Recently this amazing thing happened. A few of our family members and friends have decided they want to start running on a consistent basis and have come to us to help them start on the wonderful adventure awaiting them. Most of their questions have been the same so I figured it might be good to get a post out there for all of you who are inspired to get out the door this summer, but have no clue where to start. Hopefully by looking at this post you can feel confident in what you need, what you can skip over, and what you should expect as you start running.
The Must Dos/ Haves
If you look at the list below you will notice something pretty fast- it’s SHORT. There are not many things you have to do or have to become a runner- even what is listed is unnecessary (but I do think they will help). All you need to do to get started is get out the door and put one foot in front of the other. Have a positive outlook and be realistic. It should not be easy. If it was, everyone (including your former self) would be doing it. However you will feel great afterwards. I can honestly admit that I have never finished a run and thought, I wish I would not have done that. So let this list help you, but remember the most important thing you need to become a runner is the will to do so.
Tracking your distance. If you are going to start running you probably want to figure out some way of tracking your distance. For this there are a plethora of watches available to you with GPS technology. However, before you go dropping tons of money why not start with a simple app on your phone that can do it for you effectively? We use Strava to track our runs and it is extremely accurate and user friendly. If you are concerned that you will have to keep pulling out your phone (or have to run with it in your hand- PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS) to know your distance don’t worry- Strava can be set to notify you every half mile of your distance. This way it will literally tell you, “hey, you are at mile 1.5 with a pace of 9 minutes”). It will be however loud your volume is set to on your phone so unless you are running on a really busy road you should easily hear it without headphones on. You will get enough data from this app’s free version to help you gain any knowledge you want at the beginning of your running journey. I really do not think you need to have a GPS watch to start out. Get out there and start running first- there are other places to invest on the front end that are way more important.
Setting a goal. I think that having a goal race is extremely important. It gives you a tangible thing to work for and a DEADLINE to have it done by. With a set distance in mind and a timetable of when you want to get it done by you can also start following some semblance of a training plan. Now, please please please, do NOT become a slave to a training plan. I hesitate to even write about them when talking to new runners because I fear that they drain the love and fun out of the sport and make it more like a task to check off your to do list each day instead of something to look forward to being able to go do. However at the same time I think for people who have never run before a training plan can be a great way to keep you safe from injury, and give you some semblance of what type of mileage you should be doing on a weekly basis and how often that should increase.
Investing in what keeps you off the ground. Get a pair of running sneakers. If you are about to take this thing seriously give yourself the chance of being successful. If you are going to spend money somewhere in this new endeavor let it be on your shoes. They keep you off the ground for goodness sake and are literally the one area I will say you NEED to invest in. Getting a decent pair of running shoes will cost you around $80-120, but will save you from getting injured. Most problems I have ever had while running were fixed by either a new pair of shoes or a pair of inserts. Chiropractors and physical therapists are EXPENSIVE. I recommend Hoka One One- they are amazing and post baby are perfect for me to put a lot of miles on without killing my hips. I also have a pair of Saucony trail shoes that work great. Go to your local running store and get fitted. Having pain is going to make you STOP running and can usually be prevented with a decent pair of shoes.
ROAD ID. I debated if I was going to put this item in the Must Haves or the May Wants section of this article. However I think safety is extremely important so getting one of these should be on your to do list as soon as you start running. ROAD IDs are exactly what they sound like- a piece of information with YOUR information on it. Mine is a small silicone bracelet which I do not even notice when I run. I used to have one that was a shoe tag, but when I wore my trail shoes it was a whole process to get it on and off the laces. You also couldn’t see it when my shoes got muddy. I think the bracelet is a better option for those two reasons. You can put two or three emergency contacts on it and any medical issues, mine says prone to concussion. You never want to think anything bad will happen to you, but we do not know what each day entails- it is better to be safe when you can. I also know that phones can have all this information, but I have enough trouble unlocking my own phone let alone a stranger’s. In case of emergency I want my information easily accessed by anyone trying to help me.
The May Wants
You got started. You’ve been consistently running for a few weeks or a month and now you have started to think of yourself as a runner. You may want to start investing a little more into your new hobby. Here are some things that may make your runs a bit better/easier/more efficient that I would recommend once you think you’re going to commit to this new lifestyle.
Running Sunglasses. It is summer. It is sunny. Sunglasses help. I love Goodr sunglasses because they do not bounce on your face as your run, but they do not squeeze your forehead either. They also will stay up on top of my head without falling off if I have to take them off because it gets cloudy. They have great colors with hilarious names and should run you around $25 at your local running store or online. If you want sunglasses these are the ones I would recommend. I go into detail about them here if you want more information about them.
Hydration Pack. If you are starting to train for a long distance event (half marathon or more) you will probably want to have some type of hydration with you especially in the summer heat. If you read our blog at all you will know that we are HUGE advocates of Orange Mud packs because they are absolutely amazing. They are durable, they have room for everything you could possibly need, they fit perfectly, and allow you to be hands free. You definitely do not need one of these to start off, but if you are going to get one skip the handheld water bottle and those belt things- just go to a pack right away and go with Orange Mud- you will not be disappointed. If you want more of our thoughts on Orange Mud products check out Robert’s review of the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 or his post about Orange Mud in general.
