Monday, January 23, 2012

Dear new runner: An open letter

Dear new runner:

My very first 5K stuff
Congratulations on your decision to go on this uncomplicated yet complex journey of running. Lace up your sneakers and charge up your iPod, you're in for an exciting and challenging road ahead.

This is the letter that the runner I've become would've written to the "running hater" I once was.

Listen, I know it's hard at first.  That's why you rock. It's hard but you're gonna do it anyway. Others talk about it, but you're doing it. This already makes you a winner. You might have to walk/run, keep your distance short, take it slow and experiment with running on a treadmill/track or outside. In fact please concentrate on not over-doing it in the early days. The worst thing you can do is injure and burn yourself out. When in doubt, it couldn't hurt to 'under-do' it even. I'd rather you come back from a five minute run feeling energized, accomplished and excited to do it again than do a 25 minute run feeling miserable and defeated.

Go sign up for a race. Seriously. Don't let it freak you out. Pick a 5K for 3 months from now (sooner or later based on your fitness level) plunk down your money and sign up. Right now. Go. I will still be here. Don't think about it - just do it.

Found one? Good. Now tell everyone about it. Go post it on Facebook, Tweet it. This is your "official" start to your running life. Congrats. Start your "5K" training program. There are several out there.  You see, there's something about setting a definite goal that makes your running moving forward and it helps keeps you motivated, "I have to run today, I'm training." To this day, I need to have a race on the schedule to help keep me progressing.

As a beginner, you might feel a little soreness in your back, your muscles or even your knees and ankles. I did. A little soreness (especially if you're carrying excess weight) isn't unusual. Do not confuse soreness with injury.  Follow the R.I.C.E method and if you suspect injury, see a doc.

You should go to a running store as soon as you can and get proper running shoes. Please believe me that this is not the place to cheap out. I literally tried to run in Payless "running sneakers" and learned very quickly that this was a BAD IDEA. If you don't live near a running store - you can learn here how to figure out a good running sneaker for you.

Please don't compare yourself to other runners. I started by running at a 4.0 on the treadmill and would eye people that were flying at unfathomable speeds. This is your training. It will be your race. Your journey. You'll always be slower than someone else and right now you are faster than the guy on the couch on his second bag of Doritos!

Running can support your weight loss journey but running does not give you a license to eat. Focus on fueling yourself with healthy foods, don't over-do extra calories or you won't see a loss if that's what you are looking for.

The running community is AWESOME. Support is EVERYWHERE. Go online and look for running bloggers, follow runners on twitter, Join running communities at places like DailyMile and Runners World. Connect, ask questions and join the club.

You are a real runner! Whether it takes you 15 minutes to run that mile or 6 minutes - you are a runner. Don't "weight" to get out there - who cares if you're not the fastest in the pack. Don't think you have to wait to be 20 pounds less to run. You can do it.  Here's a very inspirational story of someone who started at 349 pounds - a guest post on "Runs For Cookies." (Slim Katie has a pretty inspiring story herself.)

As John Bingham says, Whether you are the first or last across a finish line, it's the same finish line!!  Get out there and be proud of you! You have to be your own biggest cheerleader. You are a rockstar. Believe it.

Finally, you might not love it today. You might not love it tomorrow but someday you're going to wake up and crave running. Your life will be changed. You will find fitness, what 'runners high' is all about, confidence and passion. You will find out that you can go further than you thought. You will learn that you're tougher than you ever gave yourself credit for. Your world's of "I cant's will change to I cans."

You will find the indescribable joy of setting goals and accomplishing them. The thrill of the finish line.

I'm so happy for you. Enjoy your journey and see you out there.
"Everyone is an athlete. But some of us are training, and some of us are not." -Dr. George Sheehan


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