7 Things Experienced Runners Can Learn From Beginners

What if I’m the last one out there? What if everyone is faster than me? What if I don’t know the route? What if nobody talks to me? These are some of the questions that crossed the mind of beginner runner Patty Radice when she debated joining a running group to help her meet her goals. Many new runners feel this very same way. Countless times I have invited people to my run group and they almost always reply “I’m too slow” or “ I need to get in shape first”. This has always been upsetting to me as I know that all runners started somewhere. With people now posting their accomplishments, paces and miles online at every last mile, it can be very intimidating to new runners. Before Facebook, nobody knew their neighbor ran 7 miles at 8:50 pace that morning. It is intimidating enough to see it on Facebook let alone join that person’s running club. Sure most running clubs will say they will take anybody, but is that statement truly comforting to a new runner? I do believe the statement is true, however, nobody wants to feel like an outsider. To a beginner a running group can seem like an organized “ clique” and like any other “clique”, it is never easy or fun to be the newbie. It is difficult enough to begin a running program, but to join a club with the fear that you will be the worst one their takes a new kind of bravery that is truly is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself. It can be as daunting as entering a room full of people who you have never met before, and being the only one who speaks English in the room. Runners talk about PR’s, fartleks, tempos and splits like it is everyday knowledge to people. It is not, and to the beginner even asking questions about these terms can feel overwhelming in a world where just trying to run a half a mile seems truly impossible. I want you to challenge yourself for minute and look at these issues in a bit of a different light. Beginners I want you to see through Patty’s eyes for a moment. Experienced runners I would like you to do the same. What do you see? We can learn so much from each other if we allow ourselves to get out of our every day routine. Remember what it was like when you were “Patty”. I learned quite a bit.

  1. Step out of your comfort zone. This does not mean step up your tempo pace run. Run with some new people! So often we get comfortable with our group and forget about others around us. Don’t be afraid to be awesome and be a newbie for a bit in another group! Patty is a single mother and an insurance agent who felt very comfortable in her walking group of 9 years! She took a brave step and tried a new group of people, and found a whole slew of people that encouraged her to move to the next level. Now she has so many more people to exercise with and keep her motivated. Don’t leave the old group behind, just make new running friends! It is not always easy when juggling work and kids and exercise but don’t be afraid to switch up your routine and try something new!
  2. Ditch the technology. Yeah you heard me. I’m a coach and I said it. In fact often times I take the technology away from my runners. Experienced runners have become obsessed with modern technology. When I asked Patty what she used for technology she said “run keeper, when I can”. Beginners tend to start slowly and listen to their bodies because it is the only way they can finish their run and feel good. Pretend you are a first-timer and go out with nothing! Run the way you feel. Look at the landscape around you and forget about your training pace, your splits, your vertical oscillation, and your mileage. Run 4 ish miles. Yeah, I said it, 4 “ish”! Or even better, run 33 minutes!
  3. Go back to basics. New runners ask questions. They ask great questions! They are hungry to learn form and technique. Experienced runners AND beginners can ALWAYS improve form in some way. There is always more to learn and rules are always changing. Even as a coach who has been doing this for years, I still am always asking people questions, reading, and trying to learn from other runners. My beginners have taught me to ask. If you are not afraid to ask you may learn something new!
  4. Observe others around you. “There are people that run at all different speeds, new runners and veterans alike, there is a lot to be learned by all and I try to make it a point to take at least one small thing each time I go on a group run. I also find it motivating to see how far others have come.” Experienced runners often forget where they came from. They are so focused on achieving their next personal record and are so hard on themselves if they don’t meet or exceed their goal that they become very hard on themselves. Watch the beginners around you. Encourage them to keep going. Run WITH them sometimes. It is ok to run slower than your normal pace sometimes. A simple high five can change someone else’s outlook entirely. In doing so, you will remember what it was like to be where they were. It means a lot to that newbie in the group, and it will help you appreciate how far you have come and maybe learn to be less hard on yourself.
  5. Set small goals. This one is important. Beginners tend to set small goals as a path to a larger goal. Small goals are so helpful because it becomes easy to get bogged down in a schedule that is only focused on the 12-week picture. Looking at a 12-week program can be scary. Take it a week at a time, or even a mile at a time some days. If you have a horrible run, be proud that you were out there! You lapped everyone who was sitting on the couch that day! In a country that is very overweight and sedentary just being out there is a huge accomplishment! Be proud!
  6. Rest. I asked Patty what she does if she’s especially sore one day. “If I feel sore I take a walk to get my body warmed up and then do some light stretching” Seems simple right? The number one difficulty I have with my experienced runners is explaining the importance of rest days. The human body is amazing. It is capable of so many incredible things. LISTEN TO IT! If there is a day where your workout is particularly hard, take the next day off! That is when the body rebuilds itself. Without rest, we continually break our bodies down without rebuilding. This leads to plateaus and injury. You cannot get stronger without rest! If you can’t manage to take an off day, listen to Patty, go for a walk!
  7. Have fun! Sometimes as experienced runners we take things so seriously, we forget that running should be fun. Dance in the middle of a run! Sing your favorite song out loud! Be silly! Remember what it was like to be a kid when running around felt easy! Most of us do not get paychecks for races and are not expected to place well in a race to keep our sponsors happy. We do this as a hobby. That certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard and try to meet our yearly goals; it just means we need to keep perspective. If your hobby becomes not fun and you feel burned out, that is never a good thing, remember why you started running. Remember how good it felt the first time you completed a mile without stopping. Try to remember why you started running to begin with and if you don’t remember, find a beginner in your next group run and ask them a few questions. You may remember, and learn a few new things in the process!
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