Even after over 20 years of running, I still find new and interesting tidbits of advice. When I was first getting started, and again when I jump-started my run regimen in my 20s, I wished I had some of the wisdom I do now.
Maybe it was out there and I just wasn’t listening, but maybe it was just something I had to experience for myself.
However, if you are a newbie runner or maybe just looking for some run wisdom yourself, these are the 10 things I wish I had known when getting started:
1) Other runners don’t care
I mean this in the nicest of ways. If you are so wrapped up in what everyone else thinks about your pace, your body type, your form, etc., you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Other runners are just happy to see other people moving their bodies too and frankly, are probably so busy thinking about their own hang-ups that they are not paying attention to yours.
2) Support the community
Yes, there are runners who only run solo and never race. But, the strength and support of a run community can get you through rough patches and keep you accountable.
Community can be through a regular running partner or group, volunteering at races, or simply waving to fellow runners while out on a training run. Over time, these communities may change and evolve, but the important notion is to find others who help you keep the passion.
3) Invest in quality gear
Our throwaway culture makes it possible to buy inexpensive gear and replace it frequently. For the fashion world, this might make sense. But for things you will wear repeatedly to sweat in, quality matters.
Especially if you live in a more extreme climate, investing in a few higher quality pieces of running gear can keep chafing or hypothermia at bay.
4) Rest is training
The importance of sleep and rest days cannot be talked about enough. Downtime is essential for repairing and healing the body after a hard workout or a long run.
If you’ve missed out on quality sleep, it will show up quickly in your training. It can be hard to get to bed early or force some quiet time throughout the week, but the benefits are worth it.
5) It’s okay to dislike it sometimes
Running is not great every time you go out and do it. Some days it feels downright miserable, every single mile. And sometimes these stretches of it feeling terrible can last for weeks, even months.
Aside from this being a sign of burnout or not enough rest, it’s normal to go through these cycles. I like to think of it as a way to just really appreciate when everything is going great and gain perspective on the days that you feel like you could just go on forever.
6) Do what you like
It can get easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and think that it’s what you should be doing too. There is often the pressure to run longer, run faster, race more, etc.
But your running should be about you and what makes you happy. Whether you are running a few miles a week on the treadmill or training for a 100-mile trail ultra, we are all runners. Find your own dream.
7) Stay curious
The important part of finding what you like is staying curious. Maybe you actually love running on the track, but you’ve never tried it.
Maybe you love the half-marathon distance, but you’ve never trained to cover 13.1 miles. The point is to keep an open mind and venture a bit out of your comfort zone every once in awhile.
8) It’s never linear
For newbie runners, getting faster and trying new distances is almost instantaneous. It seems as though every time you lace up, you are accomplishing something to be proud of.
Over time, however, progress begins to plateau and runners often find themselves frustrated. First, this is 100% normal and should be expected, especially the longer you run. Second, this is the perfect time to visit #7 and try something different.
9) Don’t just be a runner
Yes, find your community and hang out in it when you can. But don’t let running and runners be the only thing in your hobby life.
If (when?) you become injured, you’ll be thankful for other things to occupy your mind space. And your non-running family and friends will appreciate that you talk about something other than running at social events.
10) Fuel like an athlete
Many people start running to lose weight and many runners eat like they are calorie-burning machines. However, what you put into your body is what fuels your furnace.
That’s not to say you can’t have a pizza or ice cream ever, but you should probably make it more the exception than the norm if you are trying to perform.
What words of wisdom do you wish you had heard as a beginning runner?
Carissa Liebowitz has run the New York and Boston Marathons as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on Strava, Instagram and her blog.