Find out what you really need to get started as a runner and to stay motivated!
I’ve been running for 20 years and while I’ve certainly accumulated a lot of running shoes, running clothes, running fuel and other gear, I did NOT start out with all that. And you don’t need to either! So today, I’m sharing five things every runner needs. Whether you are about to embark on your first run since middle school, you’ve started running and want to keep running, or you’ve just lost that loving feeling with logging the miles, this should give you some ideas to keep running!
A pair of comfortable, high quality shoes are by far the most important thing runners need. If you invest any money in running, make sure it’s to buy the right shoes for your gait, body type and goals. A good pair of shoes can make or break your experience. The wrong type of shoes can cause injury, and shoes that are cheaply made won’t provide you with the support you need.
Buy them at a speciality running store (e.g. Fleet Feet) rather than a big box sports store, like Dick’s. Most of the big box employees have probably never run more than the mile in school and won’t be able to answer questions about the shoe and your training. Instead, head to your local running store and get properly fitted for shoes. Employees at running stores are runners themselves and will help you find the correct pair.
Since most running stores are closed right now, call your local store and ask if they can do a 1:1 fitting from a distance. They can probably watch you run and evaluate your gait. They’ll also ask you questions about your running experience and running goals to help make a recommendation. If that’s not an option, Brooks Running has a helpful online shoe finder that you can do from home. That will help you identify the type of shoe you need (e.g. stability, neutral, etc.) and then you can search other brands if you’d like. Running Warehouse has a great return policy and TONS of brands. But, so do many of the running shoe companies so you can buy directly from them too.
Many new runners have good intentions. Maybe you want to get in shape, run a 5K, or burn fat. But, do you know how to get to your end goal? Without a plan, some want-to-be runners simply never get started or give up too soon. If you start running and instantly fall in love with the simple process running, you’re lucky! That’s really not the case for most people.
So, before you embark on your journey, make sure you have a plan on how you’re going to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b.’ Map out what each day, week, and month will look like. There are lots plans to be found online with a simple Google search. Most are very reputable and offer plans based on your starting fitness level and which race distance you want to train for (more about racing up next!). Strava has training plans as does Runners World. Both are affordable options. Professional runners Des Linden and Jared Ward also offer free training plans.
If you want a more personalized plan, hiring a coach is a great way to get a very personalized plan with lots of guidance along the way. And no, you do not need to be a “good runner” to have a coach! Read why I finally hired a coach here!
Many beginning runners are motivated by a race. Others have NO desire to race. Having a race is great motivation to stick to your plan and the reward of crossing that finish line is unlike many other accomplishments. After pushing your body physically and challenging your mental ability to keep going, you get to see the accumulation of all your hard work pay off. That feeling never gets old.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to properly train for this race. A good gauge is to plan 8 weeks for a 5K or 10K/ You’ll need about 12 weeks for a half marathon and 16 weeks for a full marathon. But even most of those plans require some running experience or base fitness. Give yourself a few extra weeks in case an injury or illness pops up. If you’re truly brand new, the Couch to 5K program is very reputable.
And don’t think you have to be “fast” (which is very relative) to run a race. At every race I’ve run, there are always people of all levels participating, including those whose plan is to walk the entire race. Runners are very encouraging, and when you tell them it’s is your first race, they’ll be so happy for you! We’ve all had a first race! (You can read about my husband’s first race here and his first half marathon here!)
So what about racing when there are no races being held? You can pick a race a few months out to work towards. Worst case, scenario if it gets postponed, you can find a virtual race or host your own race. Simply pick a date you want to run your race, tell friends and family and social media and go out and do it. The bonus of that is that you’ll get a little pre-race nerves since you announced it but you’ll have the convenience of racing the route YOU want to race. Plus, you’ll get to sleep in your own bed the night before and have all the gear and food you want on race day. Now that is an ideal race experience! That will be GREAT practice when you actually toe the line of a race with other runners!
Make sure you don’t skip your race even if the weather isn’t great or you just don’t feel it. That’s all part of racing – showing up, even when you’re nervous or don’t want. And in my experience, sometimes those are my best race days! (Case in point: I ran a 10 minute PR at the Boston Marathon the day after getting food poisoning!)
While your running shoes are the most important piece of equipment and truly what every runner needs, quality clothes are a close second! You don’t need anything fancy, but you will quickly find out why paying a little extra for a sweat-wicking shirt and synthetic socks are worth the extra dough (versus using an old cotton t-shirt and cotton socks you have lying around).
You don’t need to drop several hundred dollars on Lululemon apparel to outfit yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I love my Lululemon running gear – but Old Navy, Gap and Athleta also sell reasonably-priced running clothes. Try to get at least your base layers (those closest to your skin) in sweat-wicking material. This helps pull moisture away from your skin and keeps you drier. You’ll stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
For years, I bought ALL of my running clothes from T.J. Maxx or at running stores, sticking to the clearance racks. I also ran in all the race shirts I got. And no, my running clothes never matched. It was fine. I do now have my favorites that I tend to stick to but I didn’t really start investing in higher priced running clothes for about 15 years. (You can see all my favorite running gear here.) If you’ve been running for a while, treating yourself to a nice pair of running shorts or a new shirt will help you get out the door. Sounds silly, but it’s always fun to wear new gear for the first time! (Just don’t try that on race day. 😉 )
Now that you have a plan and you know what your end goal is, you need to keep yourself accountable. It isn’t easy getting up early to run when everyone else is still sleeping or when you don’t have a “real” race on the calendar. At first it can be pretty easy to stay motivated because running is shiny and new (and yes, maybe a little bit of a strugglefest!). But after a month or two, it is easier to find excuses. So after the newness wears off, how will you keep yourself accountable?
Find a friend who will support you in your goals, help you get out the door and cheer you on when you report back! And they don’t have to be local! I have two running friends that I text when I need motivation or accountability – one lives in Northern California and one lives 3.5 hours away from me in NC. Yes, I still struggle with motivation on days, even after 20 years of running and 50+ races!
You could also keep a paper journal or a log of your daily runs with notes on how it went and anything you learned that day. Or, if you prefer the digital route, Strava is a great way to keep a log of your running and connect with other runners. When I finish a run, I save my run on my Garmin and it automatically uploads to Strava. If you don’t have a GPS running watch, you can also track your runs right in the Strava app.
Maybe you hire a coach that you have to report to! If you’re paying them and you have to tell them about your run, you’re far less likely to skip. And when things return to normal and we don’t have to social distance while running, talk to your local running store. Most have training groups or free group runs on the weekend.
Finally, following other runners on Instagram and/or reading blogs are great motivation tools. Seeing others’ running journey can help give you that extra push to get out the door. Because we all know, the hardest part is getting out the front door. Once you do that, you’re committed to run.
Sign up for my free Running 101 mini bootcamp and get on the waitlist for my running course here. The course will go into a LOT more detail on topics like fueling, recovery, motivation, injuries and more!
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