After running my first full marathon last fall, and missing my goal by only 11 seconds, I knew I had to return this year for redemption. I am well into my training plan and it is going well so far. Since I know I physically CAN complete a marathon, I’m a lot less nervous than I was last year. But, I have felt a little burnt out knowing that I just have to check the long runs off the list, so I’m really trying to reset my mindset into enjoying the process.
I’ve learned a lot about running along the way, and I thought I would share some of my top advice for runners– whether you are training for a 5k, marathon, or just looking to get in better shape!
Shoes, shoes, shoes, and shoes. Your running experience can literally be made or broken by the right shoes. When I first started running, I really did not understand this and ran in sneakers from like Target. It seems so extra, but literally go to a running store and get fitted for a shoe. You will be so much more comfortable and prevent a lot of injuries.
Sometimes running shoes can be pricey, but you can usually save money by getting an older version of your shoe or find a sale. I actually run in about 6 different shoes right now– I have different shoes for speed, racing, and a couple that I rotate for training. Newer runners don’t have to buy all of these, but the right shoe makes a lot of difference in your running experience. My all time favorite shoe is the Nike Pegasus, but I’m not loving their newest update, so I’m still buying the 34 version while I can. I use these for all my long runs and plan to run the marathon in them. My other favorite shoe is the Nike Flyknit Racer. Its so lightweight that it feels like you don’t even have a shoe on, but there’s also like no support so its really hard on my feet if I run more than a few miles.
Consistency is key. You will only get better if you are running and pushing yourself at least a few times a week. You don’t actually have to run as hard as you can every run, in fact you shouldn’t. When I first started running, and even for a lot of my training in previous years, I would run the same 4-6 miles every day at the fastest pace I could, and thought that was the best way to train, but my race day results plateaued. After doing a lot of reading and talking to other runners, I finally got a better understanding how to train smart.
Now, I follow a training plan and have very purposeful workouts. If a run is a recovery run, I don’t kill myself just so I can say I ran a certain pace. I usually do one speed workout a week where I really pick up the pace and I’ve actually really enjoyed these shorter, faster runs. I also do hill repeats a few times a month where, you guessed it, I run up and down the biggest hill I can find over and over again. These different types of workouts will help train your body better than just running at a moderate effort the same amount again and again.
Running is great for your body, if you take care of yourself. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard that running doesn’t help you lose weight, its bad for your knees, etc, I would be able to retire! I lost 30 pounds over about 6 months when I started running, and can’t believe how my body has transformed in the years since. Running strengthens just about every part of your body, but it’s important to stretch, rest, eat well, and cross train too. I’ve also added serious cross training into my weekly workouts which has really helped minimize aches and pains.
You will have crappy plateaus. The most difficult part of running is mentally handling those times where it feels like you aren’t making any progress. I have been trying to run a 1:45 half marathon for 2 years, and kept missing the time by a few minutes race after race. This spring, I only got a couple of long runs in before my half marathon due to a really long winter, but tried my best to get all of my other runs in. I shocked myself when I ran my half marathon in 1:41 which was way faster than my goal! Sometimes it’s really frustrating not to see progress, but if you are following your training right, you just have to ride the frustration and keep moving forward.
Track your progress, but don’t make numbers everything. I love my Nike+ app because I have tracked literally every run I have ever done and it’s so cool to see my progress and personal records, BUT it’s also really important not to only think about running in terms of numbers. Earlier this year, I got really burnt out on running because I felt like I “had” to keep up with everyone else I follow on social media. I felt like I had to post every time I ate a vegetable or did a pushup in order to be a “good” runner. I caught myself running further than my plan said, or faster than the goal pace, just so it would look good on social media. It got to the point that I had to ask myself was I running for me, or was I running so I could post about it.
So, I took a break from posting workouts all together for a while, and re-focused on running for me. I love sharing my running journey, but it is simply that– my journey. I’ve found a lot more happiness out of taking a deep breath before each run, and enjoying the purpose of that specific run, without worrying about what others will think. I post occasionally about my runs, or if there’s something I’m proud of, but it’s so freeing not to feel like I need to validate each workout on the internet. Running is also a hobby, not my entire identity or life, and it’s its important to keep that balance with yourself.
This mentality has also helped me be stronger during more difficult runs. When its tough, I remember that I’m choosing this journey for me, I’m thankful for my ability to run, and that the tough parts are what make running so rewarding. I’m hoping all of my hard work this summer will pay off in 2 short months at the finish line!