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Dear New (and seasoned) Runners, What You Need to Know

There are so many tips, tricks and ideas out there to make you a 'better' runner, but, what do you really need to know just to get started? Don't worry, it's not nearly as much as you think! I'm here as your PT and running coach to give you as much simple, straight-forward information as possible. So bookmark this article to always come back to. 

Runner, don’t worry about the road ahead, it will for sure come filled with potholes, hills, ditches and cramps. You are not too slow, you don’t need the fanciest gear or have to explain to people why you want to run. Don’t worry if you are kind of unsure about this running thing at first or maybe don’t know if you truly love it. Ha, that's the thing, most of us runner's didn't have it figured out at first either. I remember in college, my early twenties, I got a pair of Adidas sneakers... a FULL size too small (had no idea I should have sized up!), my pinky toe bled, I had so much discomfort, but even in that loathing of the discomfort there was a tiny spark that caught my heart and reminded me that I could do hard things, which is really the long game of running. The way it shapes you in to a different person, the things you learn about yourself along the way. It helps you step in to your power, strength and courage to live a bigger life. But enough chit chat, let's dig into what you need to know to help you get better.

To be honest, when I was a newer runner I found myself wondering if others struggled as much as me, wondering if it would ever feel easier, and wondering if that ache was normal. The answer to most is yes and it depends. So I'm here today to answer your burning questions. BUT, first things first, elite runners and pro runners are elite for a reason - they are the 1%, they are truly gifted, they do it for a living, live it breathe it, are genetically blessed (yes that's facts and science), you must not compare your running journey to the elites or anyone else.

Beginner running tips before delving in deeper: embrace the art of run/walk (this will allow you to increase your endurance), take daily walks to increase your time on your feet (this will translate to feeling better on the run), remember that being a good runner includes cross-training (full body strength and core training), pick one day a week to be your long run day and slowly increase that each week (no more than roughly 10%), remember that even as a beginner, you need rest and recovery days (our bodies need time to catch up to the new stimulus).

Can I Just Start Running? Remember that if you haven’t run in awhile or you are just starting out, your muscles, bones, joints and ligaments need time to adapt to this new intensity and new stimulus, so slow and steady, build your running body up gradually to minimize risk of injury and increase enjoyment. At the same time, don’t be afraid to just lace up, go and see what happens! Maybe you’ll make it a block, maybe you’ll make it a mile. It's all about training smarter. Remember to do a full warm up before you start, which is going to help make the breathing feel easier, promote blood flow, increase the body temperature and prevent any muscle strains.

Running Form. Focusing too much on your form initially can be overwhelming. Instead pick a couple of key cues, or aspects, and then check in during your run to see if you’re maintaining those good practices. Like having your feet land under your body as you are running. Most new runners make the mistake of trying to lengthen their stride to go faster, instead focus on landing under your center of mass (body) and taking quick light steps, which will increase your cadence (steps per minute) and minimize ground contact time. This will not only make running easier, but make you more efficient, faster and stay injury free. Also, thinking keeping yourself up tall instead of letting your shoulders slouch, this will allow you to breath better and keep proper form. Focusing on just a few key cues can improve your runs.

What’s a Good Beginner Running Pace? Honestly, there is no such thing as a good pace. There is the pace that’s right for you, where you are right now! The average person is not the speedster you see in the olympics , as mentioned earlier, that's like 1% of the population. Remember that your starting pace is a baseline. The majority of your runs should be done at an easy pace, and easy means that you could speak a few sentences while running. Utilize the RPE Running Scale to help you better find that easy feeling. Also, remember that this pace will fluctuate from day to day based on all kinds of factors - sleep, menstrual cycle, stress, hydration, fuel, etc. Tip: as distance runners, roughly 80% of your runs should truly be EASY, and roughly 20% HARD. Your easy effort pace should be a couple minutes slower than you hard pace. This builds your endurance, your cardio fitness, promotes recovery and gives you that solid aerobic base to go farther and faster over time.

What’s a Good Distance to Start Running? How long should I run as a beginner? The first answer is not every day. The second answer is it is individually based, so it depends! But here are cues and tips... don’t be afraid to walk, it’s how you’ll start learning to spend more time on your feet. Slow down to run farther, every runner does this when increasing distance. Increasing mileage or pace too quickly will result in shin splints, pulled muscles or other common injuries. Don’t worry about how far you’re going - just go. And your long run shouldn’t account for 50% or more of your weekly mileage, increase speed and distance gradually. These tips may sound basic but they work. And what's cool is the more often you run, the more in-tune you will start to become with your body and what you're capable of.

