12 Tips For Beginner Distance Runners
Whether training for a high mileage race or looking to take your running to a new level, at some point most runners look to increase their running miles. Increasing mileage can be a bit scary as any new challenge can be, but one that can help make you a more efficient and faster runner overall. We checked in with our Fit Experts and gathered some tips and advice on how to start your journey towards adding some extra distance to your running.
Increase mileage slowly
When you decide to start increasing mileage it’s tempting to go for it all at once. Feeling comfortable with the current mileage, it’s no surprise we think we can jump into long distances right away. Unfortunately, taking it too far too quickly could lead to even quicker injuries.The most recommended guideline to follow is the “10% at a time rule” meaning increase your weekly mileage by 10% of your weekly goal. For example, if you run 30 miles in a week you should increase your mileage by about 3 miles a week. This will give your body time to adjust to a gradual mile increase.
We all have a very loved pair of running shoes, a pair we consider to be like our most trusted friend because they have been there for us mile after mile. And while we’d love to have them with us for every run it’s important to remember to give them a break as well. Using the same shoe everyday doesn’t allow the cushion in your shoes to bounce back, which takes about 48 hours and your shoes may not last as long. It’s a good idea to have more than one running shoe option available so you can alternate shoes between runs and workouts.
It’s no surprise that hydration is an important factor to consider for a run of any distance as your body needs to be hydrated to run well. But when you plan to do longer runs it’s important to make sure your body is hydrated before, during and after your run. With shorter runs you may be able to get away with having a water bottle at your starting and finishing point, but with a longer run you may need some hydration on the go. Consider bringing with you a Nathan handheld water bottle or hydration belt that will have the hydration of your choice easily accessible at any point you may need it.
Get running specific nutrition
Once you start doing some longer or harder workouts(anything lasting about 45 minutes or longer), your body will need some extra fuel to keep up. Three important nutrients are important to keep in mind for runners: electrolytes that help keep us hydrated, carbohydrates that help create efficient energy for our body and amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins to help our muscles. Luckily brands like GU, Honey Stinger and Clif have it down to a science and provide the best on-the-go nutrition for all levels of running. From gels to gummies to bars, there's a perfect nutrition option for all runners.
Break down your run
The thought of running a long distance, whether that be double digit miles or not, can be very overwhelming. Thinking of how many steps, or time it will take you to cover that long distance can be daunting but there’s an easy runner trick to help with that! Break down your run by sections and concentrate on those sections one at a time instead of the whole thing together. For example, if you are going for a 10 mile run, divide your run in 3 sections. The first section or the first 4 miles is your “Warm Up” section, think to yourself “you can do this distance no problem”. In this section, you are getting your body going on a good rhythm. Section 2, the next 3 miles, is your “Keep it up” section, this is where you have gotten your body in a good rhythm and just need to continue moving forward. Section 3, the last 3 miles, is your “This is it” section. This is where the real challenge starts but you’re already more than half way into your run and if you were able to do all the miles up to this point what’s stopping you from completing this last little bit? You’ve got this!
Be nice to yourself
Once you get hooked on the running feeling and doing some great longer distance runs it’s easy to want to speed up the process, literally. But it’s very important to remember that progress takes time and may not happen all at once. When you’re working on increasing mileage don’t worry so much about the pace or time it may take, concentrate on the distance you are achieving first. Once you feel comfortable with the distance, you can then incorporate a pace you’d like to achieve. Remember this is part of the running journey we all love.
Share with a motivated friend
Share your goals with a friend or loved one that could help motivate you and keep you on track. It could be a running partner or even a friend who does a different sport altogether, as long as they are someone who doesn’t mind hearing your many running stories. Ask them to check in on you and your progress from time to time, and you can do the same for them, sharing the good and the bad in between. Having someone to share your progress with will help keep you both accountable and motivate you both to keep going. Plus hearing someone else's stories could help with your personal goals, even if you are not on the same paths.
Warm up and cool down
Most runners will say this is their least favorite part of running but an important one nonetheless. Doing just 5 minutes of warm up or cool down exercises can make a huge difference in your run both now and in the future. Before a run try some dynamic exercises like: high knees to high kicks and squats with hip rotations. These exercises will help get your heart rate and breathing rate up and ready for the run ahead. After a run, a simple cool down routine that includes some stretches like single knee-to-chest stretch, standing quad stretch and shoulder stretch can help relax your muscles and lower your heart rate from the intensity of your run.
Recovery is necessary
While a post run cool down routine is part of the recovery process, it doesn’t stop there. Recovery is also about what you do with your body the other hours of your day when you are not running. Things like cross training to help strengthen your body, as well as eating the right foods to fuel your body, will aid in the recovery process and have positive effects on your running. Something as simple as eating a banana, a high source of potassium, can help recover your electrolyte levels, prevent muscle cramps and help with digestion.
Don’t forget to rest
Rest days are a love hate concept for runners. We long for them when we’re in the middle of a long run and loathe them on days we have them because we’d rather be out running. Regardless, we understand the importance of them, especially during a time where we’re reaching for more intense goals. While we may not notice right away, rest days help strengthen your body, and rejuvenate our mind and spirit so that we actually get excited and want to continue our training!
Keep an eye out for possible injuries
While pursuing a new challenging goal, it’s common for your body to not feel “totally normal” since you might be doing things you’ve never done, or pushing your body and mind to new limits. But, what’s not normal is to be in constant pain. If you start to develop an unusual discomfort or even pain,especially if it is affecting the way you run, or preventing you from doing other activities, the first thing you may want to consider is an extra rest day. Some minor running injuries like that of overuse, may just be due to the fact that your body is doing way more than it is used to and may need a little extra break to get it together. If the pain continues or you develop any additional pain and the rest days you take aren’t enough, speak with a doctor or professional that can help guide you through the correct recovery process.
Tell a friend where you’re going
Going on a solo run, especially a long run, can be very relaxing and even therapeutic. But there’s one major thing to remember, runner safety. No matter how short or long your run may be, if you go on a solo run, always let someone know where you plan to run. Whether it’s someone you live with or a nearby confidant, tell a friend or loved one where you are going for your run and how long you plan to be out. While your run may not go exactly to the minute you have it planned, give your friend an idea of the time so they can be sure to keep an eye out. Plus if your very lucky maybe they will congratulate you with an extra reward since they know how long and far you went!
Visit your nearest Fit2Run for more tips from our Fit Experts
If you’re looking for some friendly advice, are in need of any running gear, or just want to chat with a fellow runner on all things running, make sure to visit us at one of our Fit2Run locations throughout Florida or Puerto Rico, where our Fit Experts would love to meet you.