'What To Expect', Advice For The Running Novice
So You’ve Decided To Take Up Running.
First of all, welcome! You have taken your first step towards an addiction that you will struggle to explain to your non-runner friends and struggle even more to explain to yourself. Try not to worry about drawing up entire theses on why you run though: you will find that there is a commonality shared amongst novices and veterans alike that needs no explaining. By extension, you may find that, although everyone has different feet and running styles, different mentalities, beliefs and bodies, there are a few things that every budding runner will inevitably encounter at some point or another - and it is not all sunshine and roses. But fear not: we may be able to give you a heads up about one or two of them to help you find your (literal) feet.
Your First Few Runs
Now, unless you have been blessed with the physiology of a gazelle, you should probably put aside the lofty ambition of a sub-5 minute mile for your first run. And your second. And probably (definitely) your third, fourth and fifth. Because your first run will undoubtedly be much, much harder.
That’s where the fun part comes in.
The key word you will hear over and over again at this point is “consistency,” and with good reason. Your first few runs, unless you have a recent athletic or active background, will be a little bit challenging, as your muscles are being brought to task in a brand new way. But as the days and weeks tick by, provided you take the proper precautions, your legs will adapt and your running will slowly but surely improve. Learning to distinguish between “feeling” your body and “controlling” it is a pretty important factor at this juncture - and, indeed, it will remain important for as long as you run. Do not try to do more than your body is able to. The important thing right now is not that you nail your local parkrun on day one - it’s that you remember to enjoy it. Because, surprise! This is a class sport and we’re thrilled that you’ve decided to take it up.
The Next Step
So you have gotten through your first month of running: congratulations! You have achieved the first of god knows how many arbitrary goals associated with this sport, including PBs, Strava segments and “how much food can I justify eating after this run?” (More on the food front later). A great way to keep up this momentum is by setting a goal for yourself. What do you want to achieve? Your first 5k? A parkrun? Maybe even a marathon? In any event, having a goal in mind will not only provide a sense of structure to your training, but it will also give you a direction in which to go, something to achieve that you have never done before.
Of course, one of the quickest ways for this momentum balloon to burst is an injury. Ensuring you do not up the ante too quickly and taking stock of the nutrients you are taking in before and after runs is a very important part of this process: without the proper nutrition and rest, your body will be deprived of the chance to actually recover. No matter your distance, ability or time, training should be treated as a marathon - and you never want to go out too fast in the marathon. Do not ignore any little niggles, strains or pains - there is no such thing as a painful “rite of passage.” Nearly every injury is avoidable. As before, read your body: know when to go and when to stop. Take stock of where you are and where you want to go, and plan accordingly.
Finding Your Feet
One of the easiest mistakes to make is to assume any shoe will do: after all, if that pair of runners you left at the bottom of your wardrobe somewhere in the region of eternity to forever ago worked way back when, then why should they buckle under a little jog? The sentiment is nice, but that would forego the fact that you are putting 4-5 times your body weight on each leg when running, and that, after a year or so, the cushioning in those old runners will have begun to naturally degrade. Without the adequate support provided by proper running shoes, this additional burden, coupled with the shock on your muscles and bones, may just lead to injury.
Of course, not every shoe suits every runner. Some people have high arches, others low; some people over-pronate (where the ankle pushes inwards upon landing), others remain nice and straight. It is important to note that neither is more “normal” than the other - it is just a matter of determining which category you fall into so that you can better ascertain which shoe you should be wearing. Getting a thorough gait analysis is a good way to ensure you get a shoe that not only suits your running gait, but is also fitted to the shape of your foot - our shoe experts here at the store are always more than happy to provide you with everything you might need in this field.
One Of Your Five A Day
In February 2020, the popular activity-tracker and athletic social media platform, Strava, released a wave of data covering all things from what time of day entire countries prefer to get out cycling to the demographic of athletes who consistently achieved the most PBs (hint: cross-training is the new fad). One such area of focus, however - entitled Strava’s Largest-Ever Study of Runner Motivation: “Why We Run” - took a rather wide-sweeping survey to investigate the driving factors behind why people get into running in the first place. Of the 25000 runners to complete the survey, over 80% cite certain physical motivations, including health and fitness, while 30% cite mental health reasons, such as improving one’s body image. If you would like to read more from the study, the links to the Strava Blog and actual research paper are attached below.
The results speak for themselves: most people take up running for their health, both physical and mental. After this, the question of lifestyle becomes unavoidable - or, more specifically, the “food” question. Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery, muscle growth and, of course, in keeping your energy levels up, so it should never be overlooked. However, it should also not be your driving factor. If you are hungry, then your body needs food. If you find you are more drained when running, think about what you are taking in (carbs, protein, iron etc) and what you are leaving out. And most importantly, never feel like you have to “earn” a meal. Remember to continue enjoying a meal the same way you enjoy running - the benefits will come over time.
Busting The Myth: Running Is Not An Individual Sport.
We all have our own reasons for taking up running, be it to stay fit, get active, or to join friends. There are any number of beginnings for each runner, and thus any number of directions we can take it in. This is where the running community plays a crucial part - because, despite the general outlook that running is an individualistic endeavour, this is an activity that is predicated on looking beyond oneself. You may find that, although PBs and new distances are an alluring prospect, nothing beats the feeling of running in a race amongst an ocean of like-minded people from all sorts of backgrounds. It is a race, sure; but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I felt I had to stop, just to have a perfect stranger cheer me on and get me moving again. Or how many new people I’ve had a laugh with before, during and after a parkrun, how many local faces I’ve come to know by just darting around, or how easily I could fall in with a group of runners for an easy one. In every case, the one thing bringing us all together is running - our differences are left behind when we stick on our runners. So expect complete strangers after your races or parkruns to ask how you got on; expect openness and hospitality at local clubs; and most of all, expect familiarity. These days, it doesn’t help to be a stranger, when our social interactions are limited and our ability to get out and about is curbed. Running is just another way to engage with those around us.
After all, running is not an individual sport, but a shared one.