A running epidemic is sweeping my circle of mom friends. Evidence of it appears on Facebook numerous times a week with status updates of races run, miles clocked, and goals reached.
My friends and I aren’t alone. Pam Burrus, co-founder of the nationwide, moms-only running club, Moms RUN This Town, can attest to the fact that moms everywhere are taking up running. Her running club took off overnight with local chapters popping up all over the country.
“I started dreaming up the idea for a local running club, and when I came up with the name ‘Moms RUN This Town’ it almost immediately led itself to become a nationwide thing…and the next morning it was!” says Burrus.
For me, personally, the running bug hit two years ago when my friend and I trained for our first 5K. We both had just had our third child and we were motivated to lose weight.
Once I started running, I was hooked. No other exercise I’ve done has shed the pounds as quickly as training for my first 5K.
While beginning a running routine, I learned some useful ways to start moving, stay motivated, and get the most out of a run. Here are 11 tips to help the beginner runner succeed in crossing the finish line, as well as whittle away some unwanted weight.
• Invest in proper shoes right from the start. I can’t stress enough that you must buy proper running shoes. I purchased a pair from a department store that I thought were good; it was, after all, in the aisle of shoes titled “running shoes.” I ended up having knee pain while running, and my doctor ordered me straight to a running shoe-specialty store.
• Stock up on a couple of running outfits. What you specifically wear depends on the weather in which you’re running, but make sure you have at least a couple of outfits — including a good, comfortable sports bra. Your wardrobe can even be a source of motivation for you, like it is for my friend, Sarah. She runs late in the day, but immediately changes into her running clothes when she gets home from work.
“Even if I’m not going out for a run until later, I figure I’ll feel guilty if I have to change out of my running clothes without having gone for a run,” she says.
• Run outside whenever possible. Running outside is much different than running on a treadmill, or a “dreadmill,” as Burrus describes it. Besides the fact that running on a treadmill can be boring, a treadmill doesn’t give you the hilly terrain and wind resistance that can increase health benefits, like a run outside does. If you do run on a treadmill, put it at a slight incline to make up for some of the missed wind resistance.
• Join a running club. Joining a group of other like-minded women can make you more accountable to your running routine.
“Having accountability partners and other moms in the group that literally started from zero running experience and worked their way up to half and full marathons, seems to be a motivational force that encourages other moms to say, ‘I can do this!’ ” says Burrus.
• Sign up for a race. This was my big motivation. Once I signed up, I knew I had exactly eight weeks to train for it. With a goal of running the entire 5K, I didn’t have any time to waste.
• Having a running partner is great, but not necessary. Don’t let the fact that you are without a partner stop you from running. Running by yourself allows you to go at your own pace and at a time of day that works for you. The results you see on the scale will keep you motivated.
• Add variety to your running routine. Try zigzagging in and out of different neighborhoods on your runs, or break up your usual running routine with some sprints on certain days. Anything to help your routine stay fresh and keep your mind from becoming bored.
• Make use of running technology. Many options exist to help runners plot their routes, record their distances, and calculate calories burned. One of my favorites is MapMyRun.com, which is a useful website to help you map out your run while calculating your distance. Another one of my favorites is Nike + iPod Sport Kit, which is a sensor you put in your shoe that gives automatic feedback of your distance, average miles per hour, and calories burned directly to your iPod.
• Realize that it’s OK to walk when you get tired. For the beginner runner, a combination of walking and running might be the safest way to start. The “Couch to 5K” running plan by CoolRunning.com is an excellent resource that gives specific walk and run instructions to follow. As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan.
• Knowing your distance markers can be a great motivator. I like knowing at what point I’ll hit the one-mile and two-mile mark and so on. Knowing how far I have yet to run and how much I already have under my belt helps keep me motivated.
• Punch it up the hills. At the beginning, I was hesitant to incorporate hilly roads into my run. Seeing as I live at the top of a hill, however, it was hard not to run down and inevitably run back up at some point. My best advice for hills is to attack them. Don’t give yourself permission to jog up slowly; instead, run as fast as you can up them — you get the hills over with faster, and you literally feel your legs getting stronger with every stride. If you need to walk when you reach the top, you can, but you may find that once you’re on level ground again, you don’t need to take a break.
Whether you want to lose weight, run your first 5K, or just keep an active lifestyle, finding your stride as a running mom will make you physically fit and a healthy role model for your children.
For more on Moms RUN This Town, visit momsrunthistown.com.
Deanne Haines is a freelance writer and mother of three. In addition to running road races, Haines is looking forward to participating in her first “mud run” obstacle course later this year.