Updated: Mar 23, 2020
No matter where you are on your running journey, we all started logging miles by running our first one! For some of us, that may have been 30 years ago, for some of us, it might be something we are currently working towards.
We tend to forget how hard it is to get started in running, especially if we've been doing it for a while. Running a single mile may seem like an easy task for someone who runs 20-30 miles per week, just like running 30 miles may seem easy for an ultramarathoner!
We just have to remember that our distance and pace is relative! Finishing that first mile may seem impossible now, but with the help of this article you'll be signing up for your first 5k in no time!
Let's jump into a few key tips that I wish I knew when trying to run my first mile...
Set small goals
Everyone wants to knock out that first mile. It can feel like a rite of passage in the running community, but the truth is, it's not that big of a deal!
We create this 1 mile goal because it's a nice easy number that looks nice on paper, but we forget about the 1/4 mile goal, 1/2 mile goal, and 1km goal that feels just as good when we accomplish.
When you go out on your first run, you may only be able to make it down the block before you need to take a break...and that's totally fine!! We have to take baby steps when we are first getting into running, allowing our body some time to adapt to this new stress.
So when you're writing your first running plan be sure to account for the fact that you probably won't be crushing your first mile on the first run you take!
It's important to set small goals on your way to logging that first mile for a few reasons.
First, it relieves some of the pressure of hitting mile number 1. Yes, it's an important milestone but when you have already hit 3 important milestones before it, you don't feel all that pressure that you might have otherwise.
Second, it physically prepares you to run a whole mile. Too often, people try to push themselves to go from never running to running a whole. Not only is this hard on your body but it can also make you never want to run again!
Third, it will give you the confidence you need when you're ready to smash that mile! So much of running is mental and having the experience of hitting a few smaller goals will build your strength and confidence. When you're ready to go for a mile, you'll be ready.
When you start planning your first few runs, be lenient. You don't need to go out on day one and qualify for the Boston marathon! Just commit to running and have fun.
If you only get 50 feet before you need a break, so what? Run 50 feet and take a break! You can walk for a little bit and then try running again. Maybe you'll run farther this time, maybe not. The important thing is that you are actually enjoying yourself, which brings me to my next point...
Make it fun!
Have you ever known someone who can take a fun activity and make it miserable? You know, the kind of guy cursing at his kid for not catching the "winning touchdown". Or the guy losing his mind at the company picnic because their coworker hit the volleyball out of bounds...?
Yeah, we've all met people like this throughout our lives. The reason that they suck the fun out of these kinds of events is because they take it too seriously! They turn a relaxed, fun event into a must-win situation...in turn, this stresses everyone out and makes the event totally unenjoyable.
This is exactly what happens to so many runners!
We get so caught up in personal bests, races, events, social media, and competitions that we end up sucking the fun out of running.
Often times people actually start running with little to no intention of having fun. They think they need to lose weight or get in better shape and they figure running is the best way to do that.
The problem with turning running into a chore is that it means you don't enjoy it, which means you probably won't continue to do it. That's just how life works, you tend to do the things that make you happy and avoid the things that don't.
No matter your reason for running, if you want make this a workout that you can actually maintain, you have to make it fun. Lucky for us, there are lots of ways to do that!
Netflix runs - Hop on a treadmill and watch your favorite show! Time flies when you're distracted with a good episode of Gilmore Girls...I mean...sports and stuff...
Destination runs - Go somewhere beautiful that you don't get to visit often. Being in an amazing environment can dull the pain a little bit!
Run with friends - If you have friends looking to get into running you can go together and encourage each other along the way. If you have friends who are already pretty good runners I'm sure they'd love nothing more than to go on a nice easy run with you to provide some moral support!
Trail runs - If you like hiking, you're going to love trail running. It's a little more exciting than road running (in my opinion) but it can also be harder due to the tough terrain.
Easy runs - Remember, there is no rush! You don't have to run fast and you don't have to progress quickly. One way to approach your runs is with intervals. Start running until you feel like you need to walk, then just walk! When you've caught your breath and feel like you can run again, start running. You can continue this "run, walk, run, walk" technique until you've hit your time or distance goal for the day.
It's way better to go slow and enjoy your run than it is to go fast and be miserable.
Warm up, cool down, and recover
Sometimes I get stuck in this mindset that warming up and cooling down is only necessary when you're going for a long run or really tough workout. That's totally bogus. You can pull a muscle in the first few minutes of a run...I know because I've done it! Like 5 times...
Our bodies don't like going from a sedentary state to an active state too quickly. And recent research has shown that even stretching before warming up your muscles may not be a good idea.
It's important to warm up before you run, cool down after you run, and make sure you're properly recovering for about 24-48 hours after your run.
Don't know how to do any of that...? Alright, let's talk about it!
Very simply put, a warm up should increase your heart rate, get you breathing harder, and stretch your muscles to some degree.
You also want to make sure that this warm up is low impact and somewhat sport-specific, meaning you really want to focus on the muscle groups that are the most involved. Basically, you don't want to spend more time on your upper body than your lower body when you're warming up for a run.
You want to stay away from a high impact warm up because you can injure yourself in warm-ups if your not careful! Avoid jumping and twisting until you're at least a little warm.
I like to start my warm up with some air squats; these are low impact but after a few of them I can feel my breath start to pick up. After air squats I usually do some shallow lunges; these will get my body working while also lightly stretching my legs. Lastly I like to do some monster walks, really trying to feel a bit of a burn here.
After that I like to get into some more dynamic moves like high knees, butt kicks, skipping, arm circles, leg swings, and the karaoke drill. I'll just do these for a 30 seconds or so at a low intensity to get loose.
I might also spend a few minutes stretching any problems I may have, like calves, quads, or hip flexors.
After my run I like to cool down the same way I warm up! I basically just do the same routine in reverse. The only difference is that immediately after my run I'll just jog and walk until I've caught my breath and my heart rate has slowed down a good amount.
Now would be a good time to incorporate some more stretching if you want/need to. The reason is that your muscles are very warm at this point and when muscles are warm they are more receptive to stretching.
I know that lots of people skip cool downs because they don't think they provide any benefits and they really just want to plop down on the couch after a hard run (I hear ya!). But cooling down can decrease muscle cramps, muscle soreness, and muscle tension. So...yeah. Do your cool down!
Lastly, we need to talk about recovery. Recovering from a run takes time. I don't want you to think "Well I did my cool down, I'm good now!" That's not how it works. You're body can take days to recover from runs, which is why it is so important that we get the recovery process right!
Recovery is just too big of a topic to discuss in this article, so check out the article I just wrote about how to recover from running. This article goes into detail about why recovering is so important, especially for new runners, and how to go about doing it right!
Wait...I'm not sure you heard me. Recovery is super, super important...don't skip this section just because I linked you to another article! Read the damn article! It's a quick 10 minute read that could help you prevent unnecessary injury and pain. Read it!
So that's it! It's pretty simple, but it's not easy. Running your first mile is almost guaranteed to be a challenge but it's one that we've all had to overcome! Once you get past that first mile you can focus on the next, and the next and the next.
And yes it will take a while, and no it won't be easy. But if you follow the advice in this article it will definitely be fun and you'll have a good chance of staying healthy...and that's what it's all about!
Do we have any new runners in the house!?!
Anybody trying to get that first mile checked off their list of running goals?
How about anybody getting back into running for the first time in a while?
Drop me a line below, I'd love to talk to you about your running plan, what you're struggling with, and what got you into running!
As always, thanks for reading!