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Like many runners who are just starting out on their fitness journey, it’s easy to just dive right in or let your competitive nature get the best of you. While I eventually figured out works best for me, often times through trial and error, there are a few things I wish I knew back I was prepping for 5Ks that felt like marathons.

Pace Yourself

Just because you don’t start at a sprinters’ pace, doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make progress. Give yourself time to adjust to running. Even if you lifted or walked every day prior to embarking on your new running stint, you need to remember that it requires a different set of strengths and causes different strains on your body. The last thing you want to do is end your cardio career before it even starts with an injury from over-exerting yourself. I’m not saying don’t push yourself, but also be cognizant of your limits and what your body tells you.

Intervals are a nice way to transition while still challenging yourself with the quick changes of one pace to another. Incorporating walking stints doesn’t mean you are never going to become a runner. In fact, it’s an extremely popular approach for beginners. As Sascha Wingenfeld says, “After some time, you can start lengthening the running sections and reducing the walking: begin by alternating between 2 minutes of jogging and 2 minutes of walking. Increase your running intervals by one minute per workout until you can run the entire distance at a stretch without having to walk.

Set Yourself Up for Success

That age-old saying that you are what you eat might come to haunt you if you only eat McDonald’s and expect it to fuel you for an 8-mile jog. Effective and progressive exercise requires you to make healthy lifestyle choices as well. Your body will thank you if you give it the support needed to make it the finish line. As Christine Luff says, “Many beginning runners underestimate the importance of nutrition, for both their running performance and their overall health. What and when you eat before, during, and after your runs has a huge effect on your performance and recovery.

Buy the right pair of shoes too. No, not the most expensive pair, the right pair which can be a bit more complicated. If you plan on literally putting miles on your soles, then you need the right gear to protect and support your goals. Matt Allyn from Runner’s World outlines a few helpful tips and common mistakes that might prove helpful.

Don’t Overthink It

As I prepare for the New York City marathon, people often tell me things like “I could never do that,” or “How do you even run that far?” If you find that you are asking yourself those kinds of questions – your first priority needs to be to silence those voices. You don’t have to run a marathon right out the gate. You don’t even have to run a 5K. Don’t bog down your goals with self-doubt. It doesn’t benefit you or your progress. By starting without expectations, you set yourself up for success, because every step you take is another step closer to achieving your goal.

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