So you want to be a runner

Following on from my “so you want to run a marathon” blog, I have been thinking about other milestones I could help people with. The most obvious thing that came to mind was to start at the beginning. This blog aims to motivate you to keep running, because you can do it, but there are things you can do to make it feel easier and keep you going.

There has been a lot of controversy over what makes a “real” runner.

If you run, you are a runner. Simples.

If you run, you are a runner… simples

However, not everyone who runs feels like a runner, as odd as it may seem. Many get self-conscious and hide their running from others until they meet the criteria set by themselves to call themselves runners. Throughout this blog I write some helpful tips designed for beginners, but something that will be a benefit for all runners, regardless of how long you have been running for.

How to feel like a runner:

Get out and go running:

It sounds obvious, but to feel more like a runner you need to just get out there and RUN. It will feel hard at the start, and it will be easy to make excuses not to run. You may feel that you aren’t going as fast as you like, or as far as you want before stopping. Your body will ache, you will feel exhausted, but don’t give up, keep going and keep running. It will gradually feel easier, you will get better, and as you see results it will be worthwhile. This won’t be possible if you don’t got out and run. If you find running hard now the only way you will change that is by running more. Once you get yourself into a routine it will be difficult to miss a run.

Keep going, you can do it

Run with others:

Joining a running club or group, or running with friends is a great way to get you out running. You will be running with like minded people, and you are far less likely to miss a run if there are others that are expecting you. By running with others you will naturally push yourself that little bit more owing to their motivation. Running with others is also fun, and this is the key. For many running can be boring, and if you are just churning out mile after mile feeling bored then this is going to be hard work psychologically. If you are having fun then this will make a huge difference. This is why I refer to my pacing groups as the #funbus because I try to make the experience enjoyable, which makes the running easier.

Some people like to run by themselves and if you feel that way it is absolutely fine. I often run by myself in training. However, if you are finding running motivation hard then running with others will help provide a boost which will get you to run, stop you missing runs, and get you to train harder. It will also be more enjoyable.

Welcome to the #funbus

Buy running gear:

It’s true, buying yourself some nice new running gear will make you feel like a runner and can act as a great motivator to get out and use it. It’s not just about getting the new shiny gear, get the right gear too.

To feel like a runner, dress like a runner

You don’t want to run in a cotton top or risk chafing and bleeding nipples. Wrong fitting or non running specific kit can cause you real issues as you increase your miles. The right pair of running trainers makes all the difference. I’m not going to tell you which ones to buy because it is all personal, but go and try some on and preferably go and get a gait analysis, often free in running shops. This can make running feel more comfortable and help prevent injury.

How to improve your running:

Start slow:

It is all too easy to get carried away. Especially when starting out and you want to see improvement, we all tend to run too fast. If you are looking to build the distance you run, it is tempting to push yourself, the key is to first slow down. It’s not a sprint, and you are sure to tire and risk injury. Slow and steady is the way and then build up distance and speed as you go along. Of course you will want to have some speed specific sessions but as a general rule don’t worry about how fast you are going.

Make gradual progress, don’t push too hard too soon.

Set targets:

I like to enter races and it’s great to enter a race or two. This provides you with something to aim for and keeps you going when otherwise it might be easy to just give your training a miss.

I love the feeling of finishing a race, and the motivation to train for one

Many want to run for fitness, they don’t have a race in mind or a time they want to run. So it is natural for these people to think “I don’t need to set a target”. Regardless of what you want to achieve the target setting is a great way to motivate yourself. It could be as simple as running a distance without stopping, or in a set period of time, or building up to a distance or amount of time running. If you have a target you will work towards this, you will naturally track progress and steadily try to improve your times. Having this structure in your running is a real benefit. You will see results and find more enjoyment from your running.

Make your targets realistic:

It doesn’t matter what your target is, and some will be more ambitious than others, but make your targets realistic. If they aren’t realistic or achievable you will end up failing. There is nothing more demotivating than not achieving your targets. This can make it feel like you aren’t getting anywhere and deter you from running, and is often a cause of people stopping running. If you can’t meet your target you are more likely to give up.

To help make your targets achievable you can set small milestones to keep momentum. That way you can have a bigger long term target which is broken into more manageable chunks.

Make a plan:

Once you have a target it is worth making a plan. Whether this is a structured training plan or something you write yourself, this will motivate you. You can put your various goals in the plan and track your progress. It is great to watch your improvements to provide further motivation. You don’t know how far you have come until you look back at where you started.

Make a plan and stick to it

Although having a plan is a great way of making structured progress, and maintain motivation, don’t stick to it too religiously. Don’t be ruled by your plan, and remember to enjoy yourself. If you have a bad day, or don’t feel up to it it’s ok to either add another rest day, or to change what you are doing. Also don’t be disheartened if you fall behind because you need to keep plodding forward. Let the plan be a guide, no more than that.

Let the plan be your guide, but if you can’t stick to it don’t let it demotivate you

Remember that it is ok to have easy weeks. Part of your plan should be to reduce mileage, and ensure you have rest days. It is during the rest days that you recover, these are the days that you build and improve. Without giving your body time to recover you risk injury. Along with rest you need to mix up your training. Not only does variety keep your training fresh and exciting, it helps you stay motivated and continue improving. Don’t just stick to running, cross train, strength train, stretch, look after your body to make you a better runner.

REST it’s part of the plan

Record your journey:

Whilst tracking your plan it is a good idea to record your journey. This may be as simple as writing on your plan, having an electronic record, blog, strava (whatever you use to record your sessions) this is a great way of tracking your progress. Share your journey with others and join social groups. Again this may be through running clubs, but there is a world of support in social media that is accessible to everyone. I engage with many support networks on twitter such as #ukrunchat #visorclub #runr and I follow many great groups on Facebook, including Pick up the Pace – Running Motivation. Find yourself a forum and share your journey.

Find your support network 

Don’t compare yourself to others, only yourself:

We all start somewhere and there is always someone out there faster, stronger, fitter than you… so what? Unless you are aiming to win a particular race (in which case there is clear competition) just compare yourself to an earlier version of you. Monitor your progress and be the best you that you can be.

Remember you are amazing, be confident, you are already a runner. Have fun, because if you enjoy running you will run more, be you and be a runner.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps you on your running journey. There are obviously many more areas I could cover, but instead, please share your tips to help runners. Just post in the comments so people can continue reading your tips for runners. We all continue learning and I look forward to learning more from you.

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