Running can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, but if you do a lot of running you’ll discover things about yourself and your sport that you wouldn’t have guessed at the beginning. Recently a redditor asked for a shortcut to some of that secret knowledge: “Experienced runners: what’s something you know now that you wish you knew as a beginner?” Here are some of the best answers.
Sit on the toilet before a long run
The motion of running can stimulate the colon to move things along, and if you consume sports drinks on the run, you may increase your chances of diarrhoea. If you’ll be spending an afternoon away from the toilet, u/SloopyDoops suggests, do your best to make sure you’re empty first.
Pretend cars can’t see you
Running on or near a road can be dangerous, especially if your route takes you to places where drivers don’t always watch out for pedestrians. “Pretend cars don’t see you,” is the simple advice from u/AtherisElectro, and u/Wrong_Swordfish elaborates on all the things to watch out for. If you haven’t made eye contact with the driver, you’re best off assuming they have no idea you’re there.
Your training runs are not races
Personal records are earned, not lucked upon. You have to put in the work before you can see the payoff. So stop trying to PR every run, u/bltrvns9 advises. Let your training runs be training runs.
Watch your heart rate
This is the classic advice to run slower, in a different form. If you have a gadget that measures your heart rate, keep an eye on the number. Keep those easy runs under 75% or so (that’s 150bpm if your max is 200) and you’ll notice that you don’t get nearly as tired after a few miles. If you’ve ever felt like you “can’t” go past a certain distance, this tip will knock down that metaphorical wall.
Don’t take advice from one source
There’s a ton of good advice in this note from u/day_time_sleep, but one thing I’d like to highlight is: “Don’t take advice from one source.” Rather than being confused about which is the “right” way to do something, it helps to look around you and see all the different ways people can succeed. Try different things and see what works for you.
Run long and dream big
For most beginners, running 42 km sounds like a pie-in-the-sky goal. To ultrarunners — those who race more than marathon distances — long runs are a way of life. “Ultramarathons are tough, but attainable,” says u/gl21133. If you’re willing and able to put in the training time, you can absolutely join this club.
The first mile will always suck
Hmm, this reminds me of something I said one time. It takes about a mile for your body to transition from couch-potato mode to being in the flow of a run. (And yes, this is physiological and not just mental!) It helps to think of that first mile as a warmup that doesn’t count. In fact, some distance runners will swear it’s really the first two to three miles that are tough, and everything from four onwards is a piece of cake.
Try a trail run
Like ultrarunning, trail running is something that attracts a cult-like following. If you’ve never run on a trail, give it a try.
Running gear is worth the money
I really hate that this is true, but in most cases it checks out. You can run with any old shoes, in any old clothes, but the stuff that’s made for runners truly does the job better. (Shoes and socks would be my first picks for upgrades, alongside a really nice sports bra if the cheap kind isn’t doing a good enough job.)
Strength training changes everything
Getting stronger makes your runs feel easier, and keeps injuries at bay. We have an excellent guide to strength training for runners, which coach Jason Fitzgerald says is “so important for runners that it shouldn’t be considered cross-training — it’s part of the training all runners must do to if their goal is to reach their true potential.”
Nobody cares how you look
One of the obstacles beginners face is worrying that they will look silly when they run. It’s not an unfounded fear, because everybody looks silly when they run. If you want to join the ranks of runners, looking like a goofball comes with the territory, and it’s worth it. Most people who see you will just be like, “Oh, it’s a runner,” not, “Ew, there’s that sweaty lady with a funny look on her face,” even if both statements are true.
If you run, you’re a runner
Whatever speed you can manage when you go out for a run, that’s your running speed. You are a runner. So don’t say things like, “I’m trying to run,” or, “Sorry I’m so slow.” Owning your current fitness level is the first step to improving it. And one way you can help yourself out, as u/teamcilantro notes, is finding a group where you can run your speed.
You can walk
It’s true, anybody who is running ultramarathons or long trail races is absolutely walking some of the time. Even at shorter distances, walk breaks are a tool that some experienced runners will use to keep themselves on pace. As a beginner you are absolutely allowed to walk, whether in a race or a training run, if that’s a tool that helps you complete the distance and meet your goals for that run. You’re still a runner.
Trim your toenails
Foot care is an underrated part of being a runner. Too-long toenails can lead to bruising or even losing your nails (we have a guide to dealing with that here), but I want to note that cutting them too short can also lead to irritation. Trim them as short as you comfortably can.
Chafing is a real problem as you increase in distance. Use Bodyglide or Vaseline on anything that might rub, and test out your socks and bras on shorter runs before relying on them to remain chafe-free at longer distances.
How to find your pace
Not all runs are meant to be easy runs, but even the hard runs shouldn’t completely slaughter you. Anytime you run intervals, you should finish each one feeling like you can go again soon, and by the end of the workout you should feel like you can go one more. I knew I had mastered the art of pacing when I did a 32 km run (in training for a marathon) and stopped because I had hit my mileage, not because I was dying and couldn’t go any farther.