My Experiences Encouraging a New Runner

As I’ve said in the past, I typically run alone. For the second half of 2011, I was unable to run due to foot surgery. Finally, at the end of January 2012, I would be able to slowly start building up my mileage. As my clearance date for running neared, my husband shocked me one day by saying, “maybe I’ll go for a run with you.”

We’re never been a couple that does that. My road races and triathlons were typically something that I went to alone. Sure, he would ask me how my training was going and showed an interest in that regard, but he certainly wasn’t someone who exercised regularly himself.

Aren't we cute?

Since I was building up my mileage from zero, it seemed to him that this would be a good time to start running with me, as he didn’t really have a fitness base. Fair enough, made sense to me.

Running with a new runner was definitely something foreign to me. I had to learn how to encourage a new runner without turning him off of the sport. Here are some tips I learned along the way thought I would share:

1. Help him/her to keep the pace slow

It’s important not to go out too fast. I know as a new runner I found it incredibly hard to hold myself at a steady pace. What I did with my husband is figure out what pace he could hold a conversation at. I then made sure I was running that pace at all times, kind of like a pace group leader.

2. Let him/her know that it is okay to walk, and that they should take walk breaks early in the run

I think some new runners feel that they should run as far as they can andthenwalk after they are exhausted. It’s a much better strategy to take short walk breaks early in the run, allowing them to go further and for a longer amount of time. The walk/run ratio is going to differ depending on their own fitness base. With my husband he only needed a few short walk breaks but help the new runner figure out what will work best for him/her.

3. Be encouraging, but not patronizing

I was really happy that my husband was adding regular exercise into his life. My first reaction was to be very enthusiastic, constantly saying things like “you’re doing so well!” and “good for you!” during our runs. My husband let me know pretty quickly that he didn’t appreciate too much of this. At first I was hurt, I was only trying to be encouraging. But then I put myself in the new runner’s shoes and realized that I probably sounded like a Kindergarten teacher and I was being patronizing. Fair enough. I scaled it back. A simple “that was a good run!” or “you improved your time by 3 minutes!” at the end of a run typically suffices. There’s definitely a balance to be struck here. You want to encourage the new runner, but don’t patronize them.

What about you? Do you have any tips for encouraging new runners? What do you wish someone had done for you when you were first starting out?


One thought on “My Experiences Encouraging a New Runner

  1. We had the opposite – my hubby helping me start to run. He tried so hard to be encouraging, but sometimes he tried to push too hard when I really needed to keep the pace slow. It’s good you already realized that! Good luck to you and your husband running together – I love it! We don’t race together, but we do have each other for training and long runs.

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