Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to get started as a runner

Let me just preface this post by saying that I am in no way qualified to give advice about running--I'm no running coach! (Update in 2013- I got my certification as a running coach. And I still stand by everything written here.) But a lot of people have been asking me lately about how to get started, so I'm happy to share with you what I've learned over the past couple of years as a runner. This is just based on my own experience.

I've been getting a LOT of blog visitors from Pinterest lately (welcome!!) and many many emails asking about running and my diet. I'll save the diet for another post, because I feel like I'm always answering that question, but I love to talk about running--so here goes.

When I was 253 pounds, I couldn't even imagine being a runner one day. And now I'm running at least three days a week, and training for my first full marathon... VOLUNTARILY.  I don't *love* running, like a lot of runners claim to; I just love the way it makes my body feel. I love that it's a very efficient form of exercise. I love that it makes me a nicer person in everyday life. I love that it helps me maintain my weight. I love how it's shaped my body.

But I hate actually DOING it. ;)  While I'm running, I'm always thinking "Five more miles" "Four more miles" "Three more miles" etc. Wishing I was done. And then when I finish, I think, "Wow, what a great run! I love running!"


Anyway, back to getting started...

I think the very first thing that one should do when thinking about becoming a runner is register for a 5k race. Say what?! Yes, register for a race. There is nothing that will motivate you to go out and run more than knowing you will HAVE TO run a race soon.

I registered for a 5k race that was many months away, thinking it would take me that long to be build up to running 3.1 miles. I don't think you'll need THAT long. If you're a beginner, I'd give it about three months. Once you register for your 5k race, pick a training schedule. My very favorite training schedules are those by Hal Higdon. He has a novice, intermediate, and advanced schedule for just about any distance race you can think of. I would try his Novice 5k schedule. (Lots of people use a program called Couch to 5k also--I attempted it numerous times, but it was just too difficult for me. But maybe you can give it a whirl with different results).

The shortest run on Hal Higdon's 5k schedule is 1.5 miles. When I first started running, I couldn't run even 1/10th of a mile, so there is no way I could start on that schedule. I had to build my way up. If that is the case for you, set the training schedule aside for a while. This is how I built up my mileage:  I went outside and ran as far as I could manage (about 1/10th of a mile) and then I walked until I reached 30 minutes total. Then two days later, I did it again, and managed to run a little farther before walking the rest of the way.

I continued to do this (three times per week), running a little farther each day. After I had done about a mile and half, I was frustrated that I felt like I would never get any farther. I mentioned it to my brother, and he told me that I was probably going too fast. He said slow waaaay down, even if I felt like I could walk faster than I was running, and see if I could go farther.

I took his advice and managed to run the 5k on my next time out! I was very very slow, but I didn't have to walk at all. Once I managed to run 5k, I tried to do it a little faster each time. I would set a goal before my run: "Today, I'm going to run 5k in 34:59 or less" or "Today, I'm going to run 5k in 32:30 or less" etc. Eventually, I reached a big goal of a sub-30:00 5k, which was very exciting for me.


You can build up your mileage that way, or you can follow the training schedule once you're able to run 1.5 miles. I LOVE training schedules, because you don't have to think about what you're going to do--the schedule just tells you what to do! However, you don't HAVE to follow the schedule right to the tee. I switched my days around as needed, and just checked off each run as I did them that week. If you're scheduled to run and it's pouring rain, there is no harm waiting until the next day to do it. Or if you're schedule to rest, but it's a gorgeous day, head out there and do the following day's run.


On getting faster...

I'm definitely not an expert here, either. I found what works best for ME is to add an interval workout once a week. Intervals are where you alternate slow running with fast running for short periods of time. For example, I might do the following:  Run 0.2 miles at a 10:00 min/mile pace; Run 0.2 miles at a 8:30 min/mile pace; repeat for the desired length of the workout. These workouts are easy to do on a treadmill, because you can set the pace with the touch of a button.

