What to Expect as a New Runner
By Na’Tasha Jones
When I first started running, it seemed pretty straightforward. Lace up and go run, right? I’d done some things on the treadmill, sprints, the occasional jog, but I wasn’t fully prepared for what it meant to run distance with any sort of regularity.
It was surprising and rewarding but also painful and frustrating. There were many times during those first few weeks that I thought, “Maybe this just isn’t for me” or “I’m never gonna be good at this”.
I’ve learned quite a bit in the four years since I started, however, and I’m here to share the things I wish I knew then, so that other new runners (ahem, is that you?) can be better prepared than I was.
It can take time to find your true pace.
It can be tempting to try to go as fast as possible right out of the gate when you first start running. How fast you can run one mile is not the same as your “distance pace”. In fact, runners often refer to their pace by the distance they would normally run at that speed (“Let’s run this at a 10K pace”). Try using a GPS watch or running app on your phone to get an idea of how fast you’re running each mile, then work towards keeping a more steady or sustainable pace with each new run.
Pick a route suited for beginners.
Once you’ve committed to running, of course you’ll be enthusiastic about getting out there. You’re motivated and ready to work, but picking a course above your current skill level will only discourage and possibly injure you.
Start with flatter surfaces and trails, lower traffic areas or even a track at a local school or park. These are easier to navigate and are intended for all levels of runners. Take your time to build up to hilly, rocky or otherwise difficult running routes and soon you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of a different course once you’ve progressed to handle the challenge.
You don’t have to keep up with anyone else.
After running on my own for nearly a year, I joined a running crew. At first, I felt all sorts of intimidation and self-doubt from comparing myself to others in the group. I soon learned, though, that a supportive crew never makes you feel worried about being the “fastest” or the “best”. My crew pushed me in a good way, cheering me on and making me want to finish strong.
Keep a log, either a journal or a digital tracker, to observe you progress. Whether you run alone, or with friends, you’ll soon find your most motivating competition is yourself.
Being sore is okay. Being in real pain is not.
Remembering to warm up and stretch before and after runs can save you a lot of (literal) pain later. A body that is not yet acclimated to running frequently might resist this new change (as with any new fitness program). Warming up the body also serves to prevent injury and prepare you mentally for your run.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS also happens when you’ve had a challenging workout of any sort. It can take up to two days sometimes to really feel this sort of soreness, and that is normal. Plan rest days between runs to help offset these new aches.
If the pain after a run persists or is very intense, however, you’ll want to be sure to be seen by a doctor.
Let someone know where you’re going.
New runners should be prepared for and aware of the potential dangers of running alone. And just like this whole running thing is new to you, it’s new to your friends and loved ones too that you plan to be getting these miles on a regular basis. Let them know where you’ll be and for how long, in case you are injured or otherwise in danger and unable to call for help. See these additional tips for safety and using devices while running as women.
Now that you know what to expect, are you ready to begin your running journey? It’s time.
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