Does Running Get Easier? It's complicated! Because in running there is no "real finish line." As soon as you run 1 mile, you set a goal to run 2, or as soon as you run 10 minutes you want run for 20! As soon as you complete a 10k, you want to complete one more. As soon as you get there, you want to go for 13.1. As soon as you complete 13.1, you then want to run it at a faster pace. In that sense it never gets easier because you’re always taking on a new challenge. But, does the showing up consistently to do something hard get easier? Yes, definitely. As you build your base, you will get better, feel more comfortable and confident which in a sense, making it easier and more enjoyable.

How to Get Better at Running? The only way to get better at running is to continue showing up. Most people will try it once and say 'it's too uncomfortable,' then give up. It’s hard in different ways for all of us. But these things will help you start improving (repetitive but important): implement the run/walk program to improve your endurance. This means you alternate running and walking at planned intervals. Build a strong base before you start adding in a lot of speed workouts. This means a few months of easy running to increase stability, consistency and adaptation of the body. Include hills, they will make your legs stronger, which will make you faster. Don’t be the runner who skips strength training, having a strong, well-rounded body will help you run faster, stronger, better and minimize your risk for injury.

Understanding carbs and fueling. When you take part in any fitness activity, your body needs nutrients and fluids that are not only required for strength and endurance during the activity, but also help you recover from it. This is especially true for runners, if you don’t have the proper nutritional and fluid balance headed into your run, you could risk draining your body of vital resources too quickly (bonking!), have less energy to complete your workout, decrease performance or increase risk of injury. Knowing how important carbohydrates are for runners can make or break your training, your enjoyment with running and any races you participate in. Carbs are our bodies main source of energy. You cannot workout full steam on a low carb diet or hit peak performances during race day. Your body needs carbs for fuel. Having carbs before your run (and during depending how long it is for) is crucial. Don’t forget to pay attention to your overall diet to get the right amounts of macronutrients, including proteins, carbs, and fats as well. Protein helps build and repair muscle tissue. The right amount of protein promotes muscle growth and maintenance, so getting in sufficient protein throughout the day, and especially after a tough workout, is key for recovery. The right amount of carbs and protein can help your strength and endurance levels. Also, learning more about hydration will do wonders for you and your runs. This includes plenty of water before, during and after your workouts, and depending on the intensity, adding in electrolytes. When you exercise, your muscles generate heat and for your body to maintain its proper temperature, you sweat. Sweating in turn reduces your body’s water level and electrolyte balance, and this loss of fluid needs to be replenished. Therefore, drinking plenty of water to replace the fluids you lose while running will help to avoid dehydration, muscle cramping and other injuries, while improving your performance.

Best Running Shoes? One of the first questions new runners often ask is “what shoe do you recommend?” Running shoes are an extremely personal choice, as everyones foot and gait is different, so there will be some trial and error as you find the best running shoe for YOU. But here are some of my thoughts as a running coach to help you find the best beginner running shoe! Visit an actual running store :) I highly recommend going to an actual running store to get your running shoes. They can talk to you about your runs, you're running goals, how often you run, and they can even do a gait analysis to help you find the type of shoes that fits your foot type. Figuring out more about your foot type will seriously help you find the shoes that are right for you. AND, don't skimp out on your running shoes. They are expensive, but they are worth it and created for a reason. I tried for years to use cheaper pairs because I was a poor college student then newly married. Listen, it’s not worth the pounding your body is going to take! Invest in running shoes- your feet, your body, your mind, your runs are worth it. Also, rotating your running shoes is important so that your body doesn’t begin to shift your stride or over-rely on the shoes for good form. I always recommend having multiple running shoes to filter through, if possible. Overall, finding a good pair of shoes can be a bit of a trial and error until you figure out what works best for you. There is no single best running shoe, it’s all about finding the one that’s right for you and making sure it is a running shoe. Even the best shoe store may recommend a shoe that doesn’t feel great, so no matter what feature it has, it may not be the shoe for you, so try multiple shoes until you find your glass slipper. Personally I love running shoes in general and have tried just about everything….seriously EVERYTHING.

Remember, the more we do something the more it becomes a habit, and if you are consistent, your body adapts to the discomfort and gets stronger, likewise, your endurance will grow which helps you keep training consistently and go the distance.

So here’s to all the good runs, the bad runs, the road runs, the trail runs, the injuries, the comebacks and the moments in between.

Xox, Melissa

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