So you want to give running a try

Guest post by Alissa

Proud but exhausted approaching the finish line of my second half marathon.
Proud but exhausted approaching the finish line of my second half marathon.
No one would have ever called me an athlete. The only times I exercised was when I had to in gym class. But I always admired runners because they seemed so dedicated and driven. I tried giving running a shot half-a-dozen times, and quit a half-a-dozen times. Finally, at 29, I realized my body wasn’t going to trend toward health, and with the encouragement of several friends I decided to buckle down and do this.

Three years later, I’m still at it. I’m slow, but I run! Learning to run was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I truly believe that if I can do it anyone can. I’ve become a running evangelist, encouraging everyone to try it.

There’s no shortage of information on the internet about running: training plans, sports nutrition, shoe reviews, etc. But I had trouble finding tips for starting COMPLETELY from scratch. Here are some things I discovered along my journey.

There’s no shame in walking

I won’t sugar-coat this: when you first start, you’ll suck. Each time I decided to try running, I ran for all of for two minutes before gasping and wanting to give up. Like other hard things in life, running takes practice. I have a friend training for a 50-mile race, and she still drops to a walk. Be realistic about the time it’ll take to get good at this. Don’t worry about being fast; start slowly and build up. The key is don’t quit. If you can’t run, walk; walk as long as you need to, then try a bit of running again when you feel you can. If you keep working at it, you WILL get better.

Challenge yourself

If you go too hard too fast you could be injured. But don’t take that as a pass to sit back — challenge yourself. Once you can run a full mile, start aiming for two. Once you can run three, try running faster. Run further. Run up a hill. Not only will it give you an amazing sense of accomplishment, but it’ll make you a better runner overall.

Figure out your poop

No, really, running is a natural laxative. This is one of those things they should put out there in huge letters so every new runner knows, but they don’t! Not only should you… er… “go” before you run, but until you learn how your body reacts, I’d recommend running in places close to a bathroom. An indoor track at a gym worked for me for the first few weeks. But then make sure you get out to explore the trails and streets your ‘hood has to offer.

Invest in some running accessories

The nice thing about running is that anyone can do it anywhere and the only thing you need is shoes. If you want to give this an honest shot, you’re going to have to invest in some running shoes. Expect to drop $100 on a decent pair, but they will help you avoid injury. Running stores are best for these because they specialize in running, just running. You can get a video gait analysis and talk to a pro who will point you to the right shoes for your body. Another thing to invest in: a good sports bra. (Don’t ask me for a price quote on those, though, from this size A.) As for shirts, shorts, and pants, cheap stuff from Target works fine.

Find cheerleaders

You need folks who will support you and celebrate every little accomplishment with you throughout this whole process — whether a runner or a non-runner. I still remember the first day I completed two miles, the first time I ran a full 5K, and the first time I stumbled across the finish line of a half marathon. I don’t think I would have ever gotten that far without people to call up and squeal about my newest milestone, or share a post-race burger with, or even running beside me saying, “You can do it!”

Sign up for a race!

This is what I find the most important. Not only will this give you motivation to keep training, but race environments are incredible. There are costume races, mud races, races with your dog, and races supporting just about any cause. All matter of random people will cheer for you as you run, and you will see people to inspire you — from pro athletes smoking everyone that make you want to go faster, to geriatrics shuffling along that will make you resolve, “Wow, I want to be doing 5Ks when I’m in my seventies.” (If you’re in the US, this is a nice site to find races.)

You can find more about running online, but those are the basics that most helped me. I didn’t start running to lose weight (and I haven’t), but to feel better and learn how to take better care of my body. I feel healthier now than I’ve ever been, I’ve discovered that I’m capable of more than I thought possible, and I’m more proud of my running than probably anything else I’ve accomplished.

Comments on So you want to give running a try

  1. Great timing! I actually just did my second session of the Zombies, Run! 5k training app today, and it’s the first time I’ve “run” (mostly walking briskly with very brief stretches of running) and haven’t felt like throwing up. For me, it’s hard to learn how to pace myself and find the balance between not trying hard enough/challenging myself and becoming impatient and pushing way too hard.

