Every couple of months I get an email or telephone call from a friend, a different one each time, asking me to please help motivate their spouse, friend, neighbor or sometimes just themselves. By the time they call, themotivation is usually not needed. The person they are calling about is almost always motivated but usually lacks the confidence to jump into a routine. For the next week I usually spend several days emailing back and forth with the newbie, answering questions about shoes, nutrition, running programs, and ways to stay motivated.
I am not a coach. I am not an expert. So, why do these people call me for help? Well, let me be completely honest with you. When they first started calling almost ten years ago, I believed they were calling because they had told there spouse or friend, “Hey, if Chubby Ann can do it, then so can you.” I haven’t been Chubby Ann for a while, so I feel confident enough now to say, they call me because I am one of the most committed exercisers they know. I have been a runner for 18 years and I love it. But beyond the love, it is how I identify myself, and it is how others think of me. I am their running and fitness friend.
I received another of these calls this morning. A friend is considering completing his first marathon but doesn’t know how to get started. We had been emailing back and forth, with me saying many of the same things I have said for years, when suddenly it hit me – Maybe I should write these things down for people who don’t call but are interested in getting fit, running their first 5k, 10k or even marathon. So, here goes. Everything I think a newbie to fitness and running should know to get started.
- Shoes and Clothes – Buy your self a good pair of proper running shoes from a real running specialty store. Have them fitted for you so you know you are getting the right ones for your size and your goal. Running in your old tennis shoes or even a pair of running shoes that you bought ten years ago, is the fastest way to sabotage a new fitness routine. Clothes? The same thing. Make sure you get technical gear that looks and feels good, not the three sizes too big t-shirt that you got for free when ordering Christmas presents for the kids three years ago. By purchasing these things, you not only make sure you don’t chafe and blister before your new sport becomes a habit, you also make a financial commitment to the idea of getting fit.
- The first mile is always the hardest – It literally takes our bodies a full mile to warm up to the optimum temperature for exercise. People say to me all the time, “I can’t run a mile.” My answer is, “But you could run two.” If you get yourself past that first mile (walk it if you need to), then you can be a real distance runner. Even after eighteen years I always take the first mile slowly. I let my body reach its optimum temperature and then I speed up.
- Get a goal – Not a “I want to wear my skinny jeans” kind of goal. That goal will be met easier if you have a race or walk in your calendar, one you have actually signed up for. Make it something that is doable but is a little bit outside of your comfort zone. If you have never run more than five miles, qualifying for the Boston Marathon might be a little tough, but running a half marathon three months from now is completely doable – if you have a plan.
- Get a plan – There are running programs everywhere. Running clubs often have different groups competing in different events throughout the year. Join one of these and make friends while you get fit. If you can’t do this, then go to www.runnersworld.com and look up training programs. Once you have the plan, make it a priority. Schedule the runs, based on your program, and stick to them.
- Have fun – This is the one most easily forgotten tip. If you are not having fun while you are running, you will probably not keep doing it. Having fun while running is easier than you might think. The trick is to remember that fun is part of the goal. Look for things you enjoy. Listen to music, dance wildly at stop lights, sing out loud, run through the woods, jump over puddles. Run, like Phoebe on Friends, like you are a kid again. Whatever it takes to make it fun, do it. You will not regret it.
I am sure there are other tips and hints but these are the first ones I always give. If you are an experienced runner and have additional tips, add them in the comments section. If you are a new runner and have questions, ask them there too. I am not an expert but after running for so many years, I have probably come across the answer somewhere and if I haven’t, I have lots of running friends who are always willing to help a new runner.