Let me start this topic off with a big fat disclaimer – I am not the gospel here. I don’t have a degree in sports something, or in personal training, I am not a doctor, not a nutritionist, not a dietician. You need to listen to your body and do what’s right for you at the end of the day.
Now – let’s get into it, shall we?
This is going to all be relative for where you are in your running journey. Maybe you have never really run before, but want to do your first half marathon. Maybe you want to get into a running routine and not plan for a race at all. If you’ve never run at all, but want to start, this beginner’s guide from Runner’s World is a very good jumping off point. Maybe you are running 80 miles a week and are a professional, if so – why are you here? I can’t help you. HAHA.
If you have the luxury – it would be ideal for you to have a “base” before signing up for your first race. Your base meaning what you normally run, even when you aren’t training for anything. If you don’t have a base, that’s ok. Just remember that building slowly is key.
- To reiterate my statement above, building the amount of time you are running each week very slowly is the key. The “10%” rule is a very popular rule of thumb – basically don’t increase your mileage more than 10% each week. If you ran 30 miles one week successfully, trying for 40 the next week could be risky.
- Two building weeks, one “deload” week. This is different for everyone, but this is what works for me. You might do a couple of weeks building – 40 miles, then 44 miles, then take a 35 mile week to recover from the two weeks of building.
- Recovery days count – not every run you do should be a hard and strenuous workout. You should alternate with days of running slow and easy. Focus on your form on these days and train your muscles memory to maintain that form the more tired you are.
- Strength training helps – as your start to build mileage, your body may need some help. Most of us are not biomechanically blessed. Your right glute might be weaker than your left, and after 40 minutes of running, the right glute lets your knee start to collapse in. This can cause irritation and pain. Doing strength work to keep your legs firing evenly, posture upright and core tight – and all those things will really help. Even 15 minutes after your run is a great place to start.
- Cross training helps – running is a very repetitive motion. Giving your body a chance to do something else will also prevent your risk of injury
- Don’t forget to fuel your running. When I first started running I made the mistake of continuing to eat like I wasn’t burning all those extra calories. Fueling your machine will help you get stronger and faster.
- On the flip side, be aware of much more you are taking in if you notice your pants getting tighter. Sometimes a workout can feel so hard, and you just feel like you DESERVE a lot of food after. You probably won’t feel your best if that is your mentality all the time. Sure, every once in a while, I go for it with a burger, a glass or wine or beer and a cookie. But doing that every day after a 3 mile run may not have you feeling great. Reward yourself in other ways, a new playlist, a pedicure for those tired feet, a new outfit, meeting up with a friend to run.
- If you feel pain somewhere, stop. Take that pain seriously. Give it a few days of cross training or complete rest and don’t run again until it goes away. If it persists, go to a physical therapist. They are able to find out what part of your body is being overused, and what part is being underused. Having a physical therapist help you target WHY the pain is happening is almost more important than relieving the symptoms themselves. If you can figure out the why, the symptoms will go away on their own.
- This point should really be 6A. If you feel pain somewhere, and go to a doctor, and they tell you to “just stop running.” That doesn’t have to be the answer. Get a second opinion. Find a running group and ask some of the runners for their doc recommendations. You want a doctor who has a goal to get you back on the road, not keep you off it. Sure, there probably are some situations where that is the answer. However, in my experience, all too often doctors are very quick to tell you to just take a few days off or decide that maybe you just aren’t meant to be a runner. I have been told that I’m just not meant to be a runner many times. 3 marathons and 2 Boston qualifiers later, cough cough….
- Be careful of the comparison trap. I have fallen victim to this myself over the last 18 weeks of Boston training. Just because one person excels when they run 70 miles a week, doesn’t mean you will. It doesn’t mean you can’t work up to that, but follow your journey and know your body. A good plan for you might mean injury for someone else’s body – or vice versa.
Most important – never forget that this is fun! If you stop enjoying it, switch it up. You get to make the rules.