    Zombies, Run! is an app, btw, that makes your running take place during the zombie apocalypse, and there are radio transmissions and characters talking to you while you do stuff (and it pulls in your own music). So far, I like it a lot, and I figured that something with a semblance of plot would be the best way to inspire myself to keep going.

    • My friend just told me about this today. I am telling my husband, who does actually kinda like running. This may actually induce me to consider running also since that’s fun motivation.

  2. This article is beyond perfect – I just started really picking up running on trails for long distances this past week. I found that has a lot of running groups (at least for my city) and when one of my co-workers mentioned jogging I jumped on it, and now we are jogging buddies.

    Random question- it’s hot, it’s summer. I decided to take off my top and run in sports bra and yoga pants in the park, but after one guy growled at me and some really awkward stares, I reluctantly put it back on. Any words on the appropriateness of that? (It’s really… really… hot).

    • I guess it depends partially on your sports bra and yoga pants, how much of you is showing and just how much bouncing is happening when you run. It probably covers more than a lot of the bikinis I see girls wearing out and about so honestly, tough for them. If you aren’t comfortable with the stupidity of others, then maybe find a loose and thin t-shirt that you can slice up so it’s covering but not really adding extra heat. It may be a regional thing too. Around here I doubt anyone would look twice.

  3. Anyone have good tips for where to get a GOOD sports bra for high impact sports for us ladies with, uh, bigger ladies? I have a terrible time finding them and this is after going to a specialty place!

    • Oh THISTHISTHIS a billion times over. I wish I had some good recommendations but alas, my ladies and I are at a loss too. Lululemon has a pretty good one, called the tata tamer, but it only goes up to a DD. I’ve always used my large melons as an excuse for why I never stick with running (obviously it is unnatural if no bra manufacturer can figure out how to keep them still…) but would love to hear any other feedback or suggestions on this one. Where are the big bras?

    • I know I sound like a broken record, but try checking out a running store. Even if they don’t carry your size, they may be able to recommend some vendors that do. Their whole business is running so they know a lot, and I’ve found most of them are full of employees that aren’t sales-driven so they’ll happily refer you to someone else if they don’t have anything. They’re just all ethusiastic about helping others get started or get better at running. (And if they’re not, walk out. There are plenty of places out there that you can take your business.)

    • I’m late to the party, but is a great company that sells a lot of different of sports bras. Through them I found that the best sports bras for me are by Moving Comfort – – and I notice that a lot of the ladies at my martial arts schools are also wearing MC bras. They go up to E cup.

      And, maybe this is obvious to others, but it was an epiphany to me one day – like your running shoes, your sports bras wear out. It might still cover you up, but the elastic loses its oomph.

  4. Ah running. I’m still slow but I run pretty regularly now, and have some half-marathons under my belt (and a super-awesome 200 mile team relay). Getting to where I am now took a looong time and I made plenty of mistakes along the way. Some retrospective tips and thoughts on running:

    1. Losing weight. I started running to lose weight and it didn’t work. Partly because I gained muscle, but primarily because I gleefully “over-rewarded” myself with something delicious after every run. So if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t fall into the mental trap of “I ran for 30 minutes! Bring on the ice cream!”

    2. The first 10 minutes. For me, the first 10 minutes of every run always feel like I’m going to collapse and die on the ground. But if I can convince myself to keep going, I realized that my brain & body eventually shut up and accept their fate. And after 15 minutes, I’m always surprised to realize that I actually feel pretty good.

    3. Pace. When I’m feeling good on a run, I want to go fast. But unless I’m nearing the finish line, that’s a terrible idea. Slowing down, even a little, makes you able to go so much farther without feeling like you need to stop and barf. It goes against all my natural impulses, but if I force myself to go slower in the first half of a run, I’ll have enough juice to finish strong. This lets me run across the finish line instead of crawling over it.

    4. Injury and Old runners. It used to bug me when grandpa or grandma would pass me up at the 5K. But then I realized how awesome they are. I want to be an old runner. Which means listening to my body now instead of beating it to smithereens. I’ve dropped out of marathon training to avoid worsening an injury, and there’s no shame in that. Old runners are smart runners and they know the difference between pushing their body and abusing it.

