Become a Better Runner

I Want to Become a Runner [Podcast Episode #058]

When many people think of exercise, they think of jogging or running. It makes sense: Running is something you can do anywhere. You don't need any special equipment. And seemingly, running is something anyone can take up.

But what if you've never run before? Where do you begin?​

Today we're talking about the steps a new or aspiring runner can take to safely become a running hero. You can learn to love running when you use the right approach!

Episode Resources:

I Want to Become a Runner [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of Make Your Body Work Podcast. As you know, the show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life. Today we're going to talk about one of my favorite pastimes, one of my passions. We're going to be talking about running.

I got this great question from Calyn and it's similar to a whole bunch of questions that I've had about how do I begin, how do I get started as a runner. Then in the actual show today we're going to talk much more than that how to get started but also how to improve your running, how to do it safely. Let's begin by listening to Calyn's question. Let's dive right in.

Calyn says, "I've been going to the gym for the past year or so and have began working with a trainer to help me improve more quickly. So far it's going well. I've lost some weight and feel quite strong. One thing that I really like to do though is to start running. I walk a lot and ride my bike but running will be great because I know it burns more calories and it's also so portable I can do it at home, I can do it at the cottage, I can do it anywhere. What advice would you have for non-runner who wants to become a runner?"

Calyn, I really think I've got a perfect guest for you today because my guest today describes herself as someone without an athletic bone in her body and yet somehow this non-athlete, the self-proclaimed non-athlete has become a very accomplished runner herself. Even more than that, she actually host a show, a TV show called Run With It. She really found her passion when she started running.

I'll let her tell her story and talk about how you can do the same. I'm really excited to introduce to you and to all the other listeners out there my guest today, Christine Blanchette.

Meet Christine Blanchette

Dave: Hey, Christine. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Christine: Yeah, thank you for having me. I'm really excited.

Dave: I'm excited to have you here. We're talking just before the show and I was telling you how I have such a huge list of questions from listeners that are waiting to be answered by an expert. I've got a bunch of running ones. When you and I connected I thought, "Okay, finally I've got my running expert to talk about running." Maybe you can start off by telling the audience a little bit about who you are and what your experience is in the running world.

Christine: Okay. Thank you, Dave. I started running in 1999. I've never had a fitness bone in my body, if you will. Because I was always picked last in team sports like basketball but anyway, through a friend he encouraged me to pick up the sport and I just started running. I've never look back and it's like run Forrest Gump and then from there I decided to run competitively. I went from teaching, instructing clinics at the running room, if you will and just learned a lot of things about running and writing about it and having my own TV show. It's my passion and I wanted to share it.

Dave: I just want to clarify something. You say that you started running in 1999. I read this on your website. It says, you started to run in 1999 and five months later you ran the Vancouver marathon and qualified for Boston.

Christine: Yes.

Dave: How was that possible? That doesn't sound possible.

Christine: You know what? I guess it's part of genes that I have from my family. I just started running and one day in Richmond I've picked up the phone one day and I called my coach, my coach now, Rick Whiting and I said I want to write about him. He said, "Let's go for a run or a jog." He saw something in me and then took me under his wing, if you will. Now he started training and I just run and run. I didn't even know about Boston.

I wanted to run my first marathon which is the Vancouver marathon. Then, Carey Nelson, Olympian, said to me when I crossed the finish line, "You qualified for Boston." I said, "What?" I didn't know as I said I didn't know about the Boston marathon or know how to quality or anything like that. I was just running for the sake of enjoying it.

Dave: Such a neat story. I love that you started off and said that you weren't athletic, didn't have an athletic bone in your body, picked last for team sports because I know a lot of the clients I work with and a lot of the listeners will identify with that. It's unfortunate that athletics like team sports particularly when you're a kid can really paint a negative picture of fitness and physical activity as a whole and that's something that's carried out through adulthood. It's neat that as an adult you found something not only did you enjoy but you're really good at.

