I recently was asked for some tips for a beginner runner who wanted to improve a 5k time. I was inspired to share my thoughts for others who might be interested! Please feel free to comment below on any tips you have too!
Find a plan and use it as a guideline.
I hear some people just get out there and hit the pavement. This can often lead to injuries because running the same distance every day that might be too much. Maybe your cardio fitness is strong enough for this, but your knees and hips might not be used to the pounding on the pavement for that long. I always suggest finding a Couch to 5k or some other beginner/novice training plan to use as a guide. I am partial to Hal Higdon plans. These plans will gradually increase your mileage so your body can adjust. I used one of these plans when I was coming back from my 3 year hiatus.
Don’t focus on going fast. Focus on just getting out there.
A lot of people think they need to run fast to be a runner. That’s not the case at all! If you get out there and run, YOU ARE A RUNNER. Speed will come with time but building your base is the important first step. Once you get that base, you’ll find it gets so much easier.
Get a good pair of shoes.
The wrong pair of shoes can result in aches and pains or serious injuries. I always recommend heading to a local running store and getting advice on what type of shoe you should wear. I love Marathon Sports in the Boston area because they watch you run in each pair of shoe and help you find what might work best for you. I have had a good experience in the past too where we thought a shoe was a good fit but it wasn’t and caused me a lot of pain in my toe and they let me exchange it and helped me find a shoe that worked much better! Finding the right shoe can take some time but having help from the right people can speed up the process. The price might be a little more than what you can find online, but once you find the right shoe, you can get it for cheaper online.
Sign up for a 5k with friends.
Sometimes I need to spend money to stay motivated. Signing up for a race shows you are committed to running a certain distance on a specific day. It also gives you a deadline that you are working up against. You can remind yourself you have to get out there because you need to run on race day!
Remember that it will get easier!
Running was not easy for me and I wasn’t always a runner. I hated it at first. I only started to run casually in college and then more seriously once I was out in the work force. Dave would have to drag me out there to run and I would scold him if he tried to talk to me when we ran because I felt like I was gasping for breath each step. What got me serious was signing up for that race and sticking to a plan.
Find a run club or buddy.
The thought of running with other people can be terrifying. What if they run faster than me? What if they run slower than me? So many what ifs. Depending on the club it can be scary but most clubs are really welcoming. When I joined the Cambridge Running Club it was great because they have a membership leader who is typically there for your first club and will introduce you to members who run similar paces. If you go to a club that doesn’t have a membership leader, don’t be afraid to be vocal. I’ll often as, “what pace do you run?” or mention that you run between X and Y pace so that others know. People will tend to try to group with whoever runs the same pace. Some run clubs will have a leader who will run with the slowest person no matter how slow to make sure no one is alone. My last words regarding clubs is to not get discouraged if you don’t find the right one right away. Try a few and figure out what works best for you! And it’s okay if you decide you don’t want a club at all. I find running alone is sometimes something I need to just be alone with my thoughts (dangerous…I know!).
Know that you don’t HAVE to like running or have to do it!
Maybe you are trying running out because your friends are really into it or because you thought you should try it. Running is amazing but so are so many other types of fitness. You don’t HAVE to run. And even if you are a runner–you don’t always have to be running or training for anything. Although it took some getting used to, I ended up enjoying my break from running and was able to come back feeling re-energized about it!
Are you a new runner? What questions do you have?
Are you an experienced runner? What other tips would you recommend?