Each year I encourage my class members and personal training clients to choose an activity they’ve never done before. For me, 2012 was the year I became a runner. In March I ran my first 5K, in May my first 10K and in October my first half-marathon.
As I look back over the experience I realize I did a lot of things right — and a lot of things that I would do differently. So, as you lace up your running shoes for the first time, or the first time in a long time, consider learning from my experience.
Set a goal — My goal was SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. In February I signed up to run in the YMCA 5k Corporate Cup.
Tell everyone — Then I opened my big mouth and told everyone my goal before I even signed up for the race. That made for some incredibly high accountability which made me follow through.
Train — I started with a training program that I downloaded from halhigdon.com. I started with the novice program and worked my way up.
Got advice — Yep! I found great runners and asked them all their secrets. The best kept secrets in my opinion are Body Glide and compression socks. Body Glide keeps your skin from rubbing raw in the friction spots and compression socks can help with circulation in the legs and help to keep your muscles from fatigue.
Jumping in too quickly — Of course I did this. Most running programs have you start in a walk/run sequence. Nope! Not me. I just ran. Of course, you can do this, too. But like me, you will pay for this with sore muscles and a heavy hit on your pride.
Inconsistent training — I got busy. I’m a trainer and I teach a lot of group fitness classes. Wasn’t that enough? Yes, it’s enough to stay in shape, but to be a runner you actually have to run ... outside ... on pavement ... more than once a week. There is no doubt that cross training will help you. In fact, it’s crucial to your overall training plan. But if you don’t actually run in preparation for your races, it will show on race day.
Not listening to your body — I was seven miles in to my half-marathon (13.2 miles) and I started feeling a burning in the front of my left leg. About a half mile down the road my right leg started burning. I didn’t stop. I pushed through to the final step, coming in one second under my stated goal. Needless to say that was a bad decision that cost me a week of serious pain.
Foam rolling — Using a foam roller for self myofascial compression both before and after your training runs will help keep your muscles pliable, aid in circulation and speed your recovery time.
A completed goal! — There’s nothing quite like crossing the finish line, even if you have to walk. Stating a goal, sharing it with others and then completing that goal can be a prize in itself.
So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those shoes, state your goal and get running.
Leslie Snyder is group exercise director for the Walla Walla YMCA. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a health coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.