As a new runner, it can often be hard to motivate yourself to stick with it, especially if you have missed a few sessions or you feel like you’re not making enough progress. Here are a few tips that might help…
Think of running as a treat instead of a chore – Make running your sacred “me time”. Focus on yourself, get lost in your thoughts and let go of whatever else is going on in your life. Find your own short-term reasons for running. Reward yourself with a new running outfit after you hit a certain milestone or think about a dream race you might like to complete in the future.
Tell your family and friends about it – Tell family, friends, work colleagues, the hairdresser, the curtain-twitching old lady on your street that you’re a runner. You might find that other people are runners too and will be happy to share their favourite shoes, routes, distances, races and training tips. You will also hopefully get plenty of support and encouragement to keep you on track. You might even inspire others to start their own running journey.
Make time for running – Run at a time that suits you and fits in with your other commitments. Try not to think of running as another item on your endless ‘To do list’. Aim to relax and enjoy your runs rather than seeing them as another task to complete.
Run at a comfortable pace – Your pace should allow you to hold a conversation with a running partner. If you’re running so hard you can manage only a word or two, slow down. If you’re able to talk without gasping for breath, your effort is just right. You should be able to take 2-3 steps for every breath you take in. As you become fitter, your body will become more efficient at converting oxygen into energy. You will then be able to go faster without running out of steam.
Don’t increase your mileage too soon – If you want to increase your mileage it’s best done gradually. Choose one day per week that you will run a little further than usual. You could add one mile to your long run every two weeks or so. If your longest run is three miles and you have done that for two weeks in a row, your next long run can be four miles.
Mix in a little bit of strength training – A runner-friendly strength or core workout will help to improve your overall strength and fitness, as well as reducing injury risk. You will find some excellent core strength exercises for runners online and Hilary has also got some handouts that will tell you the best ones to start with.
Be consistent – As a beginner, the only thing you really need to think about is sticking to your running schedule. After a few weeks of running consistently new runners usually find they need to walk less, their breathing comes easier, and post-run muscle soreness is reduced. The great thing about being new to running is that it won’t take long to start seeing results.
Use an app to log your training/progress – There are some great apps available for runners and these can provide a good motivational tool. They prompt you to enter data about your run and provide a notes field to add anything relevant. This will not only let you look back and see your progress but will also help you to recognise any patterns and get to know your running style.
Set a realistic goal – This could be something as simple as running a mile without stopping, completing a 5K race or a local parkrun. Whatever your goal, write it down and put it up where you can see it to serve as a reminder that when the little voice inside your head tells you to quit, you keep going. One small goal can lead to great big ones and they are all achievements to be proud of.
We could talk for hours about running and how to stick to a plan. It is going to challenge you but it is also incredibly rewarding. Knowing you achieved something you never thought possible and seeing real changes in your fitness is amazing. No one is lacing up those trainers and pushing you out the door. It all starts with you. Running takes commitment, effort, patience and dedication to stick to in the long term. Believe in yourself and you can do anything you set your mind to.
*Main image credit: Courtesy of Andrew Thrippleton