What my 40-Something Self Would Tell my 20-Something Runner Self

If only I could go back in time. How many times have any of you thought that? Well, if I could go back in time and specifically tell myself about running, there are quite a few things I could say.

I’ve always said I feel like I’ve always been a runner. As far back as I can remember, I remember running through my neighborhood and later running in college. Although I was on my school track and field team for a year, I usually just ran for fun on my own. As an adult, I didn’t even sign up for a race until after graduate school, but after that I was hooked on racing and began running longer and longer distances.

The sport of running has changed drastically since I first started running regularly in my 20’s. For the most part, things have improved over the years. Take running clothes for example. It was pretty common for people twenty years ago to run in cotton t-shirts, shorts, cotton socks, and whatever pair of athletic shoes you happened to already have. At least I wasn’t running in cotton, but I didn’t have a pair of athletic shoes specifically for running. I would just run in whatever pair of athletic shoes I currently was wearing. So I guess that’s where I would start, with what to wear.

1). There are a ton (with more coming all the time) of athletic apparel companies out there. Explore! Try them all out and find what really works for you and your body.

2). As far as running shoes go, definitely explore different brands and don’t just stick with the same brand for ten years. Mix it up and try different brands every year or so.

3). There’s way more out there than water and Gatorade for long runs. Look around online and pay attention to what other runners are fueling with. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If gels, gummies, and other similarly sticky substances aimed toward runners don’t suit you, no worries. Try, try, and try some more. Even when you’ve found something that doesn’t upset your stomach and gives you energy to make it through long runs, there’s nothing wrong with trying out something new. You never know; you might like it even better than what you’re currently using.

4). Don’t train for your first marathon by yourself. It’s one thing to run a 10 mile training run for a half marathon by yourself, but it’s an entirely different matter to run a 20 mile training run for a marathon by yourself. You’ll also want the advice and support from seasoned marathoners.

Long Beach Marathon
I didn’t heed my own advice and trained for the Long Beach Marathon by myself. It didn’t go well, but mostly because of the extreme heat.

5). Join a running club. If you don’t fit in with one, try another and keep trying until you find one that’s like a second family. The support you’ll get from a running club will be invaluable.

6). You can get by with minimal stretching when you’re in you’re 20’s but later in life it will catch up with you. Join a gym where they offer yoga and go every single week. Buy a foam roller and use it after every single run. If you get into the habit of doing something early on, it will be easier to stick with.

7). Strength training is another thing that you can skip when you’re younger but it becomes more important as you get older. Focus on running-specific moves such as lunges, squats, and core-strengthening movements.

bridge-pose
Bridge is a great exercise for runners

8). Start a running blog and follow others. Similar to a good running club, the support you’ll get from your regular readers will be huge. Also, you’ll learn a ton from your  readers and the blogs you follow over the years.

9). Probably the biggest resounding theme for my advice to myself is to try new things when you’re training but not on race day. Be open to trying just about anything from what you wear, what you ingest before or during runs, and even who you run with. Just not on race day.

10). Finally, enjoy the ride! Don’t take yourself too seriously! You’ll still be a solid runner even if you don’t meet some goal time you’ve set for yourself. No one will judge you if you don’t finish a race in a certain time. You’re your own worst enemy when it comes to things like that.

What about you guys? What advice would you give to your younger running self?

Happy running!

Donna

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Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

18 thoughts on “What my 40-Something Self Would Tell my 20-Something Runner Self”

    1. That’s for sure! That’s one thing I should have added, and it’s what I used to tell my daughter when she was starting out. When she’d complain about how hard running was, I’d say, “Yes, running is hard. If anyone tells you it’s easy, they’re either lying or not running that fast. But if you stick with it, it will eventually get easier.”

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  1. Strength training and stretching!! Definitely two things that I could get away with not doing when i was younger but not anymore!! Strength training has been so key for me in staying strong and injury free– I share that with every injured and aspiring runner i know! Great list Donna! x

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  2. Great advice. When I started running (casually) years, years ago, I wore cotton and whatever sneakers I had. My best friend in grad school just wanted me to run with her, so she didn’t care what I was wearing (she was a very good serious runner) and was just happy I was out with her. I think one of the contributing reasons why I let running go after I graduated is that when I moved, the runners I was meeting was making a big stink about me not having the right clothes and shoes. I was a recent graduate with student loans and not much money. I couldn’t afford to buy multiple pairs of $100 running shoes (and this was before e-commerce took off, so searching for cheaper shoes online didn’t exist back then). I just wonder how many people get turned away from running because they feel they can’t start until they have the “right” equipment.

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    1. When I started running more regularly, I slowly I picked up the correct things I needed as I needed them and I knew I wasn’t going to stop running (again). For a long time, a single pair of running shoes was fine for me because I wasn’t running often enough to justify having multiple pairs.

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    2. Good points that I hadn’t thought about. Many people don’t have extra money to put into buying expensive running shoes and clothes, all of which can definitely add up. It does make one wonder how many people quit running because other runners made them feel like they didn’t have the right clothes and shoes.

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  3. These are great tips! Yoga and strength training are so wonderful for the sport and really make a well rounded runner. I love doing my long runs alone or with my husband (although sometimes I hate that too, ha!). The shoe thing was an evolution for me. I wanted to skimp on prices but have found that my ideal shoe hovers around $160 and that’s just what I have to accept.

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    1. Thank you! Yoga has completely changed me as a runner. I’m sure I would have gotten so many more injuries than what I have if not for yoga. I tell everyone I know regardless of their age or if they run or not they should try yoga. I’ll get off the soap box now. 😄

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  4. Great advice! I was not a fan of stretching or strength training when I first started running, but over the years, I’ve learned how important both are to preventing injuries. Also love #10: enjoy the ride. I think a lot of runners do get caught up in trying to achieve a certain time that they forget to just enjoy. That’s something I tell people when they tell me they’re training for their first race (also applies to second, third, etc.) — to live in the moment and enjoy.

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  5. Great post and advice!! Given what I’ve dealt with this year, I would go back and emphasize the importance of all around core strength and adding cross-training by mixing cycling and swimming into my training plans to break up the repetitive impact from running.

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    1. Nice additions! Swimming is great cross training for runners that many of us don’t do including myself because it’s more complicated logistically. I feel like it would really help though. I started adding in regular cycling in the last couple of years and think that’s helped my legs and lungs get stronger.

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  6. Really enjoyed these!

    Mine would have to be ‘figure out your weaknesses’ as well as ‘Have patience, it’s a process!’

    As someone who just started diving into long-distance running (in their 30’s), completing my very first ultra really meant taking a season to explore how my body was working. Bigger training days relatively early on highlighted painful muscle imbalances that needed to be worked out.

    It’s so easy to want to go big, and to do it now – not later. But even if it means setting moderate goals when you want to go further or faster, putting in the time, energy and patience to figure out all of the kinks early on in the running career seems like a good investment for a lengthy and healthy one to come 🙂

    Base building. It’s a beautiful thing!

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    1. Thank you!

      Those are great tips from you as well. Patience is a tough one for most new runners. As you said, it’s easy to want to go big and do it now. We all need to realize long distance running is a journey and if we want to continue on that journey, we have to do more than just run.

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