Don't make my mistakes, guys.
The early days of running are exciting (everything is a PR!), but they're also filled with all kinds of missteps (literally and figuratively) and things I wish I had known. All the things I wish I could tell my younger running self:
Learn how to fuel.
When you first start running, it can be overwhelming. There are so many choices to make, from which routes to follow to what shoes to buy or which races to sign up for. But what I should have paid closer attention to in the beginning was what I was putting into my body. Sure, you can run for an hour after eating at a Chinese buffet for lunch, but should you? Testing and trying out different pre-run meals and post-run fueling options saves a lot of time, energy, and unfortunate trips to the Porta-Potty. You can easily pay attention to your protein, carb, and fat intake without actually counting calories. Working protein-rich foods like eggs, cottage cheese, and nuts into your day will help keep the infamous "runger" (runner's hunger) at bay. Experimenting with different types of carbs before a run—pasta or quinoa?—can help you find the sweet spot that works for you.
Change your shoes. Often.
Despite running for over five years, this is a lesson I'm still working on. And there's no excuse, really. Running apps keep track of the mileage on your shoes, and yes, you really should upgrade them every 300 to 600 miles. If you're running 10 miles a week, that means after eight months they need to be chucked, according to the merchandise director at JackRabbit Sports in New York City. But if you're running twice or three times that much, swap them out much sooner. Don't get romantic. Just because they're the first pair of shoes you ever ran in doesn't mean they should be the only pair of shoes you ever run in.
You can get faster.
It's easy when you're a beginner runner to think you've got one speed and one speed only. And maybe, at first, you do! But as you slowly ramp up your weekly mileage, it's important to realize that you can actually get faster at the same time. Soon you'll be able to push your pacing the same way you pushed the number of miles you're tackling, and you'll be able to tell the difference between your 5K pace and your long run pace.
Don't be afraid of new routes.
It's easy to slip into a routine as a runner, and that's not entirely a bad thing. Running the same routes is comforting, but it doesn't exactly test you. Try to embrace new paths, hills, different neighborhoods, or all of the above. They'll challenge you in a great way and, of course, make you a stronger runner, both mentally and physically. Dedicated hill training can result in increased lower leg strength—we're talking powerful ankles, calves, and feet—which can also improve your form.
It's OK if not everyone is a runner.
You might get a little, um, addicted to running. It happens to the best of us. But it's important to remember that not everyone is going to fall in love the same way you did. Encourage other people to join you, but if getting up for a pre-dawn weekend run isn't their cup of tea, it's not the end of the world. Trust me, you'll find plenty of other people who will want to join you.
Never, ever stop cross-training.
Once a training regimen is on your schedule, it's impossible to ignore—and it might also be impossible to fit in any other exercise at the same time. Don't do yourself that disservice. Proper cross training helps prevent injuries and burnout and strengthens your weakest points. It doesn't have to be a dirty word or feel like cheating; there are plenty of exercises to go around, from a HIIT cycling workout like SoulCycle, which can also target your glutes and legs without the same impact, to yoga for runners, which can improve your breathing, form, and recovery. So grab that yoga mat or kettlebell, or swing your leg over that bicycle. A well-rounded runner is the strongest type of runner there is.
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