The Best Advice for New Runners
I’ll spoil it here: Disce non diligere!
I’ve been running for 18 years. I’ve been coaching people on running the last 5. When starting out, everyone generally asks the same questions, in one form or another:
- How many days per week should I run?
- How fast should I be running?
- What should I wear?
- What shoes should I buy?
- What if I have to go to the bathroom? (pretend you’re on a road trip — you stop and find a place to go!)
These are very useful and have their place in the discussion. However, most newcomers to the sport aren’t considering the most basic question that will ultimately dictate whether they’re successful or not:
Why are you running?
If there is no strong reason, no underlying “why”, achieving success becomes much harder. We humans need an intrinsic driver to perform to the best of our ability, a driver that’s influenced by external factors, ultimately comes from within. Didn’t you see Inception?
Now you may say “but Scott, I know exactly why I’m running!” And your next sentence most likely resembles something like this:
- “I want to complete a 5k with my co-workers/friends”
- “I want to lose weight”
- “I’m training/conditioning for another sport”
- “I want to get in shape”
- “I want to be healthier”
Don’t get me wrong, these are noble reasons to hit the pavement. Anything that nudges you into a running program is a step in the right direction.
These are short-term goals. I call them “limited-time-only” goals. They’re not quite deep enough to sow the seeds of running for the duration. After you’ve completed your 5k, will you stay on top of your running? Once you reach your goal weight, will you slide back into old habits? If you’re sidelined with an injury, will you swap out your Nikes for the couch?
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And thus, we’ve arrived at the greatest piece of running advice I can offer new runners:
Learn To Love It!
Or in Latin,
Disce non diligere!
I love running. I really do. The physical, mental and spiritual benefits make it one of my favorite things in this world. Running is one of my best friends. Because I am in love with running, I am committed to it all day, every day. Even if I don’t have a run planned for today, I’m facilitating recovery or participating in a cross-training activity to ensure that my run tomorrow will be productive.
If you learn to love running, you’ll overcome any associated obstacle. Injury. Lapses in motivation. That elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
You’ll run because it brings you peace. Calm. A sense of being grounded with the Earth. As I navigate the forests on my trail runs, sunlight streaming through the trees, soft music in my ears, I feel a sense of freedom and independence I don't get anywhere else. I’m truly a better person because running is in my life.
However, I understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, most folks probably don’t. And that’s ok! Running may be a means to an end for you rather than a life-long commitment, and that’s just fine.
There are plenty of other types of workouts, sports, exercise routines and constructive physical activities that may align more with your interests and bring you that inner peace I mentioned earlier. As long as they’re helping your mental and physical health, they’re A-OK in my book.
If you haven’t discovered your health and fitness passion quite yet, or are struggling to make it a sticking point in your life, it’s never too late to light that fire. There is a metric ton of exercise programs and training philosophies available online for free. There are countless Reddit forums and Facebook communities dedicated to spreading relevant exercise information and having meaningful conversations. For free.
Take advantage of these resources!
And if the idea of researching, developing and starting a long-term running or exercise program seems overwhelming to you, don’t be discouraged! You’re not alone. There are plenty of qualified fitness professionals that can help you get started on the right track and keep you motivated to see you through to your goals.
See you out there.