Advice for New and Returning Runners, Part One: Tips, Motivation, and Inspiration
In the midst of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, running has become the escape we are all turning to amid our new reality of quarantines and social distancing. With life throwing big challenges our way, many people are taking up running, or returning to the sport after a long layoff. With that in mind, Sports Backers has turned to our community of running enthusiasts to provide advice, tips, motivation, and inspiration to new and returning runners to help guide you in your journey and take full advantage of the physical and mental benefits of an active lifestyle. And be sure to keep in mind current public safety guidelines as well as general rules of the road when walking or running.
Part one will focus on practical advice and motivation for getting started, and part two will focus on essential gear for runners.
Part One: Tips, Motivation, and Inspiration
Carrie Parker, Sports Backers Marathon Training Team Head Coach
My best advice for a person starting or getting back to running is to be patient with your body as it adapts to the new exercise regime. Start with a reasonable goal. Run-walking is a great way to get started and stay healthy but make sure you use a plan, not just run as much as you can and walk until you are recovered. Getting back to a full recovered state will make it hard to continue to build. Your body gets stronger when you push it, little by little. Here is an example of a plan: run one minute, walk one minute, and plan on doing this for 20 – 30 minutes. As your strength and endurance build, make it 1.5 minutes of running and 30 seconds walking still at the 20 -30 minutes mark. Add additional time to the overall workout, as you feel stronger and continue to reduce the walk breaks.
Just remember, if you are coming back to running, just because five miles use to be an easy run for you, doesn’t mean you should shoot at the door and run five miles. Building up is crucial to have a long healthy running career, regardless of your “career” goals.
John Sicat, Marathon Training Team Coach and Sports Backers Ambassador
1) Start slow in terms of mileage, intensity, and speed – it’s important that it’s enjoyable and that one eases into it and builds a proper base/foundation
2) Keep a journal – it’s always beneficial to track your progress and it helps people learn from their experiences more effectively
3) Keep things mixed up – variety is truly the spice of life – change routes, run different distances and speed, meet new peeps
4) Don’t keep it a secret – sharing what you’re doing w/ friends and family is huge! I find that people wanna support you and it keeps you accountable
5) Cross-train (Yoga, weight lifting, rowing, stair climbers, Pilates, riding a bike, hiking) at least once or twice a week and have a least one day that is dedicated to 100 percent rest
6) Find some company, at least virtually right now – it’s just more fun this way, it’s more safe, and once again promotes accountability
7) Have a goal in mind – keeps you on track, accountable, and typically helps one become more focused and targeted. Yes, it’s great to be in shape and fit for the sake of it, but why not have a time to shine/showcase your preparation and training!
8) Never forget that this is truly a GIFT!!!
Mara George, Sports Backers Event Production Coordinator and Training Team Coach
- Make sure you have the correct shoes. Your shoes are the biggest piece of equipment.
- Find running friends and groups (virtual for now); this helps make it more fun and provides accountability
- Stretch before and after
- Be patient – not all runs are the same, not all of them are good
- Run happy
- Enjoy yourself
- Running is a mental game – you need to start your run with the right mindset
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else – everyone has their own starting point
- Take small steps and embrace your victories
- Consistency is key
- There will be good and bad days, so don’t let the bad days carry over to the next workout
- It’s okay to walk
Will Boland, Frequent Marathon Participant (Boston, Chicago, New York, Richmond, to name a few)
While it’s tempting to just lace up your shoes and head out the door, don’t forget to warm up properly! A simple pre-run routine to rev up your body will improve mobility, reduce injury, and help you run farther and faster. Fortunately, this doesn’t take long. With a few dynamic movements, you can prepare your body for a run in 5-7 minutes. I start every run with (1) a series of lunges that gets my body moving in multiple planes of motion and (2) a set of leg swings that improves the range of motion in my hips. You can see videos of both here, or just search online for something that works for you. If you consider these a must-do before each run, you will meaningfully improve your running performance.
Mallory McMullin, Sports Backers Ambassador
- Don’t get easily discouraged if you feel slow. Pace is relative; what matters if you are out there getting active. Also, know that taking walk breaks does not make you any less of a real runner.
- Make sure to always run against traffic. This means running on the left side of the road so you can see the cars coming towards you if you need to quickly get out of the way. Do not run down busy roads and try to opt for sidewalks and trails when they are available. Make sure if you are running in the dark that you are obnoxiously visible — use lots of lights, reflectors, bright colors, etc. Mall parking lots are a great place to run around right now while the stores aren’t able to be open.
Kristen Eichert, Sports Backers Corporate Sales Manager and Marathon Training Team Coach
The one thing I often hear from people that don’t run, or who t to get into running, is “I can’t do it.” My response is always “You can” but you need to set small, realistic goals when starting. Start with a mile and if you can’t run the whole mile, that is okay. Also, a lot of running is mental. When you feel uncomfortable, it is normal to think you need to stop. My advice is to slow down and find a positive mantra to repeat to yourself (i.e. I got this. I got this). And running is just like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.
Barb Jewell, Sports Backers Ambassador
- Start slow. Be kind to yourself. If you are starting out and are not in the best shape, start by walking more than you run… an easy pattern is walk a few blocks, jog a block. After a week, change the numbers so that you’re walking less.
- If you like to listen to music, use only one earphone in your ear so that you can hear what’s going on around you.
