“Learning is not a spectator sport”

I’m often asked a lot of questions by first-time runners. What should I eat before a race? How do I improve my 10k time? Will I die? It’s tough to nail down advice that’s appropriate for all. The best way to learn about running – and how I learned nearly everything I know – is to, as Nike would say, “Just Do It.”

But I always enjoy sharing my knowledge and tips, especially if it will help a newb take the plunge or a vet improve their current routine. Because I love words and I love letters, allow me to share the ABCs of Running.

A good attitude can take any run from so-so to great

Smile! A good attitude can take any run from so-so to great

A – Attitude
Whether you want to get into running or improve speed, run 1 mile or 10 miles, you’ve gotta have the right attitude and mindset to achieve your goal.

B – Bananas
Both on race day and typical running days, bananas are one of the easiest carbs for your body to digest. They give you fuel without a heavy feeling in your stomach. Bonus, they’re high in potassium, which is great for preventing side stitches and sore muscles.

C – Chafing
If it seems like I mention chafing a lot on my blog it’s because I mention chafing a lot on my blog. Chafing is awful, it’s inevitable but it’s often avoidable – body glide, people! It’s your friend.

D – Diet
I don’t mean “going on a diet” how most people think about a diet. I’m referring to your diet as what you eat. When you begin running, there are plenty of foods that should become part of your diet – the aforementioned bananas, also berries and oranges. Spinach and carrots. Whole grain bread and sweet potatoes. Greek Yogurt and chocolate milk. Eggs and salmon. Avocados and peanut butter. In a nutshell, fruits, vegetables, carbs, protein, dairy and fats. Find a balance and fill up on the good stuff!

E – Energy
Sure, running takes some energy and personal motivation from said runner. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more energy you have after you get into running.

F – Fartlek
Not just fun to say, the Fartlek training style is great for those who get bored and want to begin challenging their speed. You can alternate moderate to intense bouts of speed as you see fit. For example, when running outside, you can choose to sprint “to the next mailbox”, then back off for a few blocks.

G – Gait
The natural way your body moves or strides when you run. One variable of gait you’ve probably heard of is foot-strike – a factor that helps determines the type of shoe you should wear.

H – Happy
Running makes you happier. Although you may not always be happy about going for a run (it’s okay, happens to everyone here and there), it improves your mood, both in the short and long term. Plus, it gives your self-esteem a boost – how could you not feel great about yourself after finishing a challenging run!

I – Interval
Another type of training workout, intervals are short, intense bouts of effort followed by a period of recovery, or normal pace. I believe incorporating speed intervals is the absolute BEST way to see significant results in your overall run time. If you want to PR in your next race, start doing speed intervals. Now.

J – Jogging
It’s basically the same thing as running. And, contrary to what Ron Burgundy may believe, it’s not pronounced “Yogging” with a soft “J” – though it’s more fun to say it that way.

K – Kicks
As a runner, your choice of shoes is the most important one you’ll make. Be sure to choose the right shoe for your arch, foot type and gait. Not sure what’s the right shoe for you? Head to a specialty running store and someone will be able to help.

L – Layering
If you live in an area with seasons, you’ll want to learn the technique of layering to make your outdoor runs enjoyable. The most crucial layering comes in extreme cold. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer – long sleeves and tights that will keep your body warm and not soak up chilly sweat. Next, a long-sleeve fleece zip-up. If it’s 20 degrees or colder, or there’s a windchill factor, a top layer of wind-resistant pants and jacket. A scarf, hat or headband and gloves are also important, as are warm, moisture-resistant socks (I like SmartWool and my Burton snowboard socks).

M – Music
Especially on the treadmill, good tunes can turn a so-so run into a great one. Make playlists of songs you love that will keep you going thru speed intervals or long, steady miles.

N – Nice
Runners are nice people. Maybe I’m spoiled here by “North Dakota Nice” but nearly every time I encounter another runner when I’m out in my neighborhood, I’m greeted with a smile, wave, sometimes even a cheerful “Hi”. Most runners are also very supportive and encouraging of one another during races.

O – Overdo
Running, like any exercise, is really easy to overdo. You’re excited to get started, you’re pumped for your first race, you’re dead-set on that new 10k PR – whatever the reason, don’t overdo it to the point of injury or burnout.

P – Paths
Most cities have designated running paths so you can stay safe. It’s fun to try new paths and mix up routes – don’t be afraid to get out there and explore.

Q – Quantity
If you’re not into math and numbers, get ready – training for a race is all about tracking miles, often to a 10th of a mile, and adding them all up to meet mileage quantity goals.

R – Race
Once you begin running, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll want to sign up for your first race. It will help get you over the motivational slump that typically sets in after a few weeks of starting any new workout plan, plus there’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line!

S – Stretch
I’m absolutely obsessed with stretching. Every runner needs to stretch – that’s a hard and fast rule that I would never advise anyone against. However, stretching needs to be done properly and at the right time during run. I go into further detail in a previous blog, as well as give examples of good stretches.

T – Tempo
Yet another type of training workout, a tempo run is aiming for one that’s done at a pace slightly above your “comfort” pace, yet not too hard. Basically, you want to feel yourself pushing, yet not be gasping for air. Be sure to incorporate a brief warm up and cool down at a slower pace.

U – Understanding
Runners, as a group, have a remarkable sense of camaraderie based on mutual understanding of one another. There are so many ways runners connect, motivate and inspire each other – even when they’d otherwise be strangers. Who else out there can understand why someone would choose to get up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday and go for a 15-mile run?

V – Variety
Running is great but it’s important to mix in some variety into your workout routine to avoid injury and burnout. Bike, EFX, lift, row, swim, take a class – add some variety every week. After all, it’s the spice of life.

W – Water
Drink, drink more, then drink even more. Water is the absolute best beverage runners can drink and incredibly important before, after and even during a run (if it’s a longer one). Stay hydrated!

X – Xylophone
Yeah, so running really has nothing to do with a xylophone. I just couldn’t think of anything that started with X…

Y – YOLO
Ugh, I kind of hate this buzzword (meaning “You Only Live Once”) but it’s true. So make the most of it. Be healthy, be happy and run because you can!

Z – Zzzzs
Runners, especially those putting in high mileage weeks, need a little extra sleep to recover. But don’t fear, insomniacs – running (and working out in general) typically leads to better, more restful sleep.
What ABCs of advice would you give to new or fellow veteran runners? Post a comment or tweet to me, @runlikeagirl311.

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