When I started running many years ago I had no clue of what I was doing. My first run was with a pair of sneakers that was 3 times as heavy as my current running shoes. My first pair of running shoes was cheap, very cheap, and it got retired for obvious reasons early. I did not care for technical clothing for the longest time and only after I had bought my first Nike (DRI-Fit) or Adidas (Clima cool)) T-Shirt I realized that there is a good reason to have some technical running gear. I got better over time, but I am still learning in certain situations and so I wanted to share some running tips specifically for beginners today.
I got fairly lucky during my first year of running and did not experience any chaffing – mainly due to me not running more than 5 miles at a time. In my second year of running my luck ran out and I had a few chaffing situations and it hurt. I was very uncomfortable and I learned. There are several solutions to prevent chaffing from happening in the first place. The easiest solution in my opinion is to wear compression shorts. It’s not only easy, but it also comes with a whole bunch of extra benefits. As an example, compression shorts wick away moisture and therefore prevent chaffing and rashes right of the bat. They also provide a dry feel “down there” – something that cotton or normal sports underwear simply cannot do. And compression gear in general provides benefits very helpful for runners. Compression gear increases the blood flow which helps to prevent muscle soreness, muscle fatigue and even injuries. Compression gear also helps with the recovery after a tough workout. I bought some compression shorts and for me the main reason was to avoid chaffing. I am a big fan of Under Armor compression shorts up to this day and have not tried other brands yet. They’re stylish, they sit tight, and they get the job done. I do feel very comfortable in compression shorts and really like the snug feeling for some “important body parts down there”, too. I don’t like when “things” are bouncing up and down. I never had any chaffing since I am wearing compression shorts.
Runner’s Toe Nails & Runner’s Toe
Keep your toe nails cut short. Buy running shoes with a big enough toe box. This will help you to avoid blisters and it might also reduce the risk of getting a runner’s toe or toe nail (black toe nail). It is not a very serious injury, but it can be quite painful for a while and even limit your running. A runner’s toe also looks kind of ugly and sometimes even gross. In most cases the old toe nail will fall off when new nail growth underneath pushes it out of the way. I had my first runner’s toe during my marathon training in 2013 and over two months after I had it, it still had not fallen off. It was kind of loose and so I cut it down as much possible, but from there on it really just was a waiting game. Usually a runner’s toe comes with long distance running – marathon and above. It’s rare that one would get a black toe nail from running a 5K or 10K, but instead of feeling too safe I think prevention is the best cure. The most common cause for getting a runner’s toe nail is wearing a shoe that is too small or having toe nails that are too long in a fairly tight shoe. If this is the case, your toes jam into the front of the shoe while running and cause excessive pounding of the toes during long-distance runs. Go and work with a local running store (not a big box store) – they can help you to size a shoe correctly.
Your Weight Matters
This is definitely no secret, but your body weight plays a big role when it comes to running. It does not only matter when it comes to pace and speed, but it affects your entire running experience. The more weight you carry around with you, the more difficult it is to run. Also, heavy body weight can affect your joints and your feet when running – simply said it can cause pain and if you want to have a pleasant running experience you should keep your weight under control. Of course running is a great way to lose some extra weight, but you need to adjust your running along the way. If you start out with 230 lbs. of body weight you simply have to accept that your pace will be slow and that you cannot break any records (unless you count in your own personal bests that you set along the way). When you are fighting the weight, go the distance – don’t worry about speed. You lose more weight by running longer distances more frequently compared to increasing your speed on shorter distances. You do not have to turn into a health nut or vegan (not that there is something wrong with it), but adjust your diet as you go too and you will see the pounds come off fast.
Many runners make the mistake of increasing their weekly mileage too fast and then suffer from injury or exhaustion. Keep it simple and work your way up slowly – especially if you are still below the 10K marker. If you are under 10K do not increase your mileage more than a mile every other week, preferably add one mile per month and then run that new distance several times per week so that your body can adjust. Running a 5 miler once does not qualify. Work your way up towards the 10K distance (6.25 miles). Once you reach 10K on a permanent basis – meaning, you run that distance several times per week – then you can start to increase your mileage by (up to) two miles per week. However, it is important that you listen to your body and back off if needed. In 2012 I started my journey to long distance running – I moved up from 6/7 miles to 13.1 miles in a matter of 4 weeks, but I also ran 25-30 miles per week already. When I did it I added about 2 miles per week going from 7 to 9 to 11 to 13. I did not go further than 13.1 miles in 2012, but when I started my marathon training in 2013 I started at 13 miles and then went from 13 to 15 to 17 to 20 to 21 to 22. I maxed out at 22 miles for my marathon training as the benefits of going further would dramatically diminish and the risk of injury and exhaustion would go up dramatically (at least for a first time marathoner). Again, it takes time for your body to adjust to bigger mileage and you need to listen carefully to what your body tells you.
