10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Runner

10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Runner

New to running? Me too! Here’s what I’ve learned in my first six weeks of truly pursuing my goal of becoming a “runner.”

10 Things I've Learned as a New Runner from Hungry Gator Gal

1. Check your form!

Go to a running store or find a running coach who will videotape you while you’re running to check your form. I went to Fit2Run in Gainesville and completed an assessment for FREE. Other stores also offer the service at little or no cost.

I discovered I’m a heel striker during the assessment, so I’ve been walking around on the balls of my feet and my toes for weeks to change the way I walk and run. My calves hurt like hell, but I don’t feel pain in my shins anymore. I did a simple search online and found these tips on running form.

2. Buy new running shoes, if necessary. 

Women's Nike Zoom Pegasus 31 Shoes on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

If you receive an running assessment, the store associate will likely tell you what type of runner you are (i.e. under pronator, over pronator, neutral). The associate will then suggest specific brands and types of shoes that fit your stride.

Trust me when I say that the correct shoes will prevent injuries. I’m a neutral runner and recently bought the pair of Nike Women’s Zoom Pegasus 31s you can see above (affiliate link!), which make it feel like I’m running on clouds, no joke.

No shin splints = a happy Brianna.

For my male readers, check out the same pair of Nike shoes below, which my brother bought in a different color. Each pair cost about $100.

Men's Nike Zoom Pegasus 31 Shoes on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

3. HYDRATE.

Nalgene Wide Mouth 32-Ounce Water Bottle on Hungry Gator Gal

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Drink water all day, every day. Keep a water bottle at your side at all times. Challenge yourself to drink a liter every 60-90 minutes. I drink at least four full bottles of water from my Nalgene water bottle every day and often more. That’s 128 ounces or nearly 4 liters for you math wizards.

Hydrating properly before and after a run is especially important if you live in a more humid climate like Florida, even if you run in the mornings when it’s not as hot outside.

How do you know if you’re drinking enough water? Let me show you this lovely pee color chart . . .

4. Mind over matter.

 

The struggle is real . . . but, it’s more mental than physical.

I had never run more than 2 miles without stopping prior to joining the Army ROTC program. Now, I regularly run 4 miles at a decent pace without stopping. I’m not the fastest of the bunch, but I push my personal limits with each run.

To ensure I don’t give up, I usually pick a mantra and repeat it to keep myself going. I can’t wear headphones or listen to music when I’m working out for ROTC, so I usually repeat something like, “The faster you run, the faster it’s done!”

5. Make “pre-hab” a priority.

 

Photo by Brianna Kolota

Do dynamic stretches before running and static stretches afterward. Go to yoga at least once a week. Foam roll. In other words, do something now to save yourself from an injury, subsequent rehabilitation and time off from all exercise.

Here’s my favorite warm-up, the ultimate static stretch for hip flexors and quads, and my favorite  yoga stretches.

6. Don’t forget about strength training.

If you run, run, run all the time without taking time to build muscle, you won’t become stronger or faster. Aside from running with ROTC, I complete two strictly strength workouts on my own each week.

I’ve been digging “One-Set-to-Failure” workouts lately because they’re challenging and time-efficient.

7. You are what you eat.

Cajun Turkey Lettuce Wraps photo by Brianna Kolota

If you eat crap prior to a run, you’ll probably feel like crap. In other words, put down the fried foods, pizza, candy, etc. and go eat your veggies and lean meat.

And even if you eat relatively healthy, make sure you’re not eating too much fat. More than once, I’ve made the mistake of eating too much “good” fat (i.e. nuts, avocados) the night before a cardio-intense 5:30 or 6 a.m. workout. And guess what? I was as slow as molasses.

You can eat fat before a run. It’s your choice. However, I realized I need more carbs, less fat, and a moderate amount of protein to perform my best. If I have a physical training test in the morning, I like to do a moderate “carb load” at dinner the night before with fruit, starchy veggies and occasionally some whole-wheat cereal, pasta, bread or crackers.

8. Track your progress.

Photo by Brianna Kolota

I bought this $15-Casio watch at Walmart to time my runs. It’s the cheapest watch I’ve ever bought, but I LOVE it. It’s waterproof, easy-to-operate and has a 24-hour clock for military time.

P.S. Here’s a similar Casio watch you can buy on Amazon (affiliate link!).

9. Don’t think every run has to be better than your last.

Some days you might not be “feeling it.” Don’t give up and go home on those days, but make the most of what you can do if you’re not in the “running groove.”

Case in point: I could tell during the first lap of my first Army Physical Fitness Test this semester that it wasn’t going to be my best run. My legs were stiff. My hips were tight. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. I was nervous. But you know what? I made the most of it and told myself the next test would be better.

10. REST.

I couldn’t resist the seal photo. . .

First, sleep at least 7 hours every night. And if you can’t sleep for at least 7 hours, try modifying your sleep schedule. You don’t want to feel exhausted before you even start running.

Secondly, take FULL days off. Don’t run every day and overdo it. This concept sounds easy, but it’s easy to forget if you like to exercise.

The amount of time you need to recover is personal. I typically take two or three days off from all strenuous physical activity each week. I also have one day where I walk a lot and/or practice yoga.

When you take rest days, enjoy them. Be productive. I usually knock out a bunch of homework on rest days and sometimes even sit on my butt for a few hours to watch “JAG” or “How to Get Away with Murder.” I thoroughly enjoy the laziness, and you should too.

Side notes:

  1. Yes, I hope to join Army JAG after law school; and 
  2. “How to Get Away with Murder” is incredibly unrealistic in terms of what I’ve experienced in law school, especially in my criminal law class. 

    Conclusion:

    Photo by Brianna Kolota

    After six weeks, I can say I still don’t love running. If given the choice, I prefer to cycle, hike, interval train without running, etc. However, becoming a better runner currently tops my “fitness bucket list” in terms of ways I want to keep challenging myself physically and mentally.

    So if you’re new to running like me, please don’t give up! Learn from my tips and mistakes. That’s why I’m sharing them. Secondly, if you’re a seasoned runner, please offer your advice by leaving a comment on this post. Sharing = knowledge.

    Also feel free to email me at bkkolota@gmail.com or reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter or Google +  if you have questions about running or anything really. I LOVE talking with readers.

    Thanks for reading, and have a great day! 🙂

    Related HGG Posts:

    Tips for Setting Realistic Fitness Goals

    This Hungry Gator Gal’s Post-Grad Plans

    Photo by Brianna Kolota

    Best Treadmill Workout for Killer Legs

    4 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Runner

    1. Great tips! I think hydration is so key. Many people remember to hydrate during/after a run but not before and it makes a HUGE difference.
      I think learning to love running takes a while. I went through ups and downs with running before it became a love for me. As you get stronger, it gets easier and your love grows.

    2. I agree that hydrating makes a HUGE difference! If I don't drink enough water the day before a run, my throat feels dry, and I can't seem to catch my breath. I hope I grow to love running as I become I better too. 🙂

    3. Pro-quality tips! A couple times a year, a gym in town will host a POSE running seminar, which is also great for those trying to learn better running form. Jump roping is a fabulous way to build up technique and calf strength, too! Glad to see you are surviving 1L so far.

    4. Thanks Paula! I'll have to try the jump roping. I definitely need to work on strengthening my calves. I get shin splints, so I know my weak calves are to blame, haha. I would love to attend a running seminar at some point too. And yes, I'm surviving 1L. It's a lot of reading but not as bad as I thought it would be. 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *