I do not consider myself to be a natural born runner. You know those people who grew up running in track and now can stop running for a month and then race in a marathon with basically no training? Yeah that’s not me. Like don’t get me wrong, I was super active growing up and played soccer most of my childhood, but running was my least favorite part of the sport. I always gravitated towards the position with the least possible running involved.
So believe me when I say I am as shocked as anyone to have realized that I have slowly come to not only be pretty good at but actually enjoy running! When I started to get questions on Instagram about my running journey and if I have any tips and tricks, I decided to sit down and make myself a list.
This list of tips in tricks on “How to Get Into Running” also serves as a bit of window into how I was able to go from not even able to run a mile just a few years ago to where I am today (running in 1/2 marathons, Spartan beasts, etc). So let’s get into it!
Disclaimer: these are my own personal tips and tricks that have helped me. I am not a trainer or anything like that.
My Tips and Tricks for How to Get Into Running:
Don’t go cheap on the shoes – Even if your goal is only to be able to run a single mile, you still need quality shoes! Your body will just feel better and be more resistant to injury with good shoes. My husband, who has both worked at a shoe store and also likes to research this kind of thing, recommends New Balance (these are similar to the pair I have) or Nike (I’m eyeing these to be my new pair when I need it). Or better yet, go to a running store where they actually analyze your feet for free before giving a recommendation.
Develop a good stretching routine for both warmup AND cool down (regardless of distance) – Over my running journey I’ve had to deal with knee and hip pain while Caleb has been dealing with pain in his achilles. Stretching has been so key! It honestly made the biggest difference for my knee pain. I recommend the Nike Training Club app. Even the free version has a “Runner Warm-Up” and a “Runner Cool-Down” which I use every time.
Hydrate before your workout – I know this may sound like obvious advice but I’m always surprised at how many people think that “hydrating for a run” means either chugging water right before you head out the door or drinking water while you run. I highly recommend drinking a decent amount of water then waiting around 30 minutes for your body to process that water. If you chug your water right before you head out the door, you’re more likely to get a side cramp. Of course you should also hydrate after running (and sometimes during) but hydrating before will give you more energy.
Figure out what pre-run eating habits work best for you– This one will honestly be a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for you because everyone is different with this one. My brother prefers to eat a large breakfast before a run while my sister prefers to eat as little as 1/2 a granola bar. He says he needs a lot of food to have the energy to run while she says if she eats too much she feels sluggish like the food is weighing her down. I’m somewhere in the middle and tend to eat either a small meal or a whole granola bar pre-run. Whatever your food habits end up being, make sure you give yourself an appropriate amount of time to digest based on your meal/snack size. (I listed my favorites bars in the “shop” section at the bottom)
Increase your distance slowly – If you’re looking to increase distance I recommend doing it slowly! I’m talking once a week increase your distance by .25 to .5 miles. I like to run one long run a week and then 2-3 more runs a week that are much shorter. Or you can also find a running program to help coach you! Caleb likes the Nike run club app which he has been using to train for a 1/2 marathon. He took a long break from running so he’s basically starting from the ground up and says the app has been great (I believe it’s free).
Explore other forms of cardio to get your body and mind used to breathing hard – This tip is really more for folks who aren’t big on cardio in the first place and now want to get into running. If you’re already cross-training with other types of cardio then great! Keep doing that. However, if you’re new to cardio in general it’s important to learn the difference between when you’re breathing so hard you need to stop vs when you’re breathing hard because that’s what happens when you do cardio. Cross training with some sort of cardio that you really enjoy will help get your heart accustomed to beating hard for an extended period of time without it feeling like a shock to the system. (I like swimming, biking, and Zumba! But really the options are endless.)
Figure out what type of background noise motivates you the most – This tip is another one that will take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you. My brother enjoys running without any headphones and listening to the world around him. I prefer to have an upbeat playlist, while my sister can run the farthest if she’s distracted by a podcast or audio book. Caleb prefers to either run with a playlist or run with a buddy to have someone to chat with.
Try out running with a friend! – Chatting while you jog with someone else can really help to pass the time. When your body knows it has to communicate it gets distracted from the exercise at hand. I’m sure you’ve seen movies where the army is out jogging while they do call and response chants. This helps them to keep their heads up, take deeper breathes and exhale more forcefully which increases oxygen to the lungs and gives the body more energy.
Run interesting places – if you hate your surroundings, it’s going to make the run feel longer. Personally, jogging around a track is my nightmare. I get sooooooo bored. Running on a trail or running through the city helps the time to pass. But again this is personal preference! Some people enjoy running laps or running on the treadmill. I’ve found that I do best when I run out and back. Once I get to my turn around point I’m able to mentally tell myself “okay, now you just have to run home” and for some reason that seems to help.
Positive self talk – some days I feel like I’m just not in a good groove and feeling way more tired than I would like, but I give myself the space and grace to just get over it. Not all runs are going to be amazing, and that’s normal and totally okay. When I am running and start to feel down on myself I just give myself a little pep talk and remind myself how lucky I am to even be running for fun at all! It really helps. You’re not a good or bad person because of your running time after all.
Sign up for a race with friends – having something fun to train for can be incredibly motivating. Whenever I’m training for a race of some kind I can build out a schedule, working backwards from the race, which helps me stay accountable to keep increasing my distances.
Running more than 5 miles? Bring water.- this may not apply to everyone depending on the climate you live in but, for me, I NEED water if I’m going to be running farther than 5 miles. Houston is HOT and super muggy which absolutely drains my energy. Water helps me push through the last few miles.
You gotta eat enough! – this may seem obvious to folks who are already in tune with their body’s needs and who already eat an appropriate amount. However I know I personally could not have been a runner in my later years of college simply because I’m pretty sure I was under eating (this could honestly be a blog post all its own.). Now I listen to my body! The day of a larger run I’m usually not as hungry for whatever reason but typically the next day (even if I don’t exercise at all) I’m usually super hungry all day long! I listen to and honor those hunger signals.
I hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks! And remember exercise shouldn’t be torture! If you give running a real go and you’re still hating it, then maybe it’s not for you! That’s okay too. (Although I will say, the first mile always feels a little tortuous to me, but if I push past it then that’s when it starts to become fun.)