Three weeks ago, I decided to start running. Without my daily commute and general walking from building to building at the college, my body was craving movement. I tried some Youtube aerobics (remember Billy Blanks and Tae Bo) and just got angry at the lack of space in my house and the complicated footwork.  I decided to venture outside for a “ten minute blast” around the neighborhood. “I can handle ten minutes,” I thought, but my first timed round was excruciating.

Week one of running was just silly and hard, mostly because my body was in shock, but also because I just tried to run without stretching or looking into training. I thought, “I’ll just run around the block for a few ten-minute chunks to help with energy and stamina.” Ahhhh, wilderness! Thankfully I got connected with Jill Whisonant (photo below), a mentor at Summerville’s Fleet Feet, and she’s helped me set goals to safely begin running. Now I look forward to my morning runs without dread; I can honestly say they help a lot right now.

Two years back, Jill began taking her running more seriously and joined Fleet Feet’s 10K program to get more involved with runners locally. “[Fleet Feet is] a great resource no matter what your running experience,” explains Whisonant. “They just create a fun environment where people grow in the art of running and staying safe.” 

Over social distancing, Jill gave me a pep-talk and to-do list about how to safely start running. Here’s what she had to say:

1) Start where you are. Make sure you have shoes that don’t hurt your feet. ***Right now, you are able to purchase from Fleet Feet online and they are allowed to do in-store fittings still as well (***but you can also buy shoes online from your preferred store). It’s obviously at the customer’s comfort level, but they can do fittings outside or just social distance in the store, using extra precautions.

2) The thing that scares most people off [from running] is their breath. Initially, it’s not inherently easy to control your breath when your heart feels like it is beating out of your chest, so you have to find the pace that allows you to keep moving forward. And sometimes, that’s walking before you build up to the run.

3) If you start running without a plan, chances are you will get frustrated and quit. Take some time to understand where you are, and find the path that will get you to where you want to go. A great way to start is with intervals. This will help you find that comfortable pace I was referred to earlier.  Start with a 5-minute run/ 5-minute walk. If that’s too easy, increase your run time and decrease your walk time until you find what challenges you Try 6/4, 7/3 or even 8/2. Once you find that interval that is challenging but doable, start to increase the run time and decrease the walk time weekly. Start tracking distance. Run a mile, walk 5 minutes, run a half mile, walk 5 minutes, etc. Start with 30-minute blocks and go from there. You’ll eventually find that you hit a comfortable pace/stride and can go for miles and miles and miles.

4) Warm up before you run. Do some jogging in place, high knees, butt kicks and toy soldiers (see video below if the only “Toy Soldiers” you know is that song by Martika) to get warm.

5) Do some big holding stretches when you’re done running – that’s when  you’ll need to keep those muscles loose so they don’t tighten up on you as they cool down.

6) Depending on when you run will depend on how and when you eat. Everyone is different and this is one of those things you may have to learn about yourself the hard way. For runs that will be 45 minutes or longer, a light breakfast like a smoothie, some oatmeal or even a couple of eggs – nothing too much – should be enough to keep you going but not make you feel heavy.  

7) Staying hydrated will become part of your daily norm…it’s something you need to pay attention to all day, not just when you are running. Your body NEEDS water and when you start running, it needs it more. Set a timer on your phone so you remember to drink every hour. Pay attention to the color of your urine…it should be a pale yellow. That means you are well hydrated. Plan on bringing something to help you stay hydrated on runs lasting longer than an hour. You will need to replenish what your body is sweating out.

 

8) I think it’s important to note that not everyone loves running and that’s ok too. Find something that you enjoy doing, so that you are able to keep yourself accountable to the activity. It doesn’t matter how far or fast anyone else goes. This is your journey, measure your progress and cheer for your wins! For some people, running comes naturally, for others, like me, it doesn’t. I was lucky enough to find a tribe of people that encouraged me every step of the way, but it took me a l-o-n-g time to understand your level of dedication is what will determine your final outcomes.   

For online motivation, Jill suggests following Fleet Feet. “They have a lot of virtual running activities that are helping to keep people active.” She also follows a group on Facebook called “Run Like a Girl.”  “People will post questions or their own personal triumphs,” Whisonant says. “It’s fun for me to follow. Finding people that have the same enjoyment, struggles, and passion will help you keep your head in the running game.”