Christine: Yes and you know what, I love sports. I like watching basketball and hockey and I didn't let that affect me. I just thought, "Maybe one day I'll find my own path." I did. As I said I never look back and I mean, there are people out there like me who weren't good in sports but they found ice skating or golf because it's a solo sport really like running and I'm lucky I found it. It found me actually.

Every pro was once a beginner. Find the sport or activity you enjoy and discover your hidden talents

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How Do I Start Running?

Dave: That's encouraging. I know a lot of listeners are really going to be able to resonate with that. It's interesting because Calyn's question, she writes in and it sounds like maybe she has a bit of a similar story. She talks about getting into fitness and losing weight and feeling good. She looks at runners and says, "I wish that could be me and I want to start running. How do I do it?" What do you say to someone because I'm sure you talked to people who are just starting it or want to start all the time. Where does someone begin?

Christine: I would say see a doctor first. I think that's really important. Check your iron levels, check your nutrition because running is more than just putting one foot in front of the other. It's a forward motion sport and I think first and foremost, follow a proper running program.

There are so many running programs out there and that's the key or find a running club or a clinic that suits your needs, your time and your fitness level. Do not be rushed in finding out, "Oh I got to run. I have to find someone." Just take your time and it will come to you or the club will come to you.

Just find that proper club for you that suits your lifestyle, your needs as I said and your goal. I think that's the key in having a good foundation, proper running program that's safe and doable because you want running to be a life long experience. If [inaudible 00:06:50] injured or you get burnt out.

Dave: Yeah, totally. I just want to jump in there and actually touch on a couple of things that you mentioned there. First of all you said to check in with your doctor and I would never thought of that. If someone wants to start running and they never run before and you said to get your iron levels checked. What else? What's the importance why do you say that's a good first step?

Christine: You may not know that you have low blood pressure, I mean I'm not a doctor but check your iron levels first especially for women. Your diet, your heart, your conditions. You might have genetic heart problems. It's better to be safe than sorry.

I think sometimes you go into running a marathon or 10K, you do not know you have a heart problem and unfortunately it could be tragic, in other words, to fall ill or die. I just suggest that and it doesn't hurt. Who knows some other doctors are runners that could help you. You know what I mean? That's my suggestion.

Dave: Yeah, I think that's a great suggestion and like you said, it can't hurt so why not start getting check out just to make sure everything is up to speed before you actually get out there and start running. Then the second thing you said is you started talking about running clubs or running groups. I know again for some listeners and maybe Calyn if you're listening that might sound a little bit hard core. I'm going to go from not running at all to all of a sudden being part of a running group. The idea behind that of having a sense of community is so huge.

Christine: Support and social but also too there are clubs or clinics out there for women only. If you feel uncomfortable running with men you can join a running clinic, run for women and it's very sociable as I said. You feel comfortable, you can run with your pal or a buddy. Train for that first 5K or do some training runs together but if you don't have time then you can run on your own or put up a notice in your building and say, "I'm looking for someone to train with, run with." Reaching out support network.

When I first started running I run with my friend but I had to do some runs on my own. I was really happy to join a clinic that I felt comfortable and I could talk about running and then it's funny when you're running you're talking about work. You're talking about food which is something, it's all fun. It takes the time away too.

Training with a partner is fun and motivating, PLUS It drastically increases you chances of success!

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Why Am I Running?

Dave: I agree. It's a great way to meet other like-minded people or people who are interested in health, interested in fitness. I recently moved to Vancouver from Ontario and the very first thing I did was to find a run group. That was a great way to meet people in a city where I didn't really know anyone. I wanted to ask you a question because you mentioned about signing up for a 5K or a 10K. How important is it for a new runner to dive right in and actually sign up for a race or a run like that?

Christine: That's a good question. It's about a goal. You might be running, you take up running and you're running and you're running and think, "Why am I running?" There's no motivation behind it. Also, two, is keeping a log book. That's good goal setting and registering for your first 5K it's doable and you can move from there but I do think it's good to have a goal, it's good to register for an event.

It doesn't have to be the word race. It's a run and I think when you put it in that kind of phrase, if you will, it becomes more relaxed for you. You're out there with everyone is in the same boat doing it and I think just having a goal is so important to keep going.

