Sinclaire Sparkman: tips for beginning runners like me

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Jul 10, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Running became part of my fitness journey not long ago. At first, I was certain the sport was invented by masochists, but as I get into it more and more I realize how wonderful the activity can be.

I had before shied away from running because the words of my elders rang in my head, “running is so bad for your knees, just walk instead.” So I walked. And I did some toning here and there. And it wasn’t cutting it.

It’s true, walking is way better for your knees. But I figure the real problems come from overdoing it, like anything else. I’ll be a runner for a few years, maybe complete a 5K or two, and then go back to my healthy walking routine once I’ve done what I set out to do. Or maybe I’ll get addicted to running, as a lot of people do, and be an accomplished marathoner when I’m 60. We’ll see.

It’s incredible though, what running can do for your brain. After I got used to the activity, past the dread of burning muscles and shortness of breath, I started to get into a space where I can really think. I’m not sure who said this, but I once read or heard that all the world’s problems could be solved if we went for a good run. I’m starting to believe that’s true.

This whole running thing started last year when I participated in my first 5K, the Shine for Shelby. I didn’t have a set goal to run the whole thing. I knew at my experience level I would be doing well if I could finish the 3.1 miles within 45 minutes doing a mix of walking and a light jog. I finished in dead last, but I did it. I completed the whole course, and I told myself I’d do a 5K next year with a better time. 

Then winter came and I forgot all about running and keeping up with my fitness goals. The turkey, the pumpkin pie and 15 pounds later, I started working out all over again, this time armed with a gym membership. Even though I prefer running from my house to Don Fox Park and back, with some days reaching a sweltering 102 degrees or more, I’m cool with the treadmill, for now.

I admit all that to say, if you’ve tried and failed at fitness or running before, don’t give up. That’s tip No. 1. Keep trying. It gets easier, I promise. 

Tip No. 2 is to push yourself just hard enough. Don’t go sprinting down the road expecting to keep that pace up for long. When I started, I could barely keep up a run for a whole 60 seconds before slowing to a walk. It didn’t take too long to double that, then double it again. Give yourself time to rest, but also push yourself to do your best. When you start out, focus on your breathing, ignore the thoughts that scream for you to stop and find a rhythm that works. Walk, run, walk. Short intervals are your friend. One day you’ll run for longer than you knew you could, and that’s when the real fun starts.

Tip No. 3 is to stay hydrated. The dehydration headaches are the worst, and they take hours to chase away retrospectively. Fuel up with water and a protein-rich meal about two hours before a run. That way, it’ll get processed and won’t slow you down. Plus, it will help your performance. 

That’s pretty much it, though I could tell you to get good shoes, find a motivation partner or be sure to run in a safe place. Those are common sense things. The main thing is to keep on running. 

Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at ssparkman@lebanondemocrat.com and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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