I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the seven years that I’ve been running. Setting out before the sun comes up on a hot summer day, putting on layers upon layers on a wet winter afternoon, bonking, DNF-ing, and PR-ing races, trying different shoes, trying different fuel, doing long runs, speed work outs, and running of course reading countless books, magazines, and internet articles on running. Sometimes it feels like the only thing I haven’t done in running is actually doing a marathon. Maybe one day though. 😂
It’s safe to say I’ve been around the block a few times. Literally. So here are 10 things I wish I knew when I started running.
1. Speed Is Relative
The comparison trap is a very easy one to fall into. Especially if you’re on any form of social media and follow all sorts of badass, super speedy runners. And that’s great for them!
But the thing is, speed is relative. What’s super speedy for you might be slow for someone else. A hard workout for one person might be a easy run for you. It’s all relative.
It’s best to not compare your paces to anyone else’s because it’s all different for everyone! You do you and be proud of your accomplishments! No matter what they might be!
2. It’s Ok To Walk
When I first started running I was under the impression that didn’t “count” unless you ran the whole time. If you had to walk then you weren’t a “real” runner. But that’s just not true!
Once I learned about the run/walk/run method and how many people actually implemented it, my life pretty much changed. I was able to run farther and faster (yes, I’m still a slow runner, but remember, speed is relative 😉) when I took walking breaks. Sometimes those breaks happen for about a minute after each mile, sometimes on bad days I walk up hills, sometimes I do more structured intervals of 90 seconds of running 30 seconds of walking, and sometimes I don’t walk at all.
But just knowing that I can take a walk break if I need to catch my breath, change up my rhythm a little bit, take a sip of water, eat a little something, walk up a hill, or just need to mentally collect myself, I can! It doesn’t make me any less of a runner! How cool is that?
Seriously though the run/walk/run method made a huge difference in my running life and I suggest you look it up! Jeff Galloway has some really helpful books on the subject!
3. “Bad” Weather Makes Tough Runner’s
Referring back to my first point, bad weather is also relative. For me, “bad” weather would be anything over 75 degrees (I’m a baby in the heat, what can I say! 🤷🏻♀️😂), on a humid, sunny day. But for other people that’s PERFECT running weather.
But back to my point, when I first started running I spend a good majority of a summer running on a treadmill, and there’s nothing wrong with treadmill running, but running in any kind of challenging condition is going to make you so much tougher! Physically because you have to work harder and mentally because you have to push through your mental barriers to keep going! Which are both important things to learn to do if you’re going to do any kind of racing or just have big goals that you want to accomplish, but those lessons also can be easily applied to other situations in life!
Obviously if it’s too hazardous outside it’s best to swap your running days or stick to a treadmill, but if it’s possible I think we should all brave harder weather whenever we can! It really does toughen you up for a hard race! Or other potential difficult situations!
4. You Need To Size Up Your Running Shoes
Maybe just by half a size or maybe even by a whole size, because here’s the deal, your feet swell when you run. And if I would have know that I wouldn’t have lost a toenail during my first half marathon. 😂
What happened in my situation was I had bought my running shoes in my normal size. Which is fine for non-running activities but I quickly learned that 10 miles into a half marathon your feet aren’t the same size as they were when you started. Which means your toes are going to be jamming into the front of the toe box of your shoes and that can cause you to lose toenails. It’s not fun. 😂
So don’t be like me during my first half marathon. Size up your shoes and give your toesies plenty of room too move in the tie box of your shoe. But not so much room that you’re tripping over excess shoe or feel clumsy in them! No clown shoes needed! Unless that’s your thing I guess! 🤷🏻♀️😂
5. Safety First!
A lot can happen on the open road, trail, or even your gym treadmill.
It’s a good idea to always tell someone where you’ll be running and how long you anticipate being gone. That way someone has an idea of where you should be and when they should start looking for you/seeking help if you don’t show up on time (but I also recommend a call or text of you’re taking longer than anticipated.
If you’re running on the road ALWAYS run against traffic, so in the US that means you should be on the left side of the road. That should give you a few more seconds to spot any potential issues and bail into a ditch if you have to. It also makes you more visible to drivers.
Always wear clothing that is easy to spot from far away. Anything reflective is your friend! A blinking light is a MUST if you run in the dark and I HIGHLY recommend that everyone wears a Road ID!
Mine has my name, birth year, spouse’s name, phone number, and relationship to me, my blood type, my penicillin allergy, and a quote on it, but you can basically add anything you want to it! I think these are super important to have, just in case.
