendar and seeing the same people each week makes it less likely you’ll flake since there’s a sense of accountability.
Here are a few places to start your search for a run group in your community:
Running/fitness stores (Nike, Fleet Feet, Lululemon, etc.)
Keep a Conversational Pace
I distinctly remember the first time I ran 10 miles, training for my first half marathon. I remember it so well because – aside from being my first double digit run – I had an “a-ha” moment that seems insanely obvious now. My dad was an amazing supporter and rode his bike alongside me, talking to me off and on throughout. I thought, “if I just ran a little slower, like this, I could keep going forever!”
Unbeknownst to me, he was keeping me at conversation pace. This pace is ideal for building your running base, yet I had been pushing myself just past that on my solo runs. I, for some reason, thought that running should feel hard or you aren’t pushing yourself enough. Sure, there are tempo runs and speed workouts and races where running shouldn’t feel easy, but for the majority of your running miles, especially as you build a running base, your goal is to be at conversation pace. Aim to be able to hold a conversation, still breathing heavier than at rest, but not to the point where you’re gasping every 3 words. It’s easy to test this when running with a friend or local running group, but if you run alone, speak a line of your favorite song or the Pledge of Allegiance every so often to gauge your effort.
If you’re brand-spanking new to running, start with run/walk intervals. You can time them or mark them by distance, or go free form and run until a light post up ahead, walk to the next cross-street, run until you reach the big house on the block, etc.
Slowly, you will be able to increase the running intervals, shorten the walking intervals, and even complete the running intervals at a faster pace.
Here are a few reasons run/walk intervals make running easier:
- Erase fatigue
- Allow endorphins to collect during walk breaks (makes you feel good!)
- Mentally break up distance into manageable increments
- Speed recovery
- Reduce the chance of injury and lessen aches and pains
- Allow for benefits of endurance of the distance, without the pain and stress on joints and tendons
Once you can continuously run for 30 minutes, try intervals of faster running with a recovery pace interval. These intervals make running feel easier mentally because you are only focused on short segments of time, as opposed to a long monotonous stretch.
You won’t always be able to rely on having a running partner, and for those times you may want external entertainment. For my long runs when marathon training – for example – I got really into podcasts. It helped to listen to a conversation or game-show and really get out of my head and enthralled in something else.
With smartphones, it’s super easy, convenient, and affordable to do this. Use music apps like Pandora or Spotify and listen to music that makes you happy and energized. Download your favorite podcast and catch up on new episodes. Open an account with Audible.com and finally check off some of the books on your list!
Running can be fun, and these are 4 ways to ensure you have a good time even when you’re new to the sport!
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, gearweare.com, and nicershoes.com he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.