If you’re looking to start running, you might be wondering where to start. There is a lot of information available for runners, and if this sport is new to you, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Between stride and pace, GU and Clif, gels and bars, and everything in between, you may be tempted to give up before you even start. But I encourage you to forget about all the technicalities of running for your first few weeks and focus on four main things. It’s how I started out, and I recently finished my first half marathon. I’m training for a full marathon now. Ready to know the most important things to focus on when you start out? Here they are.
I cannot stress this enough. If you aren’t hydrated, you won’t be able to perform your best. Not only that, but you’ll be more open to injuries, as well. Keep in mind that hydration does not simply mean drinking water while you’re running. In fact, you should be drinking water all day long so that you’re maintaining a high level of hydration. Human beings need to drink half their body weight in ounces of water per day just to stay hydrated. In other words if you weigh 180 pounds you should be drinking 90 ounces of water per day just for your daily functions. If you’re training for running events of any kind you’ll need more than that. I drink about a gallon of water a day, but you can figure out which level is best for you on a trial and error basis.
Eat! It drives me crazy when I see people start to train for marathons (or even shorter races) to lose weight and subsequently drop their calorie intake to create a larger calorie deficit. I understand the concept, but your body doesn’t work like that. You are going to be building a lot of muscle when you run, and muscle burns fat all day long. I’m still in the process of losing weight, too, but when I’m in full training mode I easily put away 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day if I’m doing a lot of long runs and toning workouts, or about 1,600 to 1,800 if I’m doing shorter runs with less intensity. And yes, I’m still losing weight. Carbohydrates are your best friend. Do not try to go on the Atkins diet and then run. Carb up with fruits and whole grains as much as possible, but don’t overdo it either. About 60 to 70 percent of your diet can be from natural carbs when you’re distance running. Most of my carbs come from fruit and rice along with corn pasta and potatoes, but mainly from the non-processed sources. (However, I do use Gu energy gels if I’m going farther than 10 miles.)
Shoes and Gear
If you’re planning on running long distances your shoes can be your best friends or your worst enemies. Take the time to go to a running store and get your feet tested, or at least ask for advice on which shoes you should be wearing. Which shoes are right for you depend on how your feet hit the ground, your stride, if you pronate, and other similar characteristics of your feet and running style that only a qualified professional will be able to accurately determine. Make sure you have gear that prepares you for the weather you’ll be running in, and have safety items, as well. For instance, if I ever have to run in the dark I wear a clip on the side of my pants that blinks red so people can see me. Always wear reflective gear (Nike has reflectors built into most of their clothing) and make sure you are wearing tech material. Tech material breathes easier, wicks moisture away from your body, and helps keep your body temperature lower so you don’t overheat. It will take some time to research and figure out what sorts of gear and clothing are right for you, but figuring it out is crucial to your comfort and success as a runner.
Patience and Practice
I know you want to run out the door and do a 20-miler right now. I know because I was there, too. I had to start from almost nothing and having zero running experience when I decided to take up this crazy sport of endurance running. I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile, and most of my training “runs” were walks. But the more you keep at it, the more adapt your body will be to your new routine, and the better you’ll get. Don’t worry about speed when you first start out. Your first few weeks to few months of training, depending on your base level of fitness, should be all about getting to a certain level of fitness with your running. If you can’t run for 45 minutes straight, don’t start training for a long distance run yet. Work on getting your level of fitness up to about that level, and then start worrying about the details of running distance. Be patient with yourself and have a great time, because you’re about to embark on an amazing journey that will change your life for the better. Happy trails!