Dave: I just want to encourage the listeners too. A really neat thing about having a goal that's tied to an action that you can control is the fact just that that you control the outcome. I know in Calyn's question she alluded to losing weight and she talked about burning more calories as a runner. I'll tell you, as a weight loss coach, quite often we have very little control, at least for time periods, over what the scale says. If you're going out there and running and that's your goal is to change the number on the scale.

It might work but it might take a month or might take six months or whatever it is but if you reframe that goal and say, "I want to train so that I can run for five kilometers or I can do a walk and then a run for five kilometers." Something like that or, "I want to take so many steps," or whatever it is, you control that.

Christine: You do. Also, what's your reason to run? Why do you want to run? You mentioned weight loss. Is it to set a personal record? Is it to be social? Is it to be running for charity? What is your reason to run? Also, mental preparation.

It takes a lot of mental stimulation to run like to keep it up but you shouldn't worry too much about weight loss. It will come. It will take time. It's about being patient with your goal whatever your goal is but as I said in the very beginning is finding that proper running program and being safe, doable, keep being patient and you'll reach it. It takes time. Time to accomplish the goal.

It takes time to accomplish a goal, but small daily improvements are the path that will get you there

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Running For Beginners: How to Get Started

Dave: I was wondering also if you could speak to the actual training program and I know it's tough you can't prescribe a specific training program for someone, everyone who's listening because everyone is different. Maybe you can talk about what it looks like to start running versus someone who's a seasoned runner?

The reason I asked this is I can imagine Calyn or other listeners knowing someone who goes out and regularly runs five or ten or whatever it is kilometers and looking at that person and thinking, "That's what running is," but that's not where it starts. What do you typically do or what have you seen beginner runners begin with?

Christine: You know what? That's another good question. I think if you have a background in walking I think you can move walking into running more easily but I would suggest three times per week about 30 minutes. It would be like three to four weeks. You should stay with that.

I did find there are so many running programs out there but I did find a program and it's five weeks to your first 5K. This is just a beginner plan but it would be like week one is you walk, you cross train for 20 minutes. Then you run for 10 minutes and then Wednesday you would do the same, walk, cross, train and then run 15 minutes. That's the first week.

Then 20 minutes on Friday then rest or recover. Then run for two miles or 3 kilometers or something like that. I would suggest running for time. Don't run for distance, run for time. There's not so much stress and also run how you feel. That's why I suggest time because it is effort that you want to put into it.

Run how you feel! Improvement will come with time.

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If you're thinking, "I got to run 5K today," I'm just using example, you're thinking about that you're not really focusing on your breathing, you're not focusing on your body, you're not focusing in the enjoyment of running and I think that is just one sample, Dave, for the beginner plan.

Then next week you would do the same but it would be increasing it to half on the Sunday so 3.5 kilometers or 2.5 miles but this is one sample. Also, the set and run training program which is a 10K, now this is leading up to a 10K but they have a safe program.

It's 13 weeks but then you would run one minute then walk two minutes. You can follow that and tweak it a little bit but those are two suggestions but 30 minutes three times a week and I would do any more than that. Does that help? It gives you a general idea.

Dave: Yeah, totally. That's exactly where I was hoping you go is first of all showing that it doesn't mean you all of a sudden have to start running every single day. Think about three times a week for 30 minutes. An hour and a half of your week and after number of weeks, congratulations, you are going to be a runner. That's exactly what it takes.

It's just some consistency and then the second thing that I thought that you said that was really important is you talked about some different protocols. I'll put some links in the show notes for the listeners this is episode 58 so if you go to makeyourbodywork.com/58 I'll have some links in here for some different training programs.

I really like Christine, the one that you mentioned of run for a minute and then walk for two minutes. Then if you repeat that and just like you said, don't worry about how far you covered, don't worry about your distance, do that for 30 minutes. In 30 minutes you're going to end up running for a total of 10 minutes in little one minute chunks and then modify that the next week maybe it's two minutes and two minutes or whatever it is. Again, I'll link out some different programs but it's all about building up.

