(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program.)
Running seems like a very simple activity. You lace up a pair of sneakers and head out the door. In reality, it’s a bit more complicated and most recreational runners always have a few things they wish their beginner self would have known before getting starting. Here are a few tips from my experience coming back to running as an adult.
Proper Running Shoes
Do you remember Ollivanders, the wand shop in Harry Potter? They have a fun exhibit of it at Universal Studios. You go in and a magical shop attendant helps you find the wand best for you. Getting a pair of running shoes is kind of like that.
One of the first mistakes I made coming back to running as an adult was just wearing a random pair of shoes I liked from a Nike outlet store. They did not have nearly enough padding and were too light for my training goals. I ended up getting shin splints and having knee problems.
You can get fitted for proper running shoes at your local running shoe store. Typically, you will walk on a treadmill and the fitter will check your gate for pronation. They will also ask you about your running goals and what you are training for.
If you are still not shopping in-store because of the pandemic (I am not either), a lot of running shoe brands and running shoe stores have online shoe selectors. They are not as good as getting an in-person fitting, but they are definitely better than picking shoes out on your own at random.
A lot of new runners do not know that running shoe models come out every year. The previous year’s model will usually be on sale, so if you are on a budget, look for those. When you can, it’s great to support your local running shoe shop, however sometimes it is cheaper to buy your shoe directly from the company online, once you know what you need.
The shoes will typically range from $60 to $160, depending on what type of shoe you need and the brand. Unless your doctor recommends it, I would not spend the extra $70 to $100 on a custom insole if you are on a budget. I did for the first pair of real running shoes I bought, but honestly do not believe they made a difference for me.
Last, typically you will order a half-size up from your regular shoe size. This will help you keep your toenails. Your feet expand slightly throughout the day and while running so the extra space gives your toes somewhere to go.
When to Run
A lot of new runners start off running in the evenings. There isn’t anything wrong with running in the evening, but there are two reasons running in the morning has worked better for me.
First, when you run first thing in the morning, it lets you check something important off of your to-do list right away. Whether you get anything else productive done that day, at least you kept your commitment to yourself and got your run it.
When I schedule evening, or afternoon runs, it is easier for life to get in the way. Someone randomly wants to stop by or call you. The dishes or laundry are calling your name. Or maybe it was a long day and you just want to eat dinner and watch some television. It gets easy to find reasons not to run the later it gets.
Second, running energizes me. I rarely want to be energized close to my bedtime. It leads to me staying up late (reading comics usually) and then feeling tired and groggy the next day. I would rather spend my evenings relaxing with Baby Bear.
If running in the evening works for you, then run in the evening. You should run on your own schedule, when it makes sense for you.
Out of breath. Heart pounding. Sweat dripping. Legs burning.
A second mistake I made when coming back to running was running too fast too soon. Like wearing the wrong shoes, this also led to unnecessary knee pain and shin splints.
If you are new to running or coming back to it after a break, take a few weeks to let your body get used to running and to get yourself into a routine or habit. During this time think about how long you want to run (i.e. 10, 20, or 30 minutes) and work on spending time on your feet. Start slow and work your way up to longer runs.
Do not be afraid to take walking breaks. Do not start worrying about your pace or hitting certain mile markers. Run easy, so that you could hold a conversation. You might feel like that pace is too slow, but you can work on different running speeds after building a baseline.
Listen to your body.
Bad guys, and bad weather and cars! Oh, my!
It’s a dangerous world and I could probably go on for hours about safety while running, but here are a few general tips to keep in mind.
- Make sure someone knows where you are going.
- Bring some form of personal identification with you, like your government issued ID. This is useful if you get hurt, in an accident or stopped by the police. I happen to be a black woman and my twin was stopped while walking in our neighborhood once because she “looked like someone they were looking for” and I have been stopped while on a bicycle. Bring your ID. I usually bring my insurance card too.
- Do not wear headphones while running outside. Even with one earbud in, it leaves you vulnerable to not hearing a car or someone sneaking up on you. It makes you look distracted and like an easy target. I leave my phone on speaker when I need music while running outdoors. Some might find that annoying, but I won’t be within their hearing range for more than a few seconds.
- If running at night you might want to get a headlamp or reflective vest. I have found both at local dollar stores, surprisingly.
I could go on for ever, but these tips should help you get started on your running journey. If you need more help you can also hire a running coach to help you with your running journey. Coach Breanna specializes in working with beginners and casual runners.