You all know how much I looove my dreadmill (not), so I choose to do intervals outside whenever possible. My Garmin Forerunner 305 has an interval setting that beeps at the beginning of each interval. So when I hear a beep, I know to start running hard, and when it beeps again, I slow to a jog. Then later, I can look on the computer to see what my pace was for each interval. (You can set the intervals to be however frequent you want--either by distance OR time).

Another speed workout is called a tempo run. You run this at a "comfortably hard" pace. If your "comfortable" pace is 10:30/mi, then you might run the tempo at a 10:00/mi. It's faster than you're used to, but not so fast that you're sprinting.


Once you're comfortable with running about three times per week, you can make your own ideal running schedule when you're not training for something. Ideally, I like to do three runs per week: one shorter, easy run (about 3-4 miles at an easy pace); one speed workout, either intervals or a tempo run; and one long run, usually 6-10 miles.

When you want to do a race, you can follow the corresponding training schedule for that race. I always use Hal Higdon's programs, because they are very "do-able" for someone like me.

In a nutshell:
1) Sign up for a race.
2) Start training (three times per week).
3) Build up mileage by running slowly--work on speed later.
4) Eventually, try to do an easy run, a speed workout, and a long run each week.
5) Stay consistent. Run three times per week to keep in shape--if you take weeks off, it will be that much harder to get started again. Staying consistent is probably THE most important advice I can give you! I made a promise to myself that I would run a minimum of three times per week, NO MATTER WHAT. And with the exception of my two surgeries, I've kept that promise every single week for almost 2 years now.


A word on shoes... I HIGHLY recommend going to a running store and getting fitted for shoes. Not all running shoes are created equal, and you will benefit from having a professional fit you for the right shoe. You will probably pay a lot of money for a good pair of shoes--but it is WELL WORTH IT when you don't get blisters and tendonitis and stress fractures from wearing bad shoes.

I was super embarrassed to go to a running store when I was fat, because I felt like I didn't belong. But I got over it after I was in a walking cast for 3 weeks because of tendonitis. Now that I wear good shoes, I have no problems with my feet!

I think that pretty much sums up the basics about getting started as a runner. Hope this answers some questions!

55 comments:

  1. Great post. I've run a 5K, but still find it hard to work on speed and to run farther than 3 miles, but I want to do a half marathon next November! So I might check out those running schedules and see if it helps me get further than before! Thanks.

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  2. Great advice!

    Something I would like to add; expect to have awful runs. Sometimes it's just an off week and sometimes it's just one run. Gotta have the bad to give you perspective and appreciate the good right?

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  3. I read all your posts on running and you had lost around 73 lbs before you started running so I think I will wait until I'm around 180 lbs. before I start. I don't want to get injured. I walk 90 minutes on a treadmill every day and haven't missed a day for 58 days, and stick to a 1200 calorie diet. so I'm very committed. Thanks for all the great advice and encouragement!
    Ann

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  4. Wow. Great a thorough advice. I won't run unless I'm being chased, but I can appreciate the time that went into the post. You've definitely got a knack for breaking things down and explaining aspects of your plan. Thanks for sharing so much with us!

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  5. Great advice!!

    Question about Amazon, I order from them frequently. Do you only get credit if we order products you listed? Or do we have to go through your site? Sorry if I missed the details!

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  6. I want to comment on the above poster about waiting to get down to 180 to start running. I weigh 228 (and am only 5 foot 2) and I recently started a beginners running program through a local running store. You can do it, you just have to get out there!

    And about the shoes. As part of the program we got a free pair of shoes and fitting. I usually wear a size 7 and the running shoes I got (professionally fitted for) were a size 8.5! I was so surprised! It made me believe the profesional fit is totally worth it! My feet feel great!

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  7. Awesome! I am working on the Spark People 5K your way currently, but I am going to bookmark that link and keep your advice handy!

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  8. Great advice Katie! I would just add that when I started running it took me a while to learn that I needed to stretch after my runs. Just some basic leg stretches but they helped me with leg pains and shin splints.

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  9. Thank you so much for this post! I really need to get better at running (because right now it's number one on the list of exercises I hate) but just wasn't sure where to start. Thanks for a push in the right direction! To the shoe store, I go!