    5. Icing. If you take time to ice your sore parts after a run (for me it was shins and knees), your sore parts will thank you by being less sore. You don’t have to ice them for hours. For me, 15-20 mins makes a huge difference.

    6. Running groups. I signed up with USA Fit to help me get started (they have branches in 44 cities across the US). Five years later, I’m still with them. Our group meets on Saturday mornings to do the “long run” part of marathon training. Short runs during the week are left to you, but they give you a training schedule. Personally, I need the group to keep me motivated and accountable, and I also like that they do the route planning so you aren’t stuck figuring out the best through the city to get your mileage in and/or running the same endless boring loops just for mileage. USA Fit is by no means the only running group out there – there are tons, and I highly recommend being a part of one.

    7. Fun. For me, running isn’t really “fun.” But it’s intensely satisfying. I had a disc injury last year and the doctor told me I couldn’t run for at least 6 months. And this overweight homebody couch lover cried for 2 days. Fortunately, I recovered, am back on the track, and much happier for it.

    Sorry for the novel. Good luck everyone!

  5. I just want to thank so many of you for commenting and sharing your stories! I was so intimidated to start running as a person who had never done ANYTHING athletic, and hearing so many similar journeys just makes me squee with happiness. Hearing I’m not alone in my struggles and triumphs just confirms how much camaraderie there is in running, and makes me even more proud and excited to be part of this awesome-and-sometimes-slightly-crazy community. 🙂

  6. I clicked on the link for the races and noticed that somehow the Grand Blue Mile is not on the list. This shocked me, because it was the first race I ever ran (this year), and it’s a very accessible race for beginners in the Midwest (as the mile is held in Des Moines). There’s a recreational division that allows for jogging and walking. I was one of those weirdos that decided to run it even though it was 43 degrees and ended up getting my best time ever (8:45). Despite the fact that I’m now training for a more competitive mile race (as I am a middle distance runner at heart and will not do a 5K unless I’m literally running for my life), I felt the Grand Blue Mile was a great event for anyone just getting started in running.

    Similarly, I have found races open to everyone through some surfing on Minnesota’s USTAF website. A good number of states will have their own USTAF sites, and that’s also a good way to find out about races (along with other athletics events if you want to play spectator).

  7. I would love to get into running–my mom just had an amazing transformation into her best health of the past 10 to 15 years by training for a 5k, and I’d really like to follow her example. My problem is, when it comes to running outside I have such a narrow window of temperature tolerance. I suppose I could learn to suck it up in the heat, but when it gets much below 60F (and here in New England it’s apt to do that a good 5 or 6 months of the year) I get this awful burning feeling in my throat and chest from breathing in cold air. I’m sure this is normal, but how do you get past or get over this? I’ve learned from experience that I just plain don’t push myself enough on gym equipment, and to my knowledge there are no indoor tracks in my area, and fall/winter is a long enough time to step back my game that I’m far more likely to quit all together.

    • I just saw your comment. Have you tried wearing a face mask that covers your nose and mouth? That can help warm the air a bit before it enters your body.

  8. THANK YOU. I was a runner for years (slow but strong!) in my 20s and did countless 5ks, 8ks, 10ks, 12ks, 5 halfs, and one full marathon. But the past three years (I’m 32) I’ve been struggling to get back into it. I don’t know why I stopped, I turned to walking instead. Which is great! I love walking, but it never makes me feel as good as running does, except if I go on a nice intense hike. I’ve been running a few times the past month and it is HARD to get started again. Reading this today though is giving me great motivation. It can be discouraging to think you’re bad at something you were once good at, and it’s hard. I’ve been wanting to run again for a long time. I’m going to get myself a new pair of shoes this weekend, do a easy 2-mile run, and keep at it.

  9. I used to run along the beach in the summer. They are wonderful to do. they make me sexier body. but the moment they are too cold. I can not leave the house ..
    Have you ever run into this winter yet???

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