Cross Training For Runners

Christine: Exactly. You know, you don't want to get bored with your running and I think runners generally speaking and I was one of them, I would just run. I think cross training could really help you as a runner, core strengthening like planks and pull running which is cross training for example and biking. That’s why I suggested the beginner plan is just you have the best of both worlds, if you will. If you don’t want to go to the gym you still can do these exercises at home, that’s just some information there.

Dave: Yeah, I agree and particularly I know a lot of listeners on this podcast are looking for body recompositioning, losing weight and adding some more muscle, having a leaner physique. I’m all for running, I love running myself, I think it’s fantastic but if you are thinking about just the greater picture of like a holistic healthy body it does take cross training.

Strength training you mentioned swimming, it could be biking, whatever it is, is different that’s like a different way to get to your goal than just saying, “Okay, I’m going to become a runner because I know it burns a lot of calories.”

Christine: Yeah, exactly and because you know what you’ll stay injury free that’s why cross training. One thing is stretching too like I wanted to do a warm up, run, do a warm up, stretches, cool down, it depends, like steady state. I wanted to stay too before, I don’t think I mentioned this but you want your runs to be steady and relaxed at the beginning. It’s really important and running by time as I said.

Dave: You’re covering all the best questions I had for you. I wanted to ask you about intensity. For Calyn when she goes out there and starts running that first timer for anyone else, how hard should they be running?

Christine: Steady, relax, listen to your body, I know it sounds cliche, listen to your body but if you just take it easy and if you feel like you want to run a bit quicker you can. There’s something I call it the easy fartlek and fartlek is a Swedish like you run to the lamp post for 30 seconds or whatever. If you feel like picking up then you can but the pace should be at this time steady and relax.

Dave: Yeah, don’t feel like you need to go all out and run that you feel you’re going to be sick, you don’t do that.

Christine: Exactly because you will get there. It’s like a house, good foundation, right, the base training, in the middle is intensity, inter field training at the top, you call it cross training and intervals but it’s just building that base if you will. I hope that make sense.

Preparations: Pre-Run and Post-Run

Dave: Yeah, that’s very clear, very clear for the audience. Now, you also alluded to or you mentioned stretching and I wanted to ask you about pre-run preparation and then post-run. Maybe you could start with what should someone be doing because I can imagine people just going and throwing on their old running shoes that they’ve had sitting around the house for ten years then hitting the road and that maybe isn’t the best way to get started. What do you recommend?

Christine: I recommend proper shoes first and foremost before you do anything, if you can do trails get trail shoes, running, road running shoes. Also to go to a running specialty store to fit your feet to the right shoe, don’t look at color, you know what I mean. Even though you want those pretty purple shoes may not be the right shoes for you. The shoe has to fit you but I would stretch like after…

You shouldn’t stretch before run because your muscles are cold like they’re not warm in other words. It’s best just to run then after that you do your stretches, your four basic stretches like hamstring, calves, what I do, your IT band and your calf, your calf muscles.

Those you hold each stretched like 30 seconds to about a minute and you just make sure you're stretched because stretching is an exercise in itself depending how much stretch you can sweat which I don’t go there. I do some stretching like as I mentioned the hamstring but that’s vital and then your cool down could be like 5-10 minutes after a run as well.

If you do like a temple run or if you run harder than a steady state then you do a cool down and then you do your stretches. If you do a relax steady run then you make sure you do stretches, stretching, stretching, stretching.

Dave: You are preaching to the choir. For the audience again this is episode 58. I’m going to put a video that I recorded showing my post run stretching routine and it’s exactly Christine what you’re talking about going through the major muscle groups. It doesn’t take that long.

I know, I see this all the time in the gym particularly with men but women do it too, go and work so hard and feel great about themselves and what’s the part that they always skip out on is the stretching. An injury is the easiest and fastest way to kibosh all of your results and send you into a tail spin.

Please don’t think that stretching is worthless because if it prevents you from getting injured you’re going to be able to continue and see better results get progress down the road. I also wanted to ask you a little bit about nutrition, for some who is just starting out do they need to think about changing up their nutrition at all to get the best bang for their buck?