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  10. love this post, it really helps! I'm going to follow your advice to a T! Plus I think you are absolutely qualified to give advice!

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  11. Got new Brooks shoes this week....awesome!

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  12. Great advice Katie. Thank you so much for sharing! I have just started jogging so this is very helpful information! Look look amazing!!

    Thanks again,
    Hannah

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  13. Thank you for being so inspiring and real. I have been running for about a year, and hate it every time, until I finish my run. Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated when it's a struggle to get through it...I really appreciate your honesty about the difficulty of running at times. Keep up the good work!

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  14. I love this post! And I found you from Pinterest!

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  15. I love this post, and I just signed up for my first 5k!

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  16. I run - I'm fat. I ran my first 5k just last year weighing in at... heavy. I did couch to 5k, then I slipped on the ice and messed up my foot (while walking to work), then after I healed I did C to 5k again. I love it. Now I'm running 4 miles in 40 minutes every other day. I LOVE my tready. I LOVE running. I LOVE reading about your running. Kudos Katie. Also, you're post could NOT have been better timed: I was just thinking that I should do something other than just run 4 in 40 all the time - now I have a better idea of how to mix it up!

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  17. Thanks for the advice Katie! What's the best kind of clothing to wear? I live in the South so it never gets too, too cold in the winter, but is there something specific I should stick with? I am doing my first 5k in April so this advice is very helpful!

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  18. You are awesome lady, thanks for the running advice. I tried to start running a couple of months ago, I kept it up for like two weeks and then I hurt myself. I think I had a shin splint because my shins hurt soo bad. Im determined to start again, in a sick way I enjoyed running until I hurt myself. Oh, yeah and I blame you and the "Green Monster Movement" lady for my new obsessions with smoothies and protein shakes. My boyfriend thinks Im crazy and its all y'alls fault.

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  19. Thank you! This was SO helpful!

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  20. Thanks for the information! I signed up for my very first 5K in November (the 5K is in February). I use the Couch to 5K program. I have the app on my phone and I love it!

    The best advice I got from one of my pro-runner clients. Beginners should think is minutes, not miles. At least not in the beginning. When I started I had a hard time running for more than 30 seconds straight and I'm now up to 5 minutes straight. Next week I'll be aiming for 8 minutes and so on. I run 3-4 nights a week. My goal is to run the entire 5k without walking in under 45 minutes. It'll be a slow jog, but that's what I'm shooting for. I'll work on speed after the 5k, lol.

    And getting fitted for the right shoes is VERY important!

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  21. What is your name on pinterest? I'd love to follow you. Mine is rahelradisli =)

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  22. it's me again :) now as I read the post until the end :)

    Wow, this is no mean feat that you run three times a week no matter what happens. I'm really proud of you! I like jogging or is it like you I like the way I feel afterwards? :) At the moment I don't have any motivation to run outside, but I'm going to the gym everyday (since 3rd January) :)

    Anyway, go for it. You're an admirable and beautiful woman! ;)

    love from Switzerland
    RahelRadisli (also on Twitter)

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  23. Such a great post. I am in my weight loss journey now. I am with you on the not "loving" running but loving how I feel after. Everyone thinks I am crazy to run early in the morning but honestly- it makes me a better person the rest of the day! lol

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  24. Thank you so much for doing this blog! I have thought I was the only one that struggled with the couch to 5k! I have googled better ways to start running and haven't found any! To be honest when I was younger and much thinner I couldn't run so being able to run would be a HUGE accomplishment! I will definitly look into the Hal Higdon training program! Thanks Katie!

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  25. Katie- What great advice!!!!! I especially agree about the shoes!!!!
    In that last picture of you in this post, you look SUPER long and lean!!!! And like a runner!!!!!!
    ~Laura

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  26. You've definitely shared some great info and unfortunately those Hal Hidgon, Couch to 5K programs just arent geared for you, but the masses.

    I've had my share of clients come to me because they were injured or felt bad because they couldn't complete any of the programs.

    I highly recommend seeking out a Running Coach for a month or two, we aren't as expensive as you might think!