Running socks. You want to avoid sweaty feet. Blisters suck and so do black toe nails. Also sweaty feet are just gross. Swiftwick socks are definitely my favorite and are very easy to find in a running store. They are great at keeping feet dry and not adding a ton of space in your shoe which could alter the way they fit. Running socks also should not be super stretched out. You do not want your foot sliding around in them anymore than you want your foot in your shoe.
Chafing Prevention. Chafing is not something to be messed with as a runner. Believe me ANY part of your body can chafe. However I think you will learn what parts of your own body tend to chafe pretty quickly. The best way to avoid that is to make sure things aren’t rubbing together. However there are some things that will simply chafe because of your body. For this get something to put on before you start running. I use Body Glide. Robert uses a product called 2Toms Sport Shield. I know a lot of runners rave about nut butter. Use whatever you find that works for you. Don’t be shy about putting it on- we all do it and we all know the pain if you don’t. If you’re going to be sweating in the summer heat this is definitely something you want to look into preventing.
Run Gum. Another frequent mention on our blog is Run Gum. It is something we use consistently to help get us out the door. It is caffeinated gum which is a great way to wake up your mind and your muscles before a workout. This is Robert’s go to when his alarm wakes him up for a run before work and was also my LIFESAVER for post work runs as a teacher. It gives you that little boost you need to just get yourself going and makes the first few miles a heck of a lot easier. You can read all about RunGum here, and then use Robert’s discount code (robertm10) to if you are interested in buying some.
The Don’t Needs
Although you are loving this running thing you definitely are getting a little overwhelmed the more you start learning about the different products and training opportunities available to you. There are so many new products out there to help make your runs easier, do you really need them all? Absolutely not. I consider Robert and I pretty high maintenance runners. We have a lot of STUFF we take with us when we run because over the years we have slowly started to find things that we love to take with us and things that we MAY want in the car. Most of the time the stuff is not used, but it’s there. We also only use most of our nonessentials on days that we’re doing long runs on trails. There is a time and a place for everything, but your first few months do not need to be complicated. Here are some things I definitely think you can avoid:
A heart rate monitor. I know a lot watches come with one. I have never once used one so obviously I am not going to advocate that you need one. Trust your body and listen to it. If you are someone who is trying to make sure you are exercising in the right “zone” you probably are beyond this article so I am sorry that I am of no help to you.
KT Tape. If you invested in the shoes you hopefully have prevented the injury. If you are just starting out I don’t recommend starting when you are already injured to the point that you need KT Tape to allow you to be mobile. Try to fix yourself up before you attempt to start running otherwise I don’t think you’re going to give it a fair shot.
Fancy GPS watch. See the first part of this article for my thoughts on why. Even with the amount of running I do I still have what would be considered a pretty basic GPS watch (it’s also pretty old). I have just recently started thinking about investing in a new one simply because I would like to be able to see the actual time of day or the amount of time I have been running for in total along with my pace and distance. I have been using the Garmin Forerunner 15 for years and it has done me just fine so I definitely recommend saving money in this area when you are getting into the sport.
A running group. I really don’t think you need to join a running group in order to become a runner. If you move to a new area and are looking for running friends that is one thing. I honestly could see the benefit of joining local group runs offered by a running store especially when it comes to trail running. This is good for safety and for learning a new trail. However the type of programs that require you to pay to be a part of them are the ones that I am referring to in this list. Paying to show up to run outside with other people… not too sure about that one. I understand accountability and such and if that is what it takes for some people to be motivated than more power to them. I just don’t want you to think that if you want to run a half marathon or 5k you have to join an official training group to be successful. If you need an accountability buddy let me know- I’d be more than happy to check in with you!
Rewards / Benefits
So besides the obvious life changing reasons you should start running there are some benefits that you may reap from this new hobby of yours that you should look into if you are getting serious about it.
Health Insurance Rewards. A lot of health insurance programs today are all about encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Therefore they will reimburse you for race entries or those new shoes I told you to buy. On my old insurance I was able to get two marathons reimbursed in a calendar year which was really awesome. Look into your insurance plan- it may have something similar to this available to you.
Work Programs. Robert has something through work where he gets points for his healthy choices including his running mileage each day. Throughout the quarter he accrues points and then cashes them in for Amazon gift cards. It’s an awesome way to get rewarded for what he is already doing. I have heard of a lot of different programs that various companies offer. If your company doesn’t, think about starting a challenge with coworkers yourself.
Achievement. I really like this app because you get paid for working out. It is obviously minimal, but it is something. Read my whole review of this app here.
Please do not get overwhelmed. If you want to start running please get out there and do it. We love our sport and we hope you can fall in love with it too. Good luck and stay positive. You got this!