Before you start, running may seem fun, easy, and straightforward. A quick way to drop a few pounds and finally fit back into those skinny jeans.
But then you actually start. And… well… things may not be as easy as they appeared.
Running can be hard. Even when you (usually) enjoy running, some days can be really discouraging.
Tough Love: Advice For New Runners
I don’t want to discourage anyone from running, but I believe setting realistic expectations is the key to happiness and sticking with a new habit.
If you expect something to be easy, when it gets hard you may consider quitting. After all, you wanted easy!
But if your expectations are more in line with reality, and you are ready for.. let’s just call them ‘less than ideal situations’, it can be a little less upsetting if that thing actually comes to pass.
So this is my tough love. My advice to new runners.
More than anything, I want you to know that if (when?) any of these things happen to you:
- It’s not just you!
- You aren’t doing anything wrong!
- You aren’t a bad runner (or not a ‘real runner’)
These things happen to many (if not most) runners at some point. They are rites of passage, not something to be feared!
There Will Be Days When You REALLY Don’t Want To Run
There will be many days where you will get out the door and run with very little fuss.
Other days… not so much.
Some days, you will come up with dozens of excuses why you can’t run. You’re tired. It’s hot, or humid, or rainy. You don’t have time. You have to work on that thing for work.
I get most of my household chores done on days when I don’t want to run (I try to at least keep my procrastination productive).
Don’t let the excuses win. Head out the door anyway.
It is very rare that you’ll regret going out for a run.
Some Runs Will Suck
On some runs, you’ll head out and you’ll feel amazing and unstoppable.
On others, your run will simply just suck. Every step will bring misery.
You can do everything right, and some days it just won’t matter. It just doesn’t click. You may feel terrible, fat, slow, worthless. Like it was pointless that you even started.
It’s not just you, I promise. It happens to us all!
Learn what you can from the bad run and forget the rest.
Don’t let one bad run discourage you from running next time. Your next run may be one of the amazing ones.
Gains May Be Slow
Gains in running can be slow, so slow you may not even notice you are making them. In fact, if you begin running correctly (read: gradually), gains should be slow. Pushing too hard, or going too fast or too far too soon, is just asking for overuse injuries or burnout.
If you keep showing up and doing your runs, doing your slow and steady thing, you will make progress.
Be sure to:
Set specific goals
Set a specific goal that you can accomplish (for example run X miles without walking or running an 11-minute mile).
A vague goal like ‘run faster’ is a goal you can never reach – you can always ‘get faster’. Goals you can never reach are frustrating!
Occasionally look back to where you were when you started. Chances are you’ve made more progress than you realize.
Set realistic expectations
Unless you are blessed with the most amazing genetics ever, you can’t start running and expect to finish a marathon or win age group awards in a few months. Progress takes time!
Know yourself. Understand where you are starting from, and how much time and effort you are willing to put into running. Based on that, set your goals and expectations accordingly.
Running Can Be Boring
For something so many of us spend a lot of time doing, running can be super boring. You put one foot in front of the other over and over and over (and over and over…).
In this age of digital distractions, we aren’t used to any activity where you can’t immediately pull out your phone and distract yourself the second you get bored.
Choosing new and interesting routes can help, as can running with friends and building a playlist of great music or entertaining podcasts, but no matter what you do, know that at some point, you will get bored.
Getting used to the boring parts of running, if not straight up embracing the boredom as a moving meditation, is a big part of becoming a runner.
You May Gain Weight
Many first time runners may gain, not lose, weight as they start.
Be sure you aren’t over fueling (you don’t need a Gatorade and an energy bar to fuel a 30-minute run), and that you are eating a well-balanced diet. If you are, and you are still gaining a little bit of weight, don’t be shocked.
A little weight gain can be caused by gaining muscle (while losing fat), or by retaining water as your body and your hormones figure out what your new needs are for your new active lifestyle.
Take note of your body measurements or how specific clothes fit to track fitness gains that aren’t reflected on the scale.
If you keep at it (and keep fueling properly), the weight will come off eventually.
You will chafe parts of your body you didn’t know you had.
Chafing is usually thought of as an issue for marathoners and runners doing lots of mileage, but it can also be an issue for new runners who haven’t (yet!) built callouses in FCA (frequently chafed areas) or who haven’t found the right gear or chafing prevention methods.
Body Glide is your friend!
Good Luck and Happy Running!