What strategy do you recommend for newbies to get out there and get started?
There are a lot of ways you can get started with running. The two main strategies are to either run by increasing your time or your distance. I’ve done both, and they have both worked well for me. Here is a training plan you can begin that increases the amount of time you run, and here's one that works on distance. I realize the training plan I linked for distance has you starting out at 1.5 miles -- if you can't run this entire way then I'd recommend walk/running it OR just working yourself up to running 1.5 miles on your own. You can see the structure of the plan and easily copy this set-up while shortening the distances.
But here's the REALLY important tip to getting started: Go as SLOW as you possibly can. This was by far the best piece of advice I was given when I started running. Running slow will keep you from starting out to fast and exhausting yourself. Start slow and work on your breathing -- work on being able to cover the distance. In the past when I tried to pick up running I would go outside, run fast for a few minutes and give up because I was tired and couldn't keep up the fast pace -- this is NOT the way to do it! Slow and steady is a much better way to begin! And just remember...
Any tips or exercises you do to start your run?
I am terrible about cross-training or warming up. I usually just warm up by doing a few stretches (maybe) and slowly running to get my heart pumping.
What gadget do you use to track your distance?
I started out by using a basic stopwatch and planning out my running routes by using gmap pedometer. When I started training for my first half-marathon my Dad let me borrow his Garmin Forerunner 305. I was immediately hooked, and my Dad let me keep it! I love love love my Garmin. I really like the 305 model even though there's newer versions out. Yesterday I mentioned that I went ahead and ordered another 305 once my old one died. The 305 does everything you need -- tracks distance, pace, time, clock time, and heartrate. I love this running watch -- it's expensive, but worth every penny in my opinion. However you certainly don't need a watch like this to run, so don't let it hold you back if you don't have one!
How do you keep your endurance up when running?
Endurance will naturally come as you increase your time/distance of running. It may seem like it's taking forever to come, but it will come! In fact I think you'll be amazed at how much your body can quickly adapt once you've built a strong base. If you get tired when running try hard to push through it -- come up with a way to tell yourself to keep going. Mantras are VERY powerful. So much of running is mental, and very little is physical. As you continue to train you will find yourself becoming stronger both mentally and physically!
What is the chocolate milk thing? :)
I'm not sure where I first read about chocolate milk being an amazing recovery drink, but it is one of the best things you can drink after a long run. I've read the research articles, and I've personally tried it out! While we're on the topic, recovery is a very important aspect to running. It's important to eat the right foods after running (especially a longer run) and stretching post-run is a MUST. My legs were SO sore when I first started running... I constantly stretched and iced them. I now own a foam roller and the stick to help me stretch out. In addition to fuel and stretching, you also need to give your body rest days and get plenty of sleep at night. These things may seem trivial, but they are vital to staying healthy and injury-free.
How long did you train before your first half marathon?
This is somewhat difficult for me to answer. I tried starting to run several times before I got really serious about it. In November of 2009 is when I began this blog, and followed through on my commitment to run. I worked myself up to a 5K in December of 2009 and then I ran my first half-marathon in April of 2010. Most training plans take 3 months, and have you starting off at running 3 - 4 miles. So once you've worked yourself to a base of running 3 or 4 miles I'd say go for it!
Other things I've learned along the way...1. Always set more than one alarm clock the night before a race! ;)
2. Reading running blogs and magazines like Runner's World will teach you a lot about the sport.
3. Running with others makes the miles go by quicker! Don't be intimidated to run with other people -- it's a great way to increase your distance and it makes running fun. Another way to break up the miles is to chunk them together. Does 6 miles sound too daunting? What about running 2 miles, running another 2 miles, and then 2 more? Sounds silly, but this will really help break up the mileage if you think of it in smaller parts! :)
4. Uses races as a goal to work towards -- in addition to motivating you to train they are an awesome way to celebrate the time you've spent training. Search for some in your area and sign up!
5. Make sure you hydrate and drink lots of water during the day.
6. Be careful if you listen to music while running and make sure you're aware of your surroundings. Always run facing traffic, and run in a safe area. Carry ID and a cell phone on you if you can (iFitness belts make this easy!)
7. Get the right shoes!! Running is relatively inexpensive, but don't cut corners on your shoes. Go to your local running store to get fitted for the right pair, and make sure you get a new pair every 350-550 miles.
8. In addition to shoes, the right outfit can also make a big difference. Clothes that wick sweat away are the best thing to wear. Cotton can get heavy and chafe your skin after awhile. Find out what you like, and if you're like me then you'll reward yourself with new running clothes frequently! ;)
9. Running (like anything in life) takes time, hard work, and commitment. But you CAN do it -- we all can do it. Make running a priority, and I guarantee you won't regret it. Running is good for your mental and physical health!
10. Have fun with it! Make running fun -- there are so many ways to do this. Don't let yourself become stressed or burdened by not running long enough or fast enough. Ever hear a runner say the word PR? That stands for personal record. Most runners are not running to beat the person next to them -- they're only running against themselves. I strongly believe finishing is winning!