Some things never change…How many of these can you relate to?
If I’d known just HALF of these RUNNING SECRETS when I started running on my own without the help of a coach or a pre-made plan…I might have run further regularly, not had lingering nagging injuries, felt confident about tackling longer distances, and ENJOYED the process of running more.
Instead, I ignored what my body asked for (slower paces, more consistent training, gentle increase in mileage, etc) and said, “No, THIS is how it needs to be done! “Real” runners do it this way!”
“Real” runners? What was I thinking??
For the longest time I defined “real” runners as running 50miles a week minimum. Running at 8min pace at the SLOWEST. Running every run at a comfortably-hard pace. Running all speed workouts on a track for a total run time of 30-40mins at 75% effort pace minimum. And until I met these standards, I wasn’t a “real runner”.
Now that I know better….
I can look back on those training attempts and see it with 2 different lenses now. As a rehab healthcare professional who cringes at amount of load I put on my unprepared body and as a more seasoned runner who shakes her head when I expected immediate results within a week. All of this to say…
1. If you run, you are a “real runner”.
Don’t let silly, imaginary standards prevent you from chasing that running dream! We’ve all run-walked those beginning steps sometime in our lives, and sometimes more than once. Don’t ever be afraid to start again.
2. That first mile will always suck, no matter how long you’ve been running.
Ok, so maybe some days it won’t, it’s true! Other days, the first mile never seems to end and your legs won’t cooperate. The first mile is a process; you just have to trust it. Something magical happens around the beginning of mile 2. So keep chasing that magic mile, because that’s where you hit your stride, your legs wake up, and you find your groove.
3. Judging or comparing your pace to someone else’s will only steal your joy.
It’s not worth it. Please believe me. I know it’s tempting. If you’re going to compare paces, compare your own! But even then, be kind to yourself-be honest! Recognize where you’ve put in the work in and what you need to improve on, but appreciate how far and fast your legs have carried you. Treat them kindly.
4. Even when running alone, running is a community sport and event.
It’s so true. And the longer I run, the more I see…and feel this! Running is unique-there’s a clear winner and a loser. Either you make it or you don’t. But we’re all there for each other along every step of the race and ready to cheer or motivate each other to run further, kick faster, and dig deeper at every finish line. We thrive on friendly competition and know at the end of every race, the only person to blame for a poor time is ourselves. But likewise, the only person who knows you also gave your everything, is YOU. We may run alone, but we run together.
5. That first winter run is always a heroic effort.
Those of us living in snowy climates, you know what it’s like to pull out the thermal leggings, the 2nd pair of gloves, the thicker wooly hat…and sometimes the yak tracks. Just getting DRESSED for a winter run becomes a workout with putting on layer after layer! And then you stand there at the door and the icy wind hits your face….and it’d be so much easier to go back to bed or the couch. This one’s for you. You inspire me to keep trying every winter to get my own butt out the door more. Teach me your ways and tell me your secrets.
6. Even Elites have a hard time getting out the door somedays.
Yup. You better believe it. Part of you knows they get paid to do this…but that doesn’t mean every day is filled with sunshine and rainbows. I see this as a physical therapist-they LOVE what they do and wouldn’t trade it for the world! But some training runs are still the definition of challenging and even they need a little extra motivation (that’s why they have designated running buddies and coaches! Someone is there waiting for them to show up and put in the work!). Elites put on their running socks and shoes the same way we do….they’ve got their human days, too.
7. Injury is going to happen eventually.
And when it does, don’t freak out. I promise it’s not the end of everything you’ve ever worked for. Training just might look differently for a while and that’s ok. A good, general rule of thumb, if an injury doesn’t clear up in 2 weeks after rest and/or gentle easy running, then it’s time to get that check out by your physician or your friendly neighborhood physical therapist. Let us help you get back on track-that’s our job and we love to see you succeed!
8. You can always come back smarter and stronger.
It’s that simple. Get the help you need. Look over your running logs. Do you find you consistently give out at a certain mileage? Certain speed workout? Specific spot in your training program? Your body will try to tell you the answer; we just have to listen and understand where it’s pointing us. All those signs are pointing towards what YOU need-improving mobility, tweaking your cross training, or maybe, just plan rest.
9. Rest days are part of training, too!
Really, really! This is the BIGGEST secret for me. In the past, I'd be ashamed of my rest days, because remember, “real runners” don’t need rest days. That’s a straight up lie. Elite runners rest days may look different than yours and mine, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need yours too! So stayed tuned-in to your body and respect it if it’s asking for a total rest day, an easy run, or just some fun movement.
10. Taking a break is OK!
I learned this the hard way. Multiple times in a row. And along the way, had a runner identity crises. There were seasons where I took time off from running and solely focused on strength or mobility. And I reaped so many benefits and lessons from those unplanned seasons. So never feel bad for taking a break, but never take a break from taking care of yourself.
11. BONUS! Yes, you need cross-training. No, it doesn’t need to be boring.
Like I said above, I explored different ways to cross train for SEASONS, not just one-off weeks. I gave myself the time to explore new hobbies and learn new skills. For me, cross training has looked like heavy lifting, yoga, skiing, kayaking, HIIT…doesn’t sound too boring, right? Giving myself the freedom to explore different avenues of fitness has only made me a stronger athlete and a better runner. So don’t forget to have fun!
Because that’s what running is about-moving your body and exercising in a way that YOU enjoy.
It’s not just for Elites, or the fast, graceful, gazelles that stride down your street.
If you run at all, and head out your door with the purpose of walking on air, then you’re a real runner.
If you ever find there’s a period of time where you just don’t enjoy it, then hit pause. The run will always take you back. And you’ll still be a real runner -especially now that you know ALL the RUNNING SECRETS.
What are your RUNNING SECRETS? Lessons you've learned the hard way? Share them with me below! I'd love to hear your stories, fit fam.