We’re a little under 3 weeks away from 2012 which means most people are already planning their New Year’s Resolutions. For some, those resolutions might have to do with goals they have for their lives: get into grad school, become more organized, etc. For others, many others, those resolutions are health and fitness related. (In the Pilates class at my gym, we all keep joking about how we should enjoy the space now because come January, our mats will be on top of each other.)
I’m really hoping that some of my readers are planning to become runners in 2012 and today I want to encourage you to start now! I’ve never had any luck with resolutions. I always start them and give up by February 1st. But running was different. I started running in November 2011, and I’m still running 13 months later with no plans to stop. Ever. I think that starting early gives you the momentum you need to keep it going after the New Year has come and gone. Here are a few simple tips to get you going…
1. Purchase a good pair of running shoes.
Please please please. If you never listen to anything else I say, hear this: go to a running store and get fitted for the right running shoes for your foot. At a good running store (try Potomac River Running if you live in NoVa), they’ll put you in a neutral pair of shoes and have you run on a treadmill while they analyze your gait. I had lots of IT band pain before I did this, but ever since I purchased the right shoe for my foot (Asics GT-2160), I haven’t had any injuries or pain. And here’s a tip: once you find the right shoe for you, stock up. I found 2 pairs of the 2160 on sale for $60 right after I bought my first pair and scooped them right up. When it was time to switch out my old shoes (which you should do every 2 months or so when you’re training), I didn’t have to worry about buying any.
2. Purchase key winter running items.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on these items and you only need a few things. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to Winter running. I’d suggest purchasing a winter running jacket (wind and water resistant is a must), running tights (love my Nike tights!), running gloves (mine are from The North Face), one or two long-sleeve technical shirts (Nike and Lululemon make the best ones), and a hat or headband that covers your ears. I bought all of these items and have found that I’ve never been cold during a run and I actually enjoy running in the cold now. So weird.
3. Find a plan.
You’ve heard the saying a thousand times: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I’m not saying that if you don’t follow a plan you’ll fail as a runner, but I do think that having one will make the process a lot easier to stick with. Often, new runners lace up their shoes, head outside and try to run as fast and as far as they can. Unless they’re already in shape, and sometimes even if they are, they’ll find that after a few minutes they’re gasping for air and stopping to walk. A program like C25k (which has an iPhone app now!) will ease your body into running and will help you gain endurance. If you don’t like C25k, try the Nike+ Coach’s Walk to Run program or try Hal Higdon’s 30/30 method. You can also try searching the Runner’s World website for articles/training plans geared toward beginners (which is what I did).
4. Take it easy.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t be running all out. I’m not a running coach or a fitness expert so I don’t know how to explain this scientifically or even eloquently, but I’m going to try. When I first started running, I would run hard during my run intervals and then walk superrrr slow during my walk intervals while I tried to catch my breath. I finally got to where I could run an entire mile, but I would have a cramp immediately after and would have to go back to my run/walk intervals for the remainder of the run. I was so frustrated because I wasn’t seeing enough progress. It wasn’t until I started running at an easy, conversational pace that I was able to run for longer periods of time. My body learned how to perform at that speed for more than just a few minutes and now I’m ready to teach it how to perform at higher speeds. If you want to grow as a runner, you have to start slowly. Focus on steadying your breath without walking, even if it means slowing way down. Trust me, it works. Try running with a friend. If you can’t finish a sentence without sounding like you’re running up stairs, you’re running too fast.
5. Enjoy the run.
So many people have told me that they want to run like me, but they just hate running. I used to hate running too. That was when I thought of it as a means to an end. Running was just a way to lose weight and get in shape. Now, running is a way to clear my mind. It’s a way to explore a new city. It’s a moment in life that belongs to only me. It gives new meaning and beauty to places and things I’ve seen a hundred times before. It makes room in my head for an epiphany. It has brought me a sense of pride and accomplishment I’ve never felt before. Burning 300 calories in 30 minutes…that’s just a bonus.
Don’t wait for January 1st. Start today. Start right now. Make yourself a runner.