When the coronavirus pandemic lockdown hit in early 2020, many turned to new hobbies like baking bread and reading.
Well, I started running.
Being stuck inside all day isn’t my cup of tea, and while I took daily walks to lessen that feeling, it just wasn’t for me anymore. I needed something more.
I have a little history with running – those high school years on the cross country team must have come in handy, right? – so I figured it would be simple to get back to it.
Instead, it takes a lot of mental toughness, stamina, and consistency. You have to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 22 months to become a runner again, and some tips you might be able to use if you want to get started, especially in the colder months.
Phase 1: running-walking method
The first day I started running again, I could only run for a minute without stopping. I know, embarrassing.
I was quite surprised because I train every week in a different way, including on a stationary bike, but it’s not the same. After the pathetic attempt, I quickly went to Google for a somewhat quick fix.
I came across the Run-Walk-Method, which was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway. It is a form of interval training, which results in faster recovery for beginners.
I’m not very good at following training plans, so I implemented the method in my own way:
- Day 1 : Walk/run at one-minute intervals for 30 minutes
- Day 2: Walk/run at one-minute intervals for 30 minutes
- Day 3: Walk two minutes, run five minutes for 30 minutes
- Day 4: Walk two minutes, run five minutes for 30 minutes
- Day 5: Rest
- Day 6: Run 10 minutes straight (equivalent to a mile for me)
- Day 7: Rest
Remember that it is important to stretch before and after each run. Here are some stretches to check out.
(Disclaimer: I’m no fitness expert. This method worked for me, but everyone is different.)
Phase 2: Increasing pace and mileage
Determining your pace is extremely important. This is what will allow you to put on more miles and build endurance without burning out in the middle of a run.
Aim for a 10-minute mile before trying to improve your pace.
For the first month, I added half a mile to my biweekly runs, which equates to two miles at the end of the month. It will be uncomfortable and you will have to push yourself. But as a beginner, feeling uncomfortable is crucial if you want to see improvement over time. We have nothing and nothing.
I did the same routine up to three times a week until I was able to hit a two-mile pace of 7 minutes 30 seconds. It took about two months.
Once I reached that goal, I ran 5 km (3.1 miles) once a week at a 10 minute pace. Not my best moment, but as long as you’re not sitting on the couch, pat yourself on the back. The rhythm will improve over time.
Phase 3: Test your limits
I ran a 5K a week for another month and then wanted to see if I could run a 10K (6.2 miles).
The day I tried to increase my distance to four miles, I ended up running the 10k by accident. I felt good after the four miles and didn’t want to stop. But, I don’t recommend doing this – you can hurt yourself if you’re inexperienced.
I think the reason I was able to make such a jump in mileage is because I used to race competitively and was already in decent shape. My pace was 11 minutes – slow but comfortable.
Ultimately, slow and steady is the way to go when trying to rack up mileage.
Phase 4: Interview
To train quickly, I run two miles twice a week. That’s really all you need to maintain your racing fitness, as long as you don’t plan on racing. Just go for it – If I want to run a 10k, I do it, but I don’t put any pressure on myself. Having this mindset will inspire you to stick with it.
Having proper running shoes is very important to prevent injury (as I learned the hard way).
For example, if you’re a hooker (like me), you’d really benefit from chunky-soled sneakers, like the Hoka Bondi 7.
Here is a list of popular running shoes worth checking out:
When it comes to clothing, wearing tight layers is the way to go to stay warm in the winter. You’re going to want a base, mid, outer, and outer layer for your upper body, as well as tights for your lower body. You can also add shorts over your tights for more insulation.
Covering your extremities is also crucial for trapping body heat. I recommend wearing gloves, a hat or a headband and a neck warmer.
Here is an example of an equipment shopping list:
- Based: UA ColdGear Authentics Crew, $55
- Environment: Nike Element 1/2-Zip Running Top, $51
- Outside: Lululemon Cross ChillRepelShell Jacket, $198
- Shell: The North Face Aconcagua Vest, $119
- Tights: Lululemon Wunder Train 25″ High Waist Tights, $98
- Shorts: Nike Tempo Running Shorts, $23
- Gloves: The North Face Etip recycled glove, $45
- Hat: Tough Headwear Heat Retention Hat, $12
- Headband: Fleece earmuffs, $11
- Collar size : UA SportMask fleece gaiter, $40
What you need for recovery
Running puts a lot of strain on the body and muscles, so establishing a recovery routine is essential.
Here are some items I like to use:
And especially water, which is free.
Some Final Thoughts
Becoming a runner again won’t happen overnight – it will take hard work.
Although challenging, it will feel rewarding in the end.
Good luck and have fun.
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