It’s not easy to jump into a new fitness regimen or to take on new distance you’ve never run before. There are so many questions, concerns, and emotions when approaching something new. But you won’t know how you feel about something until you try it, right? Today I’ve rounded up some beginner advice from the best of the best to help you make what may otherwise be a scary leap into something new a bit more manageable. Join me for this kick-ass edition of the Running Coaches’ Corner linkup.
Are You Ready to Make the Leap? Beginner Advice for Taking on a New Challenge
Running a 5K is a walk in a park for someone who’s been running for 20 years, or someone who regularly runs ultras. But for someone brand new to running, a 5K can be incredibly intimidating and scary. Check out this advice to calm your nerves and get you started:
Don’t think about how far you’re going or how far you’re running. Think about how hard your body is working, the changes taking place in your body during each run you do as you work toward your goal, and how incredible you’ll feel when you’re done.
Find a group to train with and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Running alone can be great but sometimes when you’re first starting, having someone else there can help hold you accountable and make it fun.
Don’t try to run 3 miles the first time you lace up a pair of running shoes. It takes time to build up your muscles, bones, and tendons for the task at hand.
Speaking of running shoes, make sure to head to your local running shop and get fitted for an appropriate pair of shoes. This will keep your feet, legs, and body happy and hopefully injury-free.
If you experience some pain in your first couple weeks of learning to run, employ the RICE method until you’re feeling better. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest and ice are possibly the two most effective strategies to heal from injury.
Making the leap from a 5K (or 10K) to a half marathon can be nerve-racking. But with these tips and anecdotes, you’ll see it’s not quite as scary as it may seem:
I accidentally did my first half marathon by thinking it was the 5k. Unwittingly, I registered for the half and didn’t realize it until I got to the 5k sign and realized no one was stopping! I went for it and never looked back. I’ve done 5 halfs since and have enhanced my love for running! -Amanda Robbins
I run intervals and am a 3-hour half marathon finisher. Walking and running is my happy place; slow is my happy pace. -Ellen Pickering Hodgins
For a first half marathon, it’s important to focus on expanding distance little by little- but not get hung up on how fast (or slow) you are running. If you can run by feel and leave the watch at home, even better! After establishing the endurance, you can work on speed for future races. –Laura P.
Find a training partner. Having someone to share the experience with takes a lot of the intimidating parts away. Race day is a celebration of the journey you’ve been on together and of the way you’ve pushed each other. –Joy H.
I keep myself motivated by wearing fun workout apparel. I feel stronger, faster and more comfortable when I’m wearing something fun and beautiful. –Angi A., INKnBURN Ambassador
While training runs should be a priority, don’t forget about the other things that go into the process, especially proper recovery (foam rolling, stretching). I add 1-2 days of yoga to my week and it is a complete game changer for my body, especially for keeping my muscles happy and healthy! –Mindy N.
Hydration is so important! Make sure to drink lots of water leading up to race day and use the water stops or bring water with you. –Vanessa J.
Race like you train. If you train alone, run the race alone. If you are going to race early in the am, train early in the am. Try to eliminate as many of the variables as you can before race day! –Aileen L.
Everyone gets the same medal at the end. Go out and do your best. It’s not about the numbers on the clock. Just cross that finish line! –Marsha A.
Running a marathon is not like running two half marathons. If you’re considering running a marathon, it’s important to respect the distance and learn during the process. Check out these words of wisdom from marathon runners:
20-mile training runs are confidence boosters. You’ll complete the remaining 6.2 by sheer adrenaline and excitement. –Smitha Arons
Explore fueling and what works for your body. Talk to someone or research what fuel your body needs and try what’s out there. It was the biggest difference for me from running half marathons where I ate nothing during a race to learning to take in fuel during marathon training long runs. –Lauren S.
Honor your training, even the hard runs. Do the work. Celebrate the effort. It’s a process and the finish line isn’t the finish. -Trena R.
Remember that Rest is not a four-letter word! Those rest days in your plan are there for a reason. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re only training when you’re physically active. Rest and recovery is a critical part of your training. –Michelle D.
Focus on building up your mileage. Not just your long run but your overall mileage. It is your endurance base that will get you to the finish line (and the mental power you’ve built up over the months of training). –Debbie W.
Don’t just practice the miles, practice with your hydration and fueling as well! Treat your long runs like a race and practice running through water stations/fueling on the go. You’ll be glad you did! –Jen K.
Take your training one step at a time and set mini goals throughout. Schedule races as training runs (5K, 10k, half marathon etc). Include a half marathon as part of your 20-miler so you have some support for most of the distance. –LeAnne S.
Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t compare your training or paces to anyone else’s. Everyone is different and is on their own, unique journey. Do not feel like less or more based on what others are doing. –Marcia K.
If you can run 2/3 of the distance in training you can run the race. Start slow and finish strong. Don’t add too many miles at a time. Add 1 – 1 1/2 miles per week to your long run only. Too much, too fast leads to injuries. –Erica A.
Beginner Advice for Everyone
The ultramarathon. The kingpin of all distances. (Which is funny because there are lots of distances of ultras…) Many marathoners stop at the marathon distance. But for those looking for a harder challenge, accomplishing a major feat, or digging in to see just how far the human body can go, the ultra may be for you.
Take care of your feet. When I switch socks and/or shoes mid-race, I rarely have blisters and blisters can make or break a race. –Amanda H.
Keeping on top of hydration/nutrition is huge. Make sure to practice and train with the gear and nutrition you’ll use for races. Use training runs and tune up races to dial this in. Recovery is so important! Address weaknesses and imbalances early in training. Have a positive attitude! You’ll be out there longer than with road running, so smile, enjoy, and roll with the punches. Very rarely does all go according to plan… therein lies the adventure! And lube is your friend. –Sarah S.
For your first ultra, the key for training is to run back-to back long runs. Do hill repeats. Nutrition is key: make sure to get in enough calories. Embrace it all during the race. There will be low points and high points. It’s all about how you react to the situation. Stay positive, smile, cheer for fellow runners and just remember that you get to be out there. Have fun! -Tam P.
The first time running a trail, let alone a trail ultra, is humbling. You can’t run as fast as you do on the road and the uneven, hilly terrain is hard to get used to. Embrace the fact that you will fall at some point. Tucking and rolling will be far better on your body than fighting it and putting your hands out to brace your fall. Trail falls just make the run more fun. Work on hip stability and balance through strength training. –Jennifer G.
Your mental game becomes important during ultras. There are highs and lows. They come and go and learning to ride them out is key. There are moments when you feel amazing and feel like you can sprint through the race (don’t!) and moments when you hate all things and want to quit (don’t do that either). Use training to work on strategies to overcome the lows like focusing on the mile you are in or just getting to the next aid station etc. –Vanessa W.
Build a race plan to know the course, what to expect, identify the potential lows, and aid stations. Pack your drop bags based on what you will need at each point in the race. Place a comfort item/food in each bag for the low times. Before the actual race, run a few mock races to simulate aid station transitions, fueling, hydration, and pace. Use a loop and the trailhead or your vehicle as the “aid station.” Expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised. –John S.
1) Start slow then slow down a little more.
2) Run in the hills a lot and at different times of the day. Ultras are often in hot conditions at some point so heat training in the hills is a must.
3) Work on your walking/hiking speed.
4) Figure out your nutrition plan which includes hydration/salt/electrolytes.
5) Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. My first DNF was completely due to me not being ready for an off day…
6) Lube up with Body Glide or something like that and get the right shoes for your feet. Going 31+ miles really brings this into play…
7) Keep pressing forward. Many ups and downs with the longer distances so keep going even if it’s slow…
8) Have fun because ultras are awesome!!! –Chad B.
You may be an accomplished runner, but what happens if you’ve never set foot in a gym or tried a new fitness regime? Read what some fitness experts have to say on this matter.
Any progress (even small progress) is good progress. Not everything in fitness has to big and huge, and we shouldn’t underestimate small changes. Those small changes make a big difference when they become daily habits that we can build on. –Sarah Parker, ACSM cPT, ACE Certified Health Coach
The hardest part of the workout is just showing up. When you get there it will be worth it! –Michelle H.
Start with something small. Pick an action step that’s so easy it’s almost laughable, and then COMMIT to it. That will set the ball rolling and kick your motivation into gear! –Ariana Fotinakis, Personal Trainer + Holistic Lifestyle Coach
A lot of places have “orientation” classes, where they go over the basics. This is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the routine, the moves, and the equipment. That’s the kind of place I’d choose. How great is it to have that under your belt when you show up for class! –Wendy R.
Focus on movement patterns (pull, push, single leg, bend and lift, rotation) instead of muscles in isolation when weight training. It’s an effective workout in a minimum amount of time since you target multiple joints/muscles. –Elaine D.
Establish your why and goals before you begin so you know where you’re headed. –Cassi S.
Hopefully you’ve garnered some useful information from this post. Everyone is new at something and beginner advice can help us all achieve our goals. Everything is doable, but having the knowledge of what you’re taking on and insight from those who’ve done it before is priceless. Good luck, have fun, and go kick some ass!
Special thanks to all who contributed to this piece. All the stories, commentary, tips, and advice are appreciated and valued. Thank you!
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