Shortly after becoming employed at the library in 2010, I took up running.
I’m impulsive. I like to jump right in. I’m a big fan of learning lessons the hard way, so I did just that. I ran in the wrong shoes (I learned about plantar fasciitis). I ran with too much water (a stomach is not a great water barrel), then not enough water (so thirsty!), then no water (I learned about dehydration!). I didn’t research electrolytes, or nutrition, or recovery (“I’m not doing enough to need that stuff!”), and I did not want to do strength training (ugh) or stretching (boring). I didn’t bother warming up before a workout (takes too long!) and tried to run my first mile as fast as I could (going fast is the point, right?), then I’d try to squeak out more miles afterwards (everyone else is going further than I am!). I made unsafe choices out of self-consciousness (people might SEE me, I’ll go somewhere deserted at dusk) and poor choices out of stubbornness (pain is weakness! Keep going!). I went out underdressed in cold weather (brrrr), overdressed in warm weather (can humans melt?) and everything in between (sometimes both at once). The list is so long.
It’s no surprise that I eventually began to dislike and even dread running, while remaining stubbornly, obsessively committed. The overall benefits of running were worth it – lowered stress (except, perhaps, regarding running), better sleep, better fitness, healthier outlook – but while I was always glad I’d gone, the experience itself felt like self-inflicted torture. There was only one thing to do about that: learn how to get better at it.
I felt silly – I realized I had been neglecting a wealth of resources that were free and right under my nose. I went to the running section and loaded myself down with titles.
From a variety of books, I found stories from people I could relate to and the voices of experience for many of the issues I struggled with. I gained great information on nutrition and training, injury 101 and self-help, and buckets of other tips and advice I needed. I found inspiration and tales of personal experience that helped me realize: it can be better than this.
And indeed, it did get better. Running has become something to look forward to and enjoy. There’s a lot of great information at hand and it saves time (and pain!) to put others’ experiences and information to work for myself. Pragmatism, turns out, is a great tool for runners. If you’re thinking of running, or perhaps you’ve already started and need a little encouragement or some helpful information, here are some titles to get you started:
Running for Mortals: A Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life with Running by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield
John and Jenny are down to earth writers and coaches who are easy to relate to. They both tell the story of their first attempts at running and how rough it was when they started, then they walk you through each step to getting out there and progressing from “Running the length of my driveway makes me feel like I’m going to die” to long distance running.
No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running by John Bingham
While I don’t like to list two titles by the same author, this is a perspective book more than a “how to.” This is more the insight, tips, and information you’d get from a good coach to put things in perspective. For example: dealing with the fear that if you have to take “time off” from running, that you’ll no longer be a runner (you will) or get started again (you will!).
Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons by Kara Goucher and Adam Bean
Kara is an Olympian runner and elite athlete. I appreciated her advocacy for sensible, steady progression, and her candidness about her doubts and fears. Each chapter is a compilation of observations and tips. It’s not intended to be an orderly step-by-step guide (though it progresses in a reasonable manner), but you can certainly take plenty of “how to” from it.
While this doesn’t focus solely on running, this book is a great read for folks who get caught up in self-consciousness – yet another hurdle that can turn new runners off. It is worth getting over it and this book will help. When I started, I had just lost a significant amount of weight and felt utterly awkward in my own skin. If I saw another car in the parking lot at my favorite trail, I’d keep right on driving. It took me a couple years to decide I didn’t “hate” trails where people might be. At one point, I was so embarrassed about my huffing and puffing that I’d inadvertently hold my breath as I ran past anyone (with pretty predictable results). This book gave me some great information, and also helped me find a little perspective.
Whatever book you choose (choose many!), remember that every author’s voice and experience is different and what works for one person, doesn’t have to work for everyone. If these titles don’t fit your needs, dig through our books on running and find one that is a good fit for you. There is no “right” or “wrong” choice!
~Cheryl B. PST @ James H. LaRue