Need to Know
Q: Will everyone be able to tell by looking at me that I'm a beginner?
A: Only if you broadcast it by looking around, apologizing, and announcing that you're really not a runner yet. Seriously, everyone has his or her own style and many longtime runners have "bad form."
Q: I run so slow, it's more like a shuffle. Is that bad?
A: "Shuffling is not bad," says Bakoulis. "It's efficient to not use extra energy, and lifting your knees high is not moving you forward. Some of the best runners shuffle." The only danger is tripping. Watch for that.
Q: Some days, my legs say yes, but my head says no—what should I do?
A: Give yourself 10 minutes to warm up, suggests Kastor. "A good warm up helps you let go of stress and allows the chemical changes to happen in your brain that change your mental state from no to yes," he says. "That's why those first few steps are often the hardest. Your mental state hasn't warmed up to the run yet."
Q: I missed a couple of runs in a row and now I feel like I'm back at square one—it's so discouraging!
A: It is frustrating, but the good news is, you don't go backward that quickly. "Just pick up where you are in your running plan and keep moving forward," says Hinton. "If you miss more than a few runs, just repeat the planned week from the beginning." If you're feeling rusty from a few missed sessions, dial back your pace (or take more walk breaks) and keep going. You'll be back on track in no time.
In the end, running should be fun; and even veteran runners use outside assistance to keep the fun factor high. Here's how to stay inspired.
A simple journal offers insight into how far you've come, what's working, what's not, and keeps you on track to meet your goals. Some items to consider recording: type of run (duration/miles/special workout); effort level; food and drink consumed before, during, and after; weather; and how you felt. You can find one free at traininglog.runnersworld.com/logs.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends having an exercise partner because it improves the odds that you'll stick with working out. Here's why: Your run flies by when you're talking with a friend, and knowing a partner is waiting for you is great motivation to leave the comfort of your chair.
If you've ever taken an aerobics class, you know the powerful effect music can have on performance. "Certain types of music can help lower the perception of fatigue and enhance feelings of vigor and excitement," says sports and exercise psychologist Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., C.Psychol, of West London's Brunel University. Just be sure to keep the volume low so you're aware of your surroundings.
Look the Part
The beauty of running is in its simplicity. All you need is a good pair of shoes. Go to a specialty running store where trained professionals will evaluate your feet, watch you run, recommend the right shoes, and then let you go out for a test drive. You'll leave with a comfortable pair of shoes that will have you running pain-and injury-free.
Need to Know
Q: Will other runners be annoyed if I fall behind on group runs?
A: Only if you do it time and time again, while shouting out for everyone to hold up because you don't know where you're going. "Everyone has been a beginner at some point," says Kastor. "You're bound to have a day where you fall behind, and that's okay." Experienced runners are encouraging and happy to slow down on a run here and there to help you out and keep you in the sport, he says. The key for the long term is finding a group that includes runners who run your pace.
Q: I don't know what my pace is—how do I figure that out?
A: To figure out your "regular" running pace, time yourself running comfortably for one mile. Measure out a mile by driving one, measuring the distance online (mapmyrun.com), or going to a local high school track and running four times around. Your resulting time on the track will be slightly faster than your per-mile pace because the track is measured in meters not miles, and is slightly shorter. Plus, tracks are flat and springy, which means you'll always run faster on them compared with when you're on the road. You can also use online pace calculators to determine what your pace should be for longer distances. Just plug in your pace and target distance. Find one at runnersworld.com/cda/trainingcalculator.