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  27. Thanks for all the advice Katie! I started running 2 years ago, but never really thought I'd enjoy it...until now. ha I've been using the C25K and now I actually find that I like to run and it is great for weight loss!

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  28. Awesome. Thanks so much for the detailed post. I really appreciate it. It was exactly what I needed. I tried the C25K too with no success. I always gave up at week 4. I guess I just needed an alternative spelled out for me!

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  29. Yes, let me add my support to Couch to 5k. As a former high school cross country runner, I used this to get back into it. When you haven't run competitively in 15 years, you just can't jump back into it! So, I downloaded the app on my phone. It's great. It tells you when to run/walk/cool down/warm up! Once I graduated from it, I've been able to run a 5k again.

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  30. OMG, You have no idea how much I needed this post! I am excited to hear how you got started. I LOVE this idea of just running as far as I can and then try for a little more each day. I CAN DO THAT!! My dad owns a Racing Company so I can do races whenever I want. I should take more advantage of that.
    You are amazing as always.

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  31. Thanks so much! This is something that I have been really wondering about! Now I just need to find a great place to run and I'll be all set!!

    Love reading your blog, you're a huge inspiration!

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  32. Thanks a bunch for the running info. I have a $100 GC to a running store and I desperately need new shoes for my walking (not a runner...yet), and I have been putting it off and putting it off because I dread of what they may think of a fat lady coming in for running shoes. I do desperately need a professional to fit shoes for me because my feet hurt so badly, especially after a 3 to 4-mile walk. So, I will bite the bullet and get in there pronto for some new shoes & try not to think about what the staff are thinking. Thanks for the extra boost of confidence...in everything. :)

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  33. I've been waiting for a post like this to pop up somewhere. I recently started following a bunch of 'formerly fat' runner blogs to find some information. You nailed it, thank you so much Katie!

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  34. I read in your past posts, and from viewing your pics, that you walked your first two marathons. (I believe they were half-marathons?) I had no idea they allow walkers in a marathon, and I was so inspired by this! I want to do a half-marathon in May, which will be a big challenge for me. Thanks for sharing that walkers are allowed/encouraged at marathons.

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  35. Awesome post. Love how you explained everything and it was very well written.

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  36. Awesome post! I really want to try running. To bad winter finally showed up in St Louis! But you are total motivation for me.

    I have an OT question: when you do your fat % monitor do you do it only once? When i get on my scale I get on to make sure it gives me the same weight three times. I'm anal but those digital scales just don't give you the same number every time. I try the same with my fat % monitor and if I do it 3 times in a row it seems to go up each time :( That's depressing!

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  37. Great advice Katie! I am also getting ready for my first full marathon (and am following Hal Higdon's novice marathon plan!)

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  38. Thank you for the wonderful advice! You are an inspiration and your determination is admirable! What about strength training? What do you do?

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  39. Thanks so much for all the great advice, Katie!!

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  40. It's amazing to me that C25K was too hard for you, but then you went out and did a sub-34.00 5K! You are SO MUCH SPEEDIER than I am! :D I have endurance, but not speed, so I'm doing the C25K thing okay. Just finished W7D1 @ speed 5 on the dreadmill (12 mph), which for me is fantabulous. Once I finish the 8 weeks, I'm going to work in some interval training with speed 6. I really want to get to a 10-min. mile. I think I can do it if I work up to it.

    Thanks for writing about running. I was so inspired by some of your pics, esp. the one where you are the same weight but TWO different sizes due to running. I do think I'm at the "slimmest" 195 I've ever been at. Looking forward to what I'll look like as I near my goal of 140. 50 down. 55 to go!

    Joan

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  41. Thanks for the post. I think the best piece of advice I always give people who've never run before is to go SLOW, much slower than you think, when you are starting out. I tried running for years & thought it was something that I just couldn't do until a girlfriend invited me for a run. She ran SLOW and amazingly I was able to run with her for 30 minutes (we were probably running a 11:00-12:00 minute mile). Now I have the running "bug" and have been running consistently for 7 years!

