Advice for the Beginning Runner
To an outsider, the running community can appear quirky at best and cultish at worst. Let’s just say that when legions of people wake up during the pre-dawn hours just to don spandex, look like they are in incredible amounts of pain for extended periods of time, and do so only to receive a free bagel and an orange at the finish line, well … maybe the misconceived perception of runners is understandable. As a beginning runner, this lifestyle can seem intimidating, if not altogether strange. Fear not, however; running is an activity that is as customizable as an iPhone cover. Listed below are a few rough guidelines that will help you get started.
DO – Experiment with running. When you are first starting out as a beginning runner, try out as many new routes, trails, and running groups, as possible. Try running with friends, and try running alone. See if you enjoy running in the morning, or after work. If possible, try going for a “runch” (run at lunch.) The more you experiment, the better feel you will have about the type of runner you are.
DON’T – Compare yourself to others. Everyone’s running journey is different, and all runners train or compete for different reasons. Success is not linear and some runners will experience dramatic time drops right away, while for others it may take longer. Ultimately the most successful runners are the ones who are most consistent, whatever that may mean for each individual.
DO – Have social runs. Use a mutual love of running as a means to get to know someone better, such as a coworker, friend, acquaintance, or family member. Do not worry about pace or talk about PRs, upcoming races, or goals; simply use the time to enjoy your favorite activity and interact with a likeminded person.
DON’T –Try to run through an injury. Once runners have been bitten by the running bug, it can be difficult to voluntarily take a day off, even when a tiny ache or pain becomes a big problem. The best course of action is to treat injuries right away in order to minimize the number of runs that will have to be missed later on.
DO – Encourage others. Runners are known for forming an all-encompassing community that is open to anyone who has a pair of running shoes and a genuine spirit. Along the way, many runners will cheer for you during your journey and you should return the favor. Never take it personally when someone beats you in a race or is faster than you during a workout.
DON’T – Be competitive with anyone other than yourself. It can be tempting to have a personal vendetta with the person who always beats you at the local road races or who is faster than you on the trail. Running is an extremely personal endeavor, and running for the sake of beating others will only lead to unhappiness and frustration.
DO – Call yourself a runner. New runners are often embarrassed to call themselves runners. If you run, you are a runner; plain and simple.
DON’T – Fall victim to imposter syndrome. Sometimes runners get caught up in what the “ideal” runner is, in terms of ability, body composition, or how much gear one owns. It can be easy to believe you do not belong in the community if you do not fit this ideal, but rest assured running accepts everyone, and there is no cut off for who can be a runner, no such thing as a “runner’s body,” and no mandate for how many watches you need to purchase.
DO – Invest in good gear. Certain items, such as shoes, running shorts, and a decent watch will set you back a few hundred dollars but are ultimately worth the investment. Find items that you love and fit you well, as you will be spending many miles together.
DON’T – Feel like you have to have every new gadget. Some runners are “gear heads” who like to have every new GPS watch, updated app, or high tech running shoe. Do not feel like you have to continually invest in new gear in order to stay relevant.
DO – Be safe. Use common sense when running alone, at night, or on the roads. Always run against the flow of traffic if no side walk is available. Avoid headphones when not on the treadmill, as they can mask important traffic sounds or the noise of someone coming up behind you. Always let someone know where you are going and how long you will be gone, and don’t forget to carry ID and a cell phone.
DO – Enjoy the journey. Running will be filled with ups and downs. Don’t get too encouraged by the ups, and never let yourself be too discouraged by the downs.
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