Running really is one of the most simple activities we can do. The only thing simpler is walking. Hell, our bodies are designed to run and our ancient ancestors used running to not only get places, but hunt down dinner as well.
So why is it that when a beginner runner goes looking for advice shit starts to get complicated? The primal activity that is planted in us as children all of a sudden becomes something that seems complicated and difficult.
Of course, for someone that has not been active in years and wants to get fit and challenge themselves, seeking advice can be helpful to get started and stay motivated. But there is some advice that can simply be ignored.
So here goes.
Six lies often passed off as sound advice to new (and sometimes experienced) runners.
1. Build Mileage Slowly
There is a rule of thumb that says you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. But here is the thing…a lot of people underestimate their abilities and are pretty conservative when they start running.
Conservative can be a good thing to avoid injury and get your body used to running, but every body, and everybody, is different. Running is just as much an art as a science and you need to do what works for you. So if you run 10 miles your first week and then 20 miles your second week, that is okay. As long as you are staying healthy and you are sure your body is adapting properly.
2. Get Good Tech Clothes
Seriously, the only thing you need when you start running is a good pair of running shoes. Go get fitted at a running store and you are good to go. Fancy technical shirts that wick away moisture and make you feel/look fast can be nice, but if you need to budget your money then spend the $$$ on the running shoes and go with a cotton t-shirt.
People ran in cotton for decades. Hell…look at this picture of Katherine Switzer rebelling against the Boston Marathon race director. Everyone running the marathon has cotton on! So spend the money on good shoes and if you can’t afford running clothes, or don’t want to use “tech” clothes then don’t.
3. Walking Helps You Run Faster
I don’t know why anyone would believe this one. There is nothing wrong with using a run/walk routine so you can go further and build your endurance, but if you think walking during a race will help you finish faster than running the whole thing you are wrong.
Train for the distance you want to do. And train to run it the way you want to run it. Taking walk breaks will help you last longer, but it will not help you finish faster.
4. Carb Load Before A Big Race
This seems like a good idea. After all, your body does need fuel to run. But overloading on a big bowl of pasta the night before a race isn’t always a good thing. First of all your body can only store so much glycogen, and even when you are not running your body is using it.
So it is actually much better to spread your carbs over the course of two or three days leading up to race morning. And then just eat a normal size portion the night before and a little something in the morning before the race starts.
And even if you do not load up on carbs, chances are that your body fat percentage is high enough to fuel your run. And that is not an insult. Your body stores fat for fuel, and running will dip into these fat stores for fuel. So if you are carrying a few extra pounds then you have enough fuel to get you through a few extra miles. A small breakfast is good enough to get you going.
5. Hydrate Before A Big Race
Obviously you want to be hydrated for a race. Especially in hot weather. But I have seen too many people chugging water in the hour leading up to a race. That is not the way to do it.
On the flip side, drinking gallons of water all day the day before a race will do you no good either. You are not a camel. You can not store water. You will be hydrated but you will be going to the bathroom a lot more than you need to be.
You shouldn’t need to hydrate before a race, because you should already be hydrated. You should be drinking the proper amount of water every day to stay hydrated every day.
6. Listen To Your Body
Okay…this is actually a good piece of advice. But what ends up happening is that you go for a run, you ache a little bit, and then you wake up the next morning sore as hell. Your body will want you to stop running, but that ache is a good thing.
You need to listen to your body, but don’t believe everything it says.
When you start running for the first time your body will hurt. Especially if you are getting off the couch after years, or even decades, of the easy life. But there is good hurt and bad hurt. If you roll your ankle and pain radiates through your foot, you should probably stop running and seek some help. But if your legs are throbbing and you wake up sore, then you should probably keep running.
The moral of the story is this…
Everyone is different. Like I said running, even though it can be very technical and scientific, is also an art. You have to do what works for you.
So when you are wading through the loads of advice that is out there for beginner runners, experiment with it. Try out different things, do what works for you, and throw out the rest.
And don’t be afraid to just get out there and run. I guarantee that you can do it better than you think you can.
What advice do you have for new runners? What advice do you wish you would have been given when you started running? Leave your answers in the comments below.