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  42. This is awesome advice! I've been literally trying to become a runner for months and it just never seems to get easier! I jog 4-5 times a week but I can't seem to get any faster. I've never tried an actual "plan" though and now I want to look into it. Thanks!

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  43. I just started the C25K again and am on Week 2 Day 1, which is the farthest I have ever got on it, and I think it's because I am running SLOW, like 3.5mph! I know it is really slow, but I am running! I am so psyched!
    I love your blog!

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  44. Thanks for the ideas on starting! "I think I can. I think I can."

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  45. THANKS so much for this post and for your entire blog! i've learned so much and i have to say you have been one of my inspirations. although i've just started i hope to end this THIS year on a different note. not sure how it will end exactly but hopefully a little different than 2011! your blog has inspired mine http://fabtofit.blogspot.com

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  46. Wow. This was a fantastic post! I'm so glad I followed the link from Miss April's blog! I have been wanting to run too but have been experiencing some of the same frustrations you mention. Now I know it's not me I just need to keep going! thanks!

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  47. Love it! "While I'm running, I'm always thinking "Five more miles" "Four more miles" "Three more miles" etc. Wishing I was done. And then when I finish, I think, "Wow, what a great run! I love running!"" This so describes me (and probably most runners).

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  48. Im the Anonymous who posted on Jan 12 at 830 pm. Since that post I signed up for a 5k as you advised, April 21st, but Im getting so frusturated! Ive been training three times a week, ill do a ten minute warm up and then jog for two minutes and walk for five. I alternate between the two minute run and five minute walk for thirty minutes. The first day I felt great, I had minimal to no pain the next day. I went out the second time and felt like shit I could barely run for a minute at a time, I was just really tired. The day after that my shins hurt so bad like they did the last time I attempted running. Today I trained some more and my shins hurt even worse. I know the obvious answer is to wait maybe two to three days before I train again, but the 5k is coming up and I want to be able to run. I was about to start bawling on the track today out of the frustration. What am I doing wrong? Ive looked up the correct running form, im making sure my foot is hitting midfoot on the track, im running just like everyone else but Im the one with the shin pains. Grrrr. Did you have pain with your shins when you first started running? How did you remedy it?

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    1. Oh no, I'm so sorry you're getting frustrated! It sounds like you might have shin splints, which are very painful. I would definitely wait a few days before trying again--recovery time is JUST as important as training time, honestly! Are you going slowly? I used to think to myself, "This is just a light, easy jog" and somehow, thinking of it that way helped me to go slowly and step lightly.

      Another thing that you can do is stretch after your runs--Google some stretches to help shin splints.

      And finally, it could be your shoes. I had horrible pains to the lateral side of each shin, and it turned out to be tendonitis--caused from the shoes I was wearing!

      You might want to see a doctor to make sure it's not a serious injury, though. I hope it heals soon! Don't stress about it.

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  49. I just want to say thank you so much for doing this post and your blog. You have totally inspired me... yesterday I ran a full mile without stopping for the first time in my life. I wasn't able to do that even when I was in the best shape of my life, going to the gym everyday. That one small success made me feel so great about all the work that I have been doing and gave me the extra boost that I needed to get out of bed this morning to go the gym and RUN! And, that is all thanks to reading this post. Before I read this I never even attempted running when I worked out because it was just too frustrating to fail. Yesterday, I tried and did it! Thank you!

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  50. I just found this blog on Pinterest and I'm so excited! First off: WAY TO GO!!! I know that it is NOT easy to lose weight. Since November 2010 (About 15 months now) I've lost about 110 pounds. I can't wait to read about your journey to see the similarities in what we did to accomplish weight loss! I JUST started running last week. And I must say, you described my feelings about it to a Tee! I absolutely HATE it, but I LOVE the way it makes my body feel. I'm doing couch to 5K, but I'm concerened I won't be able to complete it.... I'm NOT a runner. But I took your advice before I even read it: I am registered for a 5K in April purely for motivation! It surely helps me get out of bed in the morning! Thank you, and I look forward to reading all of your blog!

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)