I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t take my own advice often enough. So absolutely NO judgement if you don’t follow any of the “rules,” because everyone is different. But I’ve done this running thing for a lot of years, so I feel it’s my duty to pass some knowledge along.
1. Find the right shoes. This is the most important advice I will give you. You MUST have the right shoes if you are planning on putting some miles on them, (and trust someone who has had running injuries solely based on shoe choices!) Don’t go to your local Foot Locker and pick out the shoes that are cute or on sale. Go to a running store and talk to someone who works there. A good running store employee will make you try on several shoes and have you run in front of them so that they can analyze your stride and gait and find you that perfect “Cinderella” fit. Expect to spend some considerable time there if it’s your first time. Don’t rush. If you are planning to do any sort of distance running, I always advise that you go up a size from your typical everyday shoe because your feet will swell the longer you’re in them for a run. I also advise that you choose to get fitted for shoes in the afternoon after you’ve been on your feet for a good part of the day, which is a more accurate representation of how your feet will feel for a long run. There are lots of great running stores in Portland, including Fleet Feet Sports, Foot Traffic, and Portland Running Company. PRC is my personal go to and you’ll get a 10% discount there if you mention Healthy Girl Fitness.
2. Find the right sports bra. The right bra is almost as important as finding the right shoes. Running causes some considerable impact on your chest. As with shoes, the right sports bra is not necessarily the most expensive one. I’ve had a lot of luck with the Champion Sports Bras found at Target, but I also prefer no underwire or hooks. That being said, I’ve loved the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, which does have hooks in the back. My new fave is the All Star Bra by ZYIA Activewear, but I am a representative for the brand, so I might be biased. It’s all really personal preference, but make sure you protect those girls. Try bras on, jump up and down in them. Experiment on shorter runs. Some will chafe in the rain, so body glide or Vaseline or something similar in strategic places will help as well.
3. Gear choice is a personal preference. As mentioned above, personal preference factors into a lot of my advice. We are all built differently and we all run differently. Test things out if you can and decide what works for you. A few things to consider are things like the following: Do you want to carry water in a handheld bottle or in a belt or vest? Do you want to wear hats or headbands? Buffs or gloves? Pants or capris? Running skirts or shorts? Jackets or arm warmers? There are so many choices now that it can be really overwhelming. As far as weather goes, I add 10 degrees to the weather when deciding how many layers to wear. So if it's 90 degrees, I prepare to dress like it's 100 degrees. If it's 30 degrees, I dress for it to be 40 degrees. That 10 degrees accounts for the sweating I'll be doing. I’m always here if you want suggestions, but you might not know what you need until you try.
4. Be seen. Safety should be your number one concern when you are out on the roads. If you have to get up to run super early in the morning or will be running in the evening (in which you need to consider the light at the end of your run, because it might be light when you start,) it can get pretty dark out pretty fast, especially in the winter months. Many running clothes now have reflective elements in their design. I have a couple super reflective jackets. I also own a couple reflective “Y” style strap vests. Noxgear has an awesome LED visibility vest that is on sale a lot. Flares, headlamps, knuckle lights, and flashlights are also helpful. RunLites, which are gloves you can insert lights into, are personal favorites of mine. There are lots of choices, and again it can seem like a lot to decide on, but I’d say the most important thing to note is that you should have something reflective from the front AND the back and you should have a light. It’s really great if the light blinks, because the movement helps when people in their cars are driving along mindlessly in the dark. Please don’t be “that” person that’s out on the road wearing all black and getting hit by a car. And just because you make eye contact with someone in a car, you should still assume that they might cut out in front of you anyway.
5. Hydrate. I’m the worst at this, but it’s so important. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve almost passed out at the end of a run because I didn’t drink enough water. Remember that in the winter, you don’t notice you need water as much as you would in the summer because you don’t get as hot. But your body needs it. This means hydrating the day before a big run and after too. On run day, only you can decide how much you need. If you want to test if you're getting enough, weigh yourself before and after a run. If your weight doesn't fluxuate much, you're probably on the right track. If you weigh less after your run than when you started, you might want to try to drink more the next time you get out there. I typically have a rule for myself that if I’m going to be out for more than an hour, I need to plan for water. Either bring it with you, follow a route that you know you have access to it, or stow it somewhere on the course for yourself beforehand. Don’t risk it!
6. Fuel your body. You wouldn’t go on a big road trip without filling your car with gas, right? Think of running this way too. To avoid “boinking” on a long run you need fuel. If you’re going for a short run (anything less than an hour is a good rule of thumb,) I don’t think it’s as important to follow the rules below, but every runner is different. This is another occasion where I can’t really advise you specifically on what to do because what works for me might not work for you. Here are just a couple of things that work for me.
a. Before the run: I need to eat at least an hour before a long run unless I want to spend a lot of time looking for bathrooms out on the course. For me, oatmeal with chia seeds, bananas, and peanut butter will keep me fueled for a long run. I’ve also done overnight oats or peanut butter on toast. I have one running friend who eats sardines before her marathons. The lesson here is .. To each their own!
b. During the run: Whether you do shot bloks, gu, or “real food” like applesauce pouches, gummy bears, or trailmix, make sure you’re prepared. I find as I get older, my body doesn’t do as well with all the sugar in gels and bloks. I tend to gravitate toward pretzels or homemade energy bars that have simple ingredients like dates. I generally tell people to try to get something in them at least an hour into their run. The problem with fueling while you run is that it often doesn’t sound good and you feel good an hour in like you might not need it. The problem is that by the time you do feel you need it, you’ve already done the damage of depleting your body. Try keeping a little in at a time and you’ll have more success. During a race, stopping at aid stations can be a good reminder.
c. After the run: I try to always have a granola bar of some kind right after a run. Bananas or oranges work well too. Some swear by chocolate milk. I try to eat something more substantial within an hour or so after a run. I’ll eat a baked sweet potato or a breakfast sandwich or something along those lines. I love burritos or roasted veggies with quinoa also.
7. What you do before your run really does matter. Try to get 8 hours of sleep. Get plenty of water. Avoid alcohol. Eat well. Lay out your running gear and clothes the night before a race so you aren’t rushed and forget something. None of these things should be super shocking. Sometimes you’ll do all of these things and you’ll have a bad run. Sometimes you’ll do none of these things and have a great run. But more often than not, it’s good to try not to stack the odds against yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found some of these things to be more and more important.
8. Recovery is as important as the run itself. This is another thing I’m learning more and more about as I get older. Make sure you do some plyometric movements before a significant run. Butt kickers, leg swings, lunges, etc are all good ways to get the body ready. Make sure you stretch after you stop running. Moist heat works great on sore muscles or achy bodies. Rest on rest days. Really. You could do more damage than good if you push it too hard. Your body has earned that rest, so take it. Overuse injuries are common. Don’t be one of them.
9. Nothing new on race day. This is a golden rule most runners know. Don’t use a race day as an opportunity to try new shoes or a new type of gel. Wear what you know is comfortable and do all things tried and true. Do what your body is used to on race day so you can enjoy the race.
10. Have fun!! If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? Embrace the journey and don’t worry so much about your time.