By Alison Feller, founder of Ali On The Run blog.
This article first appeared on the U.S.-version of SHAPE.com
I remember my very first run so vividly. I was so psyched to give running a try. I had all the ‘proper’ gear (or so I thought), and I couldn’t wait to pound the pavement, enjoying the fresh air (or as fresh as New York City air along the FDR Drive can be) and working up an awesome sweat. It was going to be awesome!
In reality, my first run lasted all of four minutes before I was dry heaving on the side of the East River Esplanade, completely out of breath and not at all sweaty. As I stood with my head between my legs, runners breezed by me, glistening and smiling and making it all look so easy.
Now, years later and fully immersed in my recreational running hobby, I spend less time dry heaving and more time smiling. I haven’t mastered the art of ‘making it look easy’ and my sweat is just that – sweat, not something that glistens or shines or sparkles.
When I started running, it seemed like every run was going to feel so hard. Eventually, I learned that running isn’t a form of torture inflicted on us in an effort to burn maximum calories and spike our heart rates. Instead, it’s actually pretty awesome.
I am by no means a running expert. I’m certified in nothing and I still seek experienced (and certified) coaches to help me with my training plans. But I’ve learned a few things over the years about this fantastic sport – some easily, and some the hard way. Here’s what I wish I had known when I set out for my first run.
1. Sneakers aren’t the same as running shoes.
Not all sneakers are created equal. Far from it. I thought that because I owned an old pair of ‘sneakers’ that they would be fine for running. It wasn’t until my roommate at the time took me to a real running store and had me properly fitted that I learned what ‘real’ running shoes should feel like. They were lightweight, fit me perfectly, and didn’t give me blisters. Getting into the right pair of shoes made a tremendous difference in my form, and helped me enjoy my runs so much more. The right pair of shoes can even help prevent injuries.
2. If, after buying proper footwear, you can only afford one additional piece of gear, make it a high-quality sports bra.
You really don’t want to get hit in the face with a boob while you’re running. Running is an intense, high-impact activity. You want to be as comfortable as possible. Don’t let a shoddy old bra keep you from running your fastest.
3. BodyGlide/Vaseline works wonders.
I had never heard of chafing before I started running. But after a long run one summer, I remember getting into the shower and screaming. My sports bra had rubbed underneath my chest, and my thighs had rubbed together while I ran, resulting in painful chafing (I never said running was sexy). Lube up with BodyGlide/Vaseline before you hit the road (especially if it’s raining!) and that post-run shower will feel far more rewarding.
4. It gets better. It gets easier.
Not every run is easy. (Wouldn’t that be boring?) But the more you run, the more your body adapts and adjusts. Keep working it. Something about practice making perfect, right?
5. Not every run will be great or easy
One day you can go out and run eight perfectly blissful miles, leaving you on top of the proverbial running world. The next day, you could eat the same pre-run breakfast, wear the same exact stuff, and hit up the same route, and it could be the worst eight miles you’ve ever run. No two runs are created equal. You’ll have good days and bad days. Try not to overthink either of them.