- If you are out by yourself, let someone know when you’re heading out, how far you’re going and in what direction, and let them know when you return.
Shihan Wijeyeratne and Ashley Simard, Former Training Team Coaches and Frequent Marathon Runners
- Set goals, both long term and short term. Make the goals, especially the short-term goals, achievable. Maybe the first goal is to run three blocks without stopping, or running three days out of the week. Push yourself with the long-term goals — maybe you want to run a continuous mile after a month of running, or you want to run a 5k at the end of the summer.
- Don’t be discouraged! Getting used to running is hard. It might be a little (or very) uncomfortable when you get started or are getting back into it after a long break. Focus on the good parts — the benefits to your physical and mental health, how you feel after finishing a run, etc. It will get easier!
- Even in these times of social distancing, having a group of (virtual) running buddies can be a huge motivator. Follow your friends on Strava or Garmin Connect, share your progress, inspire and be inspired by other people. But don’t compare yourself to others, do your own thing!
- If possible, use running shoes that aren’t too worn down
- Listen to your body! Running is hard and you’ll be sore, but there is often a fine line between muscle fatigue and the onset of an injury. Look out for acute pains that get worse over the course of activity and don’t go away once you’re done running.
- Find what works for you while you’re out there. Some people like having silent time with their own thoughts, some prefer running with their favorite music, and others want to listen to all their go-to podcasts. If you do choose to run with headphones, make sure you can still hear what’s going on around you. Safety is the #1 priority! On that note, if running in the dark a headlamp or other light is an absolute must, along with reflective gear and bright colors
- Celebrate your progress and enjoy the journey!
Will Dixon, Sports Backers Director of Sponsorship and Development
Embrace the nerves that you may be feeling. When I started to get back into running a little more, I would get butterflies in my stomach about half a mile in. When it first started happening, I felt like I was out of breath because my heart rate was creeping up, but in reality, I was just excited. Acknowledging the excitement, taking a few deep breaths, and keeping my eyes on the road ahead has really helped me set the tone for the rest of the run.
Louise Lockett Gordon, Bike Walk RVA Director and Marathon Training Team Participant
If you’re just starting out or back up, don’t expect to go fast. Frankly, unless you’re training for a competitive race, going “fast” is not the goal. Moving more and feeling better than the day before is. Doing interval training is great to start getting into the run saddle – where you alternate walking and running, and overtime decreasing your walk time while increasing your run time. Expect that the “oh my goodness I love running!” feeling will probably not be there in the beginning. Fear not, keep going, you’ll get there. Celebrate your wins, big or small. Shifted from walking more to running more? Great! Started at 1 mile and now up to 3 miles? Fantastic! Have more energy during the day? Awesome! Take notice of your small victories, they help you build momentum to keep going.
Molly Johnson, Sports Backers Event Directot
Have patience with yourself because running probably isn’t going to feel easy at first. Set small goals for yourself and focus on reaching each one to help keep yourself motivated. Consistency is key! You may not feel like running regularly at first but remember that you will never regret going for a run even if you didn’t want to at first. Most of all just enjoy the process. Running is supposed to be fun so look for something in it that you enjoy and focus on that when you start to feel stuck.
Alison Hale, Sports Backers Merchandise Manager
- Start with small, manageable goals and celebrate when you achieve them
- If you live in a hilly neighborhood, walk up the hills when you’re getting started
- Schedule your run, just like you would schedule any other appointment
- Remember that making time to run benefits your body and mind
Scott Schricker, Sports Backers Director of Marketing
I started running when I turned 38. That was the same age my father was when he died of a heart attack in 1971 as I was about to turn four years old. He had been a smoker for most of his adult life growing up in what was then West Germany. When you’re a kid, your parents always seem old, so it wasn’t until I was approaching his age that I realized how incredibly young he was. Although I never smoked, I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to make sure I didn’t leave my wife and two young kids without a husband/father.
While I had always participated in sports throughout my like, they mostly involved chasing a ball. Running had always been a punishment inflicted by my coaches. Even after college and into my mid-30s, I had played rec league softball and flag football. But having two young kids and a wife who was a full-time R.N. made it harder to commit to those activities. The only real, consistent time I could carve out for myself was early in the morning while my family slept. Luckily, I’ve always been a morning person.
So I started running in early 2005. I had already worked for Sports Backers for over 11 years, and we had been putting on the Richmond Marathon and Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k for a while. I vividly remember the first few times I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to run thinking, “I really hate this. I really can’t believe I am going to commit to doing this for the rest of my life.”
Having races to commit to and motivate me helped tremendously. I had always liked being a course marshal on the James River Scramble trail run course, watching others rock hop on the dryway across the river to Belle Isle. It looked like a lot of fun. That was the first race in which I competed. It was long and hot and tiring, but running on the trails was a blast.
Competing against myself was also motivating. Running farther, running faster, pushed me. The great thing about running is that you can so easily measure your improvement – time, distance – yours and other people’s. And this was even before smart phones and running apps.
I mentioned that I hated it at the beginning. But I kept with it. And at some point, a few weeks or months into my journey – I don’t remember exactly when it was that the switch flipped – I would be driving past someone out running and think to myself, “Man, I wish I was out there,” or, “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to run this morning.” That’s when I knew I was a runner.
Be sure to check out the second part of this feature, tips and advice on gear for runners.