New York City Run TEAM
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Now You’re a Runner
One of my favorite things about being both a running coach and a member of the LUNA Chix NYC run team is that those roles give me a chance to work with new runners. Running is hard, and getting started can be especially tough. Because running is something most people learn to do as a child, though, there's a pretty commonly held misconception that beginning a running program and adapting to it will be simple and straightforward. Nothing could be further from the truth, and misconceptions like that one just make everything worse--nothing sucks more than going into something thinking it's going to be easy, finding it hard, and then feeling embarrassed because you can't figure out why you seem to be the exception to the rule.
On our team, it's important to us that runners of all levels feel welcome. Since the goal of the LUNA Chix program is to get women moving and involved in sports, we make a point of accommodating anyone who wants to run with us. We also try to make sure that no one ever feels like they have to apologize for the speed or distance they run, a trap that women fall into all too often! Finally, we try to help new runners find their way in an environment that's comfortable and friendly. The more I work with new runners, the more I'm reminded of all the things I wish someone had told me when I first started. Now, I try to share these tips with the women I meet and run with...or those who end up on this blog, reading this post!
1. Think about your breathing. During normal activity, breathing is second nature. But when you first start running, you might feel like you've forgotten how to inhale and exhale. Take some time to concentrate on your breath, and make sure you establish a breathing pattern that works for you. I time my breathing with the rhythm of my footfalls, breathing in for two steps and out for the next two. As I speed up, my breathing does too; however, I always make sure that my breathing stays fairly relaxed, and deep enough that I don't feel like I'm hyperventilating. If you're running with a talkative group, you might want to just listen to your fellow runners chatting instead of participating in the conversation. This makes it easier to focus on what's happening with your breath, and work on getting to a point that feels comfortable for you.
2. Keep it conversational. Pace can be a tricky thing. You might feel great during the first ten minutes of a run, only to realize by minute 15 that you started out too fast and you don't feel like you'll be able to make it through three miles, let alone two. One way to avoid doing this is by doing a talk test every now and then. During a standard run, you should be able to talk with another person pretty comfortably. This doesn't mean you have to, but that you could if you wanted to. To do a talk test, try repeating the sentence "I feel fine" to yourself three times in a row. Are you gasping for breath by the end of the first one? If so, you'll want to slow down. Ideally, you should be able to say the sentence three times over the course of one exhale. If you only say it twice, though, you're still in good shape! Just remember that your ability as a runner is not measured by your speed, and when you're first starting out there's no reason to try to break any records.
3. Walk if off. There's no shame in taking walk breaks. In fact, well-known running coach Jeff Galloway has based an entire running system on the idea of taking regular walk breaks during training and racing. The Galloway Method has led countless runners to personal records in races of every distance, including marathons. A walk/run routine is also a great way to build your strength and endurance when you're starting out. A lot of runners feel like they're cheating if they slow down or walk during their run, but you're still covering the distance, and if you incorporate regular walk breaks into your training, chances are you're allowing yourself to run further overall than you might be able to without breaks. Walking breaks can also help you to prevent injury because they'll allow you to put a bit less stress on your body.
4. Remember that sometimes running sucks. Everybody has bad runs. I've had days where I could barely make it through two miles, when I'd run a double-digit distance just a week earlier. At times like that, you can easily convince yourself that you're the worst runner and the only person who endures this sort of pain. It's not true! Every runner has bad runs. It's bound to happen, and the more you run, the more you're going to have. Unfortunately, it's just the way the universe works. But you can take comfort in knowing that a bad run is part of being a runner. And after a bad run, a good run feels even better.
5. Don't compare yourself to others. You will get nowhere, I guarantee it. Try to just enjoy the run and (if you're with other people) the company and friendship that go along with it. I spent years and years comparing myself to other runners, and believe me, when you get caught up in that trap, you always lose. It's better not to get started in the first place. You're a runner, you're a woman, and you're amazing. What else needs to be said?
What have I left out? Is there anything you're learning as a new runner, or anything you wish someone had told you when you first started that you can share in the comments?
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