Friday, March 2, 2012

A Running Primer

I just typed this up for a friend who is going to run her first 10k in September (I'm hoping to run it with her!), and figured I'd share it in case it is useful to others interested in taking up running. It's info I think I could have used when I started out!

Any questions? Suggestions for newbie (or otherwise!) runners?

Hi [friend]!
I'm going to be gearing up for 10k training for May Race Weekend, which made me think of the 10k in September! I thought I'd send you an email with a run down of information I would have found useful in your position - let me know if you have other questions! I'm really hoping I'll be able to run this with you, and train virtually together, too! The great thing about running a 10k is that it is long enough to be impressive to people, but you're not training for HUGE amounts of time.
Yay! I'm excited :)

1) Shoes: You need good running shoes; not sure if you have them. Go to a reputable running store (in Ottawa I would recommend Sports4 on Bank), get fitted. Regular gym shoes that you use for everything else aren't the same; they should have you walk around the store barefooted (called a "gait analysis") to figure out what kind of support you need, and then have you try on a bunch.

2) Other gear: Since you already workout, you probably have most other gear you'll need for running, either on a treadmill or outside. Congrats! You may want to get a new sports bra specifically for running, though. Other than that, I wear wicking pants, tops and socks - super nice, but not necessary. If you're getting blisters/rubbed spots, and your shoes fit well, try some running socks.

I also have a running belt to carry a bottle of water, snacks for longer runs (over 1 hour), keys, ID, some cash. You may want to look into this. Alternatively, if you're running outside, you can map out (for example) a 5k loop from your house, and leave a bottle of water in the mailbox, so you can pause to grab a drink before completing the remainder of a long run.

I listen to music when I run. This isn't for everyone. When I first started running alone outside, I couldn't listen to music because if I did, I tended to run too fast, and then I felt like crap/missed my training goals. But if you listen to music, finding headphones that STAY in your ears can be hard. If you solve that one, let me know!

3) Mapping your route: You'll want to be able to figure out the length of running routes. Websites like Map My Run and gmaps pedometer will help with this.

4) Your training program: I find it really useful to have a training program/schedule to follow. There are great ones geared at new runners, such as the Couch to 10k program (there's an app for that one), this one,  or this one. I really like Hal Higdon's programs. If those don't appeal to you, try Googling "novice 10k training plan". There's also a lot of good info on the Runner's World website. You should plan to follow a program for about 12-16 weeks, and try to start running before the official program start date to give your body time to get used to running. You could, for example, start with a couch to 5k program, which is a FANTASTIC way to learn to run.

5) Apps and tools for measuring distance/pace: I have a GPS watch (Garmin 305, if you're curious) that tells me my distance and pace, and that I can set up for intervals etc. I love it, but it was expensive, and is definitely not necessary for running. There are apps, such as RunKeeper, for Android/iPhone (not sure about Blackberry) that work just as well, and are free. If you want some metrics, I'd suggest going the app route. That being said, this is totally an optional thing. You can get a regular watch that will do intervals for under 100$, easily.

6) Race goals: Don't try to kill yourself on this one. It's a good idea go have a few of race goals - like an "awesome race" goal and a "good race" goal and a "minimum" goal - your minimum could be "finish!" and that in itself would be a fantastic accomplishment.

7) Running resources: there are lots of good ones on the web. I like the Runner's World website (I also have a subscription to the magazine; I can lend you my old issues if you're curious), and the Running subreddit.

8) Getting into running: I don't know if you've heard my little rant about this before, but running is HARD, especially at the beginning. You've got to give yourself enough time for it to stop being so hard before you decide if you really like it. Make sure to stretch a lot after running, and to cross-train, too, to strengthen the rest of your body. This helps avoid injury, and improves running form. You'd be surprised at how important your core is to running! Also, SLOW DOWN. Most new runners (myself included) go faster than they should, because they feel like their legs can handle it, and then they're SUPER wiped after a kilometre. It's because you're only as strong as your weakest link. So, your leg muscles may well be able to go faster, but your lungs aren't able to oxygenate your blood fast enough. The trick is to go slower than you need to, especially at the beginning until you figure out your pacing. This will allow you to go longer, and then eventually to get faster.

9) Interval running:
Speaking of pacing and being able to run for longer, run intervals. I run 10s and 1s, which means ten minutes running and one minute walking. I started out with 1:1s. You'd be surprised at how much of a difference the walking break makes, and how little it impacts your overall time, really. So if you're going to go for a quick run, you could try running 10 intervals of 2:1s or 3:1s. You'll feel great at the beginning, but will probably really appreciate them towards the end!

10) How to dress:
So, it's starting to warm up here, and this isn't as much of an issue anymore, but when running in cool/cold weather, don't bundle up! You generate a LOT of heat when running. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it were 10 degrees warmer out - so if it is 0, dress like it were 10 - long pants, a long sleeve shirt. You'll be cold when you start, but that's good - it's WAY easier to warm up than to be stripping stuff off and hauling it around with you (unless you planned it that way).

11) Running jargon: You'll probably see lots of jargon that makes no sense. Ask me if you don't understand something! For example, LSD is Long Slow Distance - the longest run of the week, at an extra slow pace. It's a run that allows your body and your mind  to get used to DISTANCE and TIME running, but isn't too taxing.


  1. Thanks for the info! I'm planning on doing my first run this Sunday. I'm also thinking I should sign up with a running group to keep motivated.

    I was thinking of doing a 3km run with 3:1s? What do you think.

  2. 3k of 3:1s sounds like a great run! And signing up for a running group is also a great option - I've really enjoyed running with others for the motivation, and the commitment! Plus, you can really learn a lot from running with others. Something to look for is a group that shares your same race goals... many groups, such as the Running Room, will run groups at various paces, so you can find people who are running at your same level. I'd start slow, and then if you want to speed up, you can always run with a different group. People tend to be really friendly!