How to Become a Runner, One Step at a Time

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Better Health and Fitness, Training Tips
Tags: , , , , , , ,

January 19, 2012 by

Most runners I know have said, at some point in their life, something along the lines of, “Running is stupid and only for crazy people.” Shoot, I’ve said it myself. Sometimes I say it in the middle of a run. But you know what? Over the past decade, I’ve slowly (very slowly) but surely learned how to become a runner. And I’m damn proud.

Now, before I started running, I was athletic, but for many runners I know, that was not the case—they were couch potatoes who preferred Doritos and beer to bananas and Gatorade. (Most of them still do, for that matter.) But, little by little, they built up their mileage, learned how to become a runner and in many cases have completed half-marathons, marathons and more!

If you find yourself becoming increasingly jealous of your friends’ Facebook posts about how they had already completed a 10k before you even got out of bed, or even if you’re just looking for an easy way to burn some extra calories, believe me when I say you can do it. Or don’t believe me—I’ve brought in an expert to talk about how beginners (like you!) can start running.

In addition to being one of my favorite people on Twitter, Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In spite of her extensive writing on running and triathlon (Competitor and No Meat Athlete, for starters), she is still unable to use the words “chafing” or “fartlek” in a sentence without giggling, which makes her a perfect fit for FBG, don’t you think?

Tips on How to Become a Runner from Susan Lacke, Running Expert

What’s the first thing someone should do if they want to learn how to become a runner? Are there things they need to buy or a plan they should make? The wonderful thing about running is that it really doesn’t require much to get started: A good pair of shoes, a set of running clothes and a sense of adventure. There’s no need for pricey gym memberships, confusing electronic devices and overly perky personal trainers. (Let’s be honest—you want to punch those folks in the mouth, don’t you?)

In the initial stages, a runner should outline how she’s committed to making this happen. Make a list of reasons why you want to run, identify some sort of structure (“I will run X minutes, X days a week,” or “I will follow this training plan”), and line up resources to keep you happy and healthy while you run.

Most importantly—tell someone, like a friend or family member who will be supportive of your running. If that person’s a runner, she’ll answer all sorts of newbie questions (trust me—you’ll have them!) and give you inspirations and tips. If she’s not a runner, who knows—you may inspire her to start running with you, too!

Let Susan Lacke, crazy runner, help teach you how to become a runner. Credit: Brightroom

Are there goals every new runner should aim for? A good goal for a new runner is to eventually run for 30 minutes without stopping. Granted, this doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s not as far-fetched as many new runners perceive it to be.

When I started, I walked briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week. When that didn’t suck completely, I started running for one minute, then walking for four, alternating until I hit the 30-minute mark. Each week, I’d increase the amount of time spent running and decrease walking time until I was at the point where I could run 30 minutes without stopping.

The cool thing about this goal is that it transitions nicely into a new goal: If you can run for 30 minutes, you’re probably ready to enter your first 5K (3.1 mile) run! Find a local charity 5K and feel the euphoria that comes with crossing a finish line. It’s pretty bad-ass.

What are some of the common problems new runners face (injuries, frustration, etc.)? How do you recommend avoiding and overcoming these obstacles? Probably the No. 1 thing I hear from women is that running is hard. And they aren’t lying. Running is hard. But here’s the thing: If you keep at it, it gets easier. Something that takes 100 percent of your effort today will only take 99 percent of your effort tomorrow. But too many people don’t stick with it long enough to learn that.

Part of the reason running is hard is because people put too much pressure on themselves when they start. If you go out and try to be a Kenyan marathoner during your first run workout, you’re going to run faster or longer than your body is really prepared for, which causes fatigue, injury and burnout. I don’t know about you, but when I do something that makes me tired, sore and whiny, I’m not exactly eager to do it again.

To avoid this downfall, identify where your realistic limits are, then set your goal slightly above those limits. Let the Kenyans be the Kenyans. You just focus on reaching the upper echelons of your own awesomeness.

The finisher’s chute of an Ironman helps you block out the last 14 hours, says Susan Lacke. Credit: API

What are some of the common mistakes new runners make? It’s so, so, so, SO important to buy the right footwear. My first pair of running shoes was a really, really cute pair that I got from Kohl’s. They were brightly colored and made me feel like a BAMF. I loved those shoes and looked like a “real” runner in them…until I actually ran in them. Three blisters and a nasty shin splint later, I realized the importance of going to a running store and investing in a good pair of running shoes. I cannot stress this enough: Seriously. Worth. Every. Penny.

Are there any training plans or websites (other than Fit Bottomed Girls, of course) you would recommend, either for information or motivation? I admit, I’m biased—but Competitor Magazine and Competitor.com are solid resources for training plans, race destinations, gear reviews, interviews with elite runners and nutrition advice. My colleagues at Competitor eat, breathe, sleep and LIVE running—so the information that comes from them is by runners, for runners. It’s awesome!

I also write for No Meat Athlete, a website for endurance athletes who run on plant energy. Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll find tips on cross-training, inspiration to get you out the door, recipes to fuel your workouts and help you recover faster, and a lot of ways to shake up your running routine and keep things fun.

If you’re looking to connect with other runners, there’s a Twitter chat that takes place every other Sunday, in the evening hours. Runners congregate and share joys, challenges, tips and tricks. Go on Twitter and use the hashtag #runchat to get more. While you’re in there, follow me on Twitter (@SusanLacke) and don’t be shy about letting me know your questions! I love talking with fellow runners of all levels!

Do you have any other advice for new runners? A while back, I had a friend who said she was a jogger, not a runner because she thought her speed was too slow to be considered running. Later, I had another friend who said he wasn’t really a runner because he hadn’t completed anything more than a 5K race. Just last week, someone humbly claimed she wasn’t a runner because she runs for fun (as opposed to “those crazy people” who sign up for marathons).

The truth of the matter: All of these people are runners. If you have the dedication to get up and start running, you’re a runner. So welcome, runner. We’re lucky to have you join us.

Do you want to become a runner? Are you already one? Tell us about it! —Kristen 

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