Ok, this is a topic for the guys. Don’t be shy and protect those nipples. I mean it. Depending on what you wear and how far you go, ignoring this advice can set you up for some embarrassment AND pain. If things rub the wrong way, your nipples will be bleeding and depending on what you wear the color red (aka blood) is not necessarily be a good fit for you. There are several ways to deal with this before it happens. Band-Aids: use Band-Aids before the long runs. It will protect them from rubbing and becoming bloody. Another option is the use of Vaseline or BodyGlide or plain old Deodorant (sticks, not spray). I use Gillette 3x Clear Gel Antiperspirant/Deodorant-Cool Wave and it works just fine for me, but I am also not prone to have nipple chaffing (knock on wood). Be pro-active and your nipples will thank you in the shower (and beyond). I am also sure that your spouse will appreciate it as well. So, do not let your personal nipple gate shut your running down.
Cars (not the Movie)
Never assume that a driver in a car can (or will) see you. It is pretty dangerous out there and sometimes you even meet special drivers that hate runners for whatever reason. So, for one be aware of your surroundings. If you run in the darkness – make sure to wear reflective gear. I admit – I am not good with my own advice here, but I know I need to. My excuse is that I start my afternoon runs (in Winter) when it is bright and sunny out there, but by the time I come back it can be dark – it all depends on how I feel that day which will determine how far I go and when I come back accordingly. Overall, be safe if you know that you will run in the darkness. But as mentioned, it is not always the darkness that makes you hard to see, some drivers simply do not pay the necessary attention and unless you make eye-contact with a driver and maybe get a clear hand signal to proceed, assume that you are not being seen.
Not every Run Counts
Even though we would like to have it that way – but not every run will be a good run. On the flip side even a bad run is better than no run at all. Many runners are way too upset if a run did not turn out to be a good one (according to their expectations). Get over it. Just think of the people who cannot go out for a run at all – they would be happy to “have a bad run” – for them any run would be exceptional because it is a run. I had bad runs in the past, but while it felt wrong and bad during the run it often turns into a great experience afterwards. I often analyze run after the fact and either find something to be happy about or I might be able to tell why the run was bad and then I know how to make it a good run next time. So, simply accept that not every run will be a great run.
While it might feel counter-productive, give your body enough time to recover from running. Giving your body time to rest will actually help it to translate the training effort into more strength and muscle. By not resting you will eventually experience fatigue that will just not go away. Your legs will feel heavy and going out for a run feels like a drag. It would actually turn every run into a bad run – rendering the earlier advice about bad runs useless. Do not feel guilty if you are taking a day or a weekend off from running. Your body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between your running workouts – don’t sabotage your own training efforts accordingly. This is actually a runner tip that gets ignored quite a bit – including by me for quite a while. I ignored my own advice for a long time until I realized that my body was trying to tell me something. My ignorance even lead to a point where I lost some of my interest in running, but fortunately I came to the correct conclusion and since then rest is an important part of my running. During my marathon training I made it a habit to have at least one, sometimes even two rest days per week. Of course this is easier to justify if you work out two times per day.
Don’t go cheap, buy some decent running shoes right from the start. Don’t spend money you do not have on super-expensive shoes at the same time. Just by buying super-expensive running shoes you will not magically turn into a super-runner even though that’s what the advertisements are trying to tell you, it won’t gonna happen. Be considerate when buying shoes and pick something in the middle of the range before going expensive. A medium-priced shoe will do the trick for most average runners – especially when you are starting out and your average run is a 5K distance. If you really catch the running bug and start going the distance, then you can justify a more expensive shoe. I am still on the first type of running shoe that I bought when early on in my endeavors for running. For years now I have been buying the Nike Pegasus shoe – currently I am on the Pegasus 29 even though the 30th incarnation is out, but I had such great deals on the older model when it was on clearance that I could not resist. The Pegasus running is a mid-level shoe and has served me well over the years – including when running my first marathon. Now, for 2014 I might try different shoes due to me planning to run quite a few more long distances. I am sure that there are other really great long distance running shoes that can help me with keeping a better running form and to reduce the impact that hits the feet and joints when running on pavement.
Well, I am a guy and so I do not have any first hands experience with wearing a sports bra, but sometimes you see something that tells more than a thousand words. You get the idea of what I am trying to say. Perhaps the most popular benefit a sports bra offers, is the ability to minimize breast movement when working out – be it running or some other type of physical exercise where the boobs (pardon my French) could be moving. Breast movement (especially if larger sizes are involved) can make participating in physical activities inconvenient and painful and eventually even embarrassing. The right sports bra will hold everything in place without making the breasts feel squashed and uncomfortable. Running is supposed to be fun and if you feel uncomfortable the fun disappears. My wife explained to me the extra support she gets when wearing a sports bra and that it definitely adds to “feeling more comfortable” not just when working out. Sports Bras are usually made out of material that wicks away the sweat and again – this falls into the category of feeling more comfortable. I am sure there are a ton more reasons why women want to wear sports bras, but my goal is simply to point out that it is definitely a good reason when heading out for a run.
This is a collection of beginner running tips. I know there is a lot more that could be written about this topic, but often it really depends where the interests are for the runner. If you are interested in running races, running tips for you would be quite different compared to someone who is looking for runner tips related to running short distances and the interest in developing speed. If you want to add additional runner tips – why not submit a comment below?!