GUEST POST: A Starter Course for New Runners OR How to Run Without Falling Over. Really.

Please welcome my good friend Penny for the very first guest post EVER on Claremont Road! Take it away, girlfriend…

Hello! My name’s Penny, and I am a map artist and blogger over at Pantomime Papers. There are lots of pencils and paper in my life!

In addition to drawing, I’m also an endurance runner. I know your very own Brooke-o-licious has been working through the Couch25K running program, and so I thought many of you might be doing the same thing. Perhaps you are even training for your first 10k, half marathon, or – lawsy – full marathon! Two years ago, I couldn’t even run a half mile straight through… but in December 2009, I completed my first full marathon. I learned so much about running during all my race training through trial and error – I thought some of you new runners out there could benefit from my pulled muscles and crying in the gutter! (Seriously, I had a rainy 18-mile training run that had me crying six ways to Sunday – don’t tell anyone.)

SO, these are my best tips – the tips that helped take me from couch to crossing the finish line. Every runner is different, so definitely take what sounds helpful and leave the rest. This is just what worked for me! Seriously, you can do this, whether your goal is to be able to run 1 mile, a 5k, a 10k – anything. As the most unathletic person I know… if I can become a runner, anybody can do it. You might even start to enjoy it!

1) Good Gear: Buy a Pair of Real Running Shorts

For-real running clothes (the kind you buy at a sports store) is miles better than our Target yoga pants or – God forbid – Umbros. “Real” running clothes are made out of wicking material; they wick sweat away from your body to keep you cool and dry. Running clothes feel breezy; workout clothes will stick to you and then chafe your lady parts. You do NOT want to chafe your lady parts. Right? Right. (Body Glide helps with that, too.) Running clothes can get expensive, so if you can only buy one piece… snag some shorts for between $30-$45. You can make less-than-stellar tops work, but nice shorts will make you a happy camper. Look for a pair that’s not too short (to avoid riding-up) and that feels super-comfy. Many will even have a pocket for your keys – bonus!
SUPER-TIP: For the best $$ deals, try on shorts at the store, then order from Running Warehouse. Almost always, I find they’re much cheaper than retail!

2) Sometimes Walking Helps You Run

I had a really tough time during my first year of running. I always felt sluggish when running, and it was just so hard! My after-run recovery time was SO slow, too. On my long run days, I would fall on my face into bed for hours. I’d wonder “WHY is this so tough for me; what am I doing wrong?” Ummm, that’s when I discovered Jeff Galloway, one of the most popular running experts out there (overlook the sadly unfashionable book cover). He advises implementing walk breaks into your runs. Jeff says that incorporating walk breaks helps prevent injuries and significantly shortens recovery time. “Ho-kay, I’ll try it.” And you know what? He was right.

I started out with four minutes of running followed by one minute of walking. The walk breaks meant that I could knock out a ten-mile run without feeling like I was going to die; and I was bopping out to lunch with friends afterwards! No more losing an entire day to my long runs, and I started to ENJOY running! Crazytunes. Now, a year later, I’ve worked up to run one mile, walk for one minute, with a twelve minute per mile pace (including the walks!)

SUPERTIP: So you don’t have to keep looking at a stopwatch, time out your intervals with your iPod. Create a playlist of bumpin’ songs to run to, but every five minutes (or whatever interval you choose) lay in a 60-second (ish) “walk” song. When you hear the walk song, you’ll know it’s time to… walk. :) I use “Guilty”, by Billie Holiday for my walk cues.

3) You Can’t Run on Empty

Fueling is so important to running. Drink tabs (I use Nuun tabs) are these fizzy tabs you dissolve into your water bottle. They power you better than water, but won’t send you into sugar shock like Gatorade. Gu Chomps are these chewy gummies to munch on before and during your run – they’ll keep you going when you’re low on energy!

SUPERTIP: After your run, within thirty minutes, it’s really important to eat a little something… a little chicken, juice, fruit, anything! It takes awhile for your body to wind down after a run. Your feet stop, but your body keeps going. You have to eat so that your metabolism chews up calories from food, not your hard-earned muscles! Bananas are a really great post-run snack.

4) Your Left Brain is Nuffin’ but Trouble, So Ignore It

The left side of our brain is useful for many things… running is not one of them. The left side is what says “This stinks. I hate running. What the heck am I doing here!?” The left side also says things like “It’s raining/snowing/sleeting/etc – I don’t want to run in this.” It’s ok to think these things, but think them while you lace up your shoes and hit the pavement anyway. The true rewards in running aren’t in that race at the end; the rewards are in your training – in the sweat and push, in challenging your boundaries, accomplishing things you never thought your body could accomplish. One of my best runs was an 8k race that I ran in a freak blizzard. My time was crappy; I was soaked from head to toe – but I finished. And I felt like a beast.

SUPERTIP: Nike+ is a great wristband tool that will help you track your running progress in a really fun and motivating way. Your left brain won’t stand a chance! See my full review here and feel good about the progress you’ll make as you build a running history!

In closing…

Learning to run has truly changed my life, and – don’t faint – I really love it. A former couch potato loves to run. I hope these tips helped you on your own running journey – much luck on the road!


  1. Great guest post Penny! Running is such a culture—I've never run more than 2.5 miles in my life (but was really proud of myself that one day I did it). I'm inspired now!

  2. This is a great post! I've been feeling down about running lately because I feel like it's so… HARD. I struggle to get through a 30-minute run without feeling like I'm going to die. But I think the problem is I believe I have to run the whole way through. I'm going to try out your walk breaks suggestion and see if I can turn my running frown upside down.

    Thanks, Penny!

  3. Great post! I'm getting back into running (just finished Couch to 5k after an almost two-year hiatus from running) and I like it so much more than I did before. It no longer feels like a chore; I feel awesome and strong after each run. (Sometimes dog tired, too.) Thanks for the Jeff Galloway tip. I'm going to check out that book.

    The other piece of advice for new runners is, of course, to get a good pair of running shoes and to actually get fitted for them in a proper running shop. I did that this time around and the difference is huge (I'm supposed to wear a half size bigger for running shoes, I discovered). Not that new kicks are going to turn you into Flo Jo, but your feet will feel so much better in good sneakers.

  4. Great Post! Three weeks ago I decided that I needed to start running and while I love it. I always feel like I'm dying. I've been running cycles but I don't know whats good and whats too many. I just continue to go day after day.

    I'm going to check out that book now!

  5. fascinating! thanks so much for this helpful info.
    fun fact: i totally packed an old (i mean OOOOOLD) pair of umbros for the gym after work. :) but i won't be running, so i think they'll be okay ;)

  6. These are great tips. Thanks! I just started C25K so this is really helpful.

  7. Brooke and Penny – I can't thank you enough for this post. Brooke motivated me to start the C25K program and this post was one of the most informative things I have read about running. Thank you both so much for sharing your stories.

  8. Awesome post! I've tried to run so many times and always give up because I feel so pathetic, slow and exhausted afterwards. I'm definitely going to have to try out some of your tips…

  9. I'm glad this post was helpful! Running has a bit of a learning curve, and if I can help prevent a few blisters, I will! :)

  10. aw thanks! i love running, but just got into this year bc i never could build my endurance up enough in the past cause of weak knees and such… anyways.. do ya'll have any blogs you recommend that focus on exercise and running and/or nutrition? i go to alot, but always looking for new resources!! :)

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