Hi there. I’ll fill you in on my weekend tomorrow. The race was wonderful, but I’m so sleepy, so for now, please enjoy this!
I just can’t get enough acronyms up in this piece, so I’m dropping another: GOAR or Get Out And Run! Ostensibly, this is a running blog, so I figured I should do some running posts now and then. This is all anecdotal. I’m not an expert. I’m not even a very experienced runner. I just like to run, and I want to help others like to run too. That’s my manifesto.
I’m starting at the beginning, because I believe that’s the best place to start. Today I’ll talk about essential starting gear, goal setting and planning.
You want to run? That’s awesome! You don’t really want to run but you feel like you should/might like it/could use it in your life? That’s less awesome, but I’ve been there, and I have a feeling you’ll want to run soon. I started running because my mom made me, so trust me when I tell you there is no right or wrong reason to start.
That’s really it. I promise. Well, maybe not in that order. You should probably get socks before you try on shoes, but still, that’s really it. There are endless amounts of gadgets out there to make you run harder/better/faster/stronger/more like kanye west, and reading running blogs can make you feel like if you don’t have a Garmin or Spi-belt, you should probably just stay home, but that’s not true. The best thing about running is it’s inclusive nature. Anyone, anywhere can do it. So, for now, let’s just stick to the basics.
You need good socks and shoes because, while running effects your whole body, it will initially take it’s biggest toll on your feet. You’re going to want sports socks. These are just non-cotton socks that fit your feet. I just got 12 at Target for $11. It’s not a big investment, but it’s worth it.
I like any kind where the ankle comes up high enough so that no part of your shoe is touching your skin (blister city) but also stops short of making you look like a goober. That, of course, is personal preference. Maybe you like looking like a goober.
After socks, you’re going to want running sneakers. These are not the same thing as athletic shoes. Just because you have a pair of sneakers, does not mean you should run in them. While I agree, that getting out there and just doing it is important, bad shoes will make you hate running and start you off on a bad foot (get it?). Unfortunately, running shoes are not cheap. They range anywhere from $85 (in my dreams) to $150. They are an investment for sure, but they’re worth it, and they’re the most money you’ll ever really need to spend on this sport. Plus, as a newer runner, new shoes will probably last you a year.
If you are new to running, I strongly recommend going to a dedicated running store. In the NY/NJ area, that’d be Runner’s High or Fleet Feet, but Google running stores for your area. I advise this over say a Sports Authority because there’s a lot that goes into choosing a running shoe, and it helps to have an expert. Most people working at running stores are runners, and they usually know their stuff.
Generally, you walk into a running store and they do a variety of tests to analyze your gait (how your foot connects with the ground when you run). They might take a scan of your foot. It’s all very cool and sciencey. On the other hand, they might just watch you run. Either way is good. If you’ve been running in other shoes, bring those. Sometimes, the people at the store can look at the pattern of wear on old shoes to learn more about your gait. After the analysis, you’ll be recommended a shoe type. The three main types are stability, motion control and neutral shoes. If you’re interested in learning more about what these mean, check this out. They’ll probably bring you a few to try on. Put them on, lace them up and jog around in them just like you would if you were running because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what anyone tells you, it matters how you feel in the shoe. If there’s any tightness, pinching, rubbing or general uncomfortableness, that probably isn’t your shoe. Don’t worry though. You’ll find great ones.
When you pick your shoes, ask the store about their return and exchange policy. Some places will let you return worn shoes for up to 90 days, which is good to know. This leads into a money saving strategy. Often, stores with good exchange policies like that will have shoes that have been worn once and returned. They usually mark these down quite a bit. If you’re looking to save some money, but still want quality shoes, be sure to ask about this, and check it out.
Once you’ve got your shoes and socks, you’ve got all the gear you really need. As for the other stuff, any comfortable shorts or pants will do just fine. I’m kind of a baby about shorts, so I prefer running specific ones over non-running specific shorts, but I got my first few pairs at Target. If you’re a girl, you’ll want a good (not expensive, just well fitting) sports bra. Guys will also benefit from tighter fitting undergarments. For t-shirts, I tend to prefer light cotton tees, but that’s a personal thing. Don’t go crazy buying running gear right away; it takes some trial and error to figure out what you like, so save your monies for down the road.
Once you’ve got the gear, it’s time to set some goals. Starting out can be really intimidating because you never really know what to do, but remember, there’s no wrong way to start. Try picking a goal that’s meaningful for you. Maybe you want to run an upcoming 5k (be sure to give yourself at least 2 months). Maybe you want to run 4 days a week every week for a month. Maybe you want to run 1 mile without stopping. All of those are great goals. After you pick a goal, think about how you’ll achieve it, and set a plan. Let’s say you want to run a 5k in 3 months. I think you should register for a race. It’ll give you some motivation on those days when you’re just not feeling it. I use Runner’s World and Running in the USA to find races in my area. If you can convince a friend to sign up with you, even better! I think bribery with desserts works best.
A goal without a plan is sort of meaningless, so let’s get planning! Using the example of a 5k, you’re going to want to make sure you can run a comfortable 3.1 miles come race day. Let’s say you’re starting from scratch. I haven’t personally used it, but I know a lot of people who’ve had success wit the Couch to 5k Program. They even have an iPhone app! If you like the structure of a plan, I think this one would be great. The basic idea is to ease into running by run/walking until you can run continuously for 30 minutes. If that sounds impossible today, I promise you it’s not. You can do this.
If you’re trying to hit another goal like running 4 days a week every week for a month, set some mini goals for yourself too. I like to look at my weeks ahead of time to determine when I’ll be able to complete each run. Scheduled runs are much harder to back out on. Maybe plan a little reward for successfully reaching your goal. A pedicure sounds awfully nice after your first month of running.
Don’t let little failures set you back. Maybe you didn’t hit four runs one week. It’s ok. Take a breath. Forgive yourself. Remind yourself why you’re doing this (you want to get healthy! you want to be a runner! you look so cute in your new running shoes!) and keep your eyes focused on your goal. Tomorrow is another day and another chance to get back on track.
So, there you have it. You’ve got the gear. You’ve set your goals. You’ve made a plan. You got this. And remember, the first day you lace up and GOAR, you’re a runner. That’s pretty awesome.
If you’re just starting, why do you run? What are your goals?
If you’ve been running for a while, did you have a goal or a plan to get there when you first started?