If you have to run with headphones (guilty!) always keep the volume low enough so you can hear what’s going on around you and just try to be aware of your surroundings in general.
Obviously that’s just and incredibly brief overview of some key points, but I think they’re important things to keep in mind!
6. Racing Is Fun But It’s Not A Necessary Part Of Being A Runner
Don’t get me wrong, I love participating in races! But 2020 had different plans for all of us and IRL racing wasn’t possible for a lot of people. Myself included.
As much as I missed having races on my calendar to set goals for, I learned to find a different kind of purpose for my running. And while I’m looking forward to doing a few actual races (looking at you fall 2021!) I am glad I was able to find a different kind of joy in running!
So if racing isn’t your thing I say don’t do them! Running can be so much more than starting lines, finisher medals, and participant t-shirts.
7. Vaseline Is Your Friend
Slather that shit anywhere you have chafed, might chafe, or under any part of your running gear that might rub you the wrong way. Literally.
For me that means on my thighs and the sides of my feet in the summer. But I’ve heard of people putting it under their sports bra straps, the waistline of their shorts, nipples, armpits, honestly the possibilities are endless!! Plus Vaseline isn’t all that expensive so go crazy if you’re haunted by the memories of getting into the shower after a long run and experience the stinging only freshly chafed skin can bring.
Another thing you can use Vaseline for is any exposed skin on a cold run! An nice layer of it is supposed to help keep those areas warm! I’ve never tried it but some people swear by it!
8. Hats Are Much More Functional Headbands
Ok but seriously, they really are! When I first started running I never considered wearing a hat. I just pulled my hair back with a hair tie and headband. But I have really thick hair and that never really kept it out of my face. Something that really annoyed me. Then one hot summer I started wearing a hat to keep the sun off of my face and I realized that I should have been doing just that from the very beginning. First off, a hat keeps my hair out of my face better than any headband ever has. Plus you can use it to keep the sun, rain, snow, dust, or whatever out of your eyes. And in the summer you can put some water or ice in it to help cool you off a bit. You can’t do that with a headband haha.
9. You Need To Fuel Your Body Properly
I’m not a nutritionist so I can’t tell you what the proper way to fuel your body for running is (and it’s different for everyone anyway!).
But I can tell you that eating right and eating enough is incredibly important! You can’t run your best if you aren’t eating enough!
And treats and not necessarily “healthy“ things are a part of a healthy diet! So there’s no need to restrict yourself to a ridiculously “clean” diet!! Veggies, fruits, complex carbs, proteins, and fats are all very important as well!
Give your body the very best of you want to run your very best. Sometimes that means a nice fruit smoothie. Other times that means pizza.
10. Find Your “Why”
When I first started running my “why”, the reason and motivation for taking up this weird and wonderful sport in the first place, wasn’t a great one. I was trapped in a bad cycle of body dysmorphia and food restriction. My “why” was literally to burn extra calories and let me tell you that is NOT a good reason to take up running.
Sure, running does burn more calories than a lot of other forms of exercise (roughly 100 calories per mile, depending on your build and metabolism). But that’s really not enough to keep you going when the going gets tough.
If you actually want to stick with running long term you need something more substantial than that! And it can’t be something super rigid or just one big goal. For example, there is a pretty decent sized population of people who have run a marathon and then never run another step in their lives.
Your “why” will definitely change over the years. Mine went from just being a calorie burn, to proving people wrong (my WHOLE life I was always told I was un-athletic and I BELIEVED that for the longest time), then it turned into me proving to myself that I can do hard things. At certain times it was just to keep me sane. That turned into me running just because I thought it was fun. Right now my “why” is running to keep myself and my unborn baby happy and healthy. And to help relive some of the aches and pains that come with pregnancy. 😂
Your “why” could be that your using running to fill the void after you lost a loved one. Or something to help you recover from an addiction. It can be a celebration of life! Maybe you overcame cancer or you run for someone who can’t anymore or who never could in the first place.
Everyone’s “why” is different and deeply personal. If you haven’t found yours I STRONGLY recommend taking some time to sit down and really think about why you run and what you actually want from your running. Writing it out in a journal, blog, Instagram post, or even just a scrap of paper can be very helpful in this situation. But I really think everyone who runs should really take some time to consider this! Even if it does sound a little “out there” to you. 😉
Well, that’s it from me!
Is there anything you wish you had known when you started running?