A few months back, my good friend Annette told me that she wanted to do her first 5K. As a running coach, I hear that from a lot of people, but — knowing Annette as well as I do — I knew that she was serious. She’s a super busy mom of three young boys, but she was ready to finally do something just for herself. She wanted to set a goal, do the work, and cross that finish line.
So I gave her a 5K run/walk training schedule and a date for a 5K in mid-April. “Let’s do it!” she told me. She sounded eager, but I could tell she was a bit intimidated by the challenge. Despite some setbacks — including some minor knee pain, stomach bugs (the kids AND her), and some windy, cold training weather — she stuck to the schedule and in six weeks was ready to run a 5K race at a nearby state park.
I was thrilled to see her not only complete the race, but run the ENTIRE distance, even though she had trained doing run/walk intervals. We were both wiping away the tears as we hugged after she crossed the finish line. Witnessing her excitement and emotional reaction to her accomplishment reminded me why I love running so much. I was so thrilled to share the gift of running with my friend. Doing the race together was a bonding experience and memory that I know we’ll both treasure.
If you have someone in your life, whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker, who’s looking for some running support and guidance, you should definitely consider lending a hand. You’ll both benefit. Your trainee will reap the healthy benefits of exercise, from stress relief to weight loss. And your motivation to run will improve as you renew your enthusiasm for running. You may also be inspired to learn more about running, as those who mentor runners or other athletes find that they understand the principles of training better as they explain them to others.
1. Start slow. Get them started with a little bit of running or run/walking, and gradually increase the distance. Have them follow a basic training schedule that’s appropriate for their level. If they do too much too soon, they may get sore (or injured), get discouraged, and quit.
Don’t push your newbie runner too hard or push through pain or discomfort, especially during the first few weeks. Make them they know to stay at a comfortable, conversational pace. They shouldn’t be huffing or puffing.
2. Share your mistakes. We were all new runners at some point, and it’ll be helpful for your friend to hear about mistakes and setbacks you had when you were starting out. She’ll be more likely to stick with her running if she knows it’s normal to make mistakes or feel discouraged sometimes. Share some humorous moments from your running adventures. A funny story can go a long way toward making someone feel more relaxed and confident about a new exercise habit.
3. Go shopping together. New runners may be confused and feel a little overwhelmed picking out the right running shoes or gear. Take them to your favorite running gear shops, encourage them get a running gait analysis and help them navigate the shoe, clothing and gear choices. Tell him or her about your favorite water bottles, watches, socks, and running clothes.
4. Pick a race. Like I did with Annette, having a race, like a 5K, will keep BOTH of you motivated. Even if you don’t want to run the race together, you can hang out before the race and after you finish. And then plan a way to celebrate together, like going for breakfast after the race, so you have a reward to look forward to.
5. Run together. Of course you don’t have to buddy up for every run, but try to get together to run occasionally. If your friend is much slower than you, stick to his or her pace. Or, if you belong to the same gym, run on side-by-side treadmills so pace isn’t an issue! If it’s not feasible to run together, see if you can help him or her find a local running group or training program in her area so that she has others to run with.