What About Nutrition?

Christine: That’s a really good question. When I first started running I was quite hungry, I was always hungry but I think it’s important to follow at least the Canadian food guide. Making sure that you have carbs, if you’re training for longer distances you have carbs but also fuel for your body.

Let me just say that hydration, drinking water, a fair amount of like eight glasses of water but also your body is different from … My body will be different from somebody else’s. I may need more water but also too is just bagels are good for carbs for running, I’ll have that and then protein and dairy yogurt.

I think too if you can is read up on it, really read what your nutrition needs are but also see maybe a registered dietitian. I just find default the vegetables, the meat, if you don’t eat meat then there’s nuts, there’s other like kale, all types of food. There’s so much information out there that you need to know what your nutritional needs are because everybody is different. I hope I answered your question, Dave. That’s what I would do.

Everyone is different. It takes some experimentation to learn what works best for you.

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Dave: I like the fact again that you alluded to the idea that, you said it, everyone is different and that it takes some experimentation. I just like to encourage anyone who’s listening, if you go online and you see, “Okay, this is the eating program for someone who wants to lose weight,” or for someone who wants to start running, whatever it is. Okay, maybe that’s a great starting place but you have to experiment with yourself because a bagel, Christine, that might work really well for you. For me if I eat a bagel my stomach feels like I just filled it up with cement, for me that doesn’t work but it’s experimentation.

Christine: I’ve had someone ask me, I don’t eat breakfast before a run and that’s fine but maybe have a shake or a protein shake or something like that. Something that will carry you but for me I can have the banana and then go for a run and there’s some other people can’t. Yogurt doesn’t suit me well especially before a race. It’s really experimenting on what is good for you but you need to eat, the more you run the more food you need to fuel your body. That’s important.

Dave: That’s such an important reminder and now I want to ask you about the opposite side of that because I know that some of the clients I work with and people that write in sort of feel like exercise, the value in exercise is permission to eat whatever they want. I know I’ve even talk to runners, some very competitive runners who will say things like that, “I run so much so I can eat and I don’t have to think about it.” What do you think about that? Let me ask you.

Christine: I think it’s like everything in moderation. It doesn’t really give you permission, I mean you can treat yourself, you call it a treat week or after you run a big race or an event. Yeah, treat yourself but I also think that you may gain weight because sometimes it’s just you’re not running enough to lose the weight, you know what I mean?

It’s a catch 22 but I would stress everything in moderation and that gives you … It’s good to have your tummy not so full either. I just think that’s what I do and it’s worked very well and I hope I answered your question, Dave, on that.

Dave: Yeah, you perfectly did and the idea that we can never outrun or out-exercise a bad diet, I think that applies to anyone and even people. You might look at a runner who looks really skinny and if they’re eating a bad diet I almost guarantee you that at some point that’ll catch up with them and whether it’s on the scale or some sort of health problem.

Our body is just need to be fueled with healthy foods. I guess we’re kind of giving two sides of the same coin. Yeah, if you’re going to start running definitely be prepared to eat a little bit more but also be conscious of the quality of food that you’re choosing.

Christine: Yes, and I know, I understand that bagels have sugar but you know I like bagels but at the same time I try to follow like there’s tree nuts, there’s plain yogurt, kale, just all the healthy food. Because when you put healthy food into your body you feel healthy and yeah what you just said I really like, you can see someone is very slim or skinny but they may not be the healthiest person out there. It’s vital to fuel your body to live the best you can and that’s the way I feel.

It's vital to fuel your body with healthy food. Never focus on exercise alone. Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand.

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Dave: Yeah, there’s a really neat book called Eat and Run, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.

Christine: Yes, I mean I've never read it but I heard about it, Dave.

Dave: Scott Jurek, he’s like a famous ultra marathon runner and I know he talks a lot about refining his diet as he became more and more of a competitive runner. It was really interesting because when he was young he did a typical guy athlete diet and he said he just go to Burger King or McDonald’s and eat whatever and didn’t care about it.

As he got older and started to refine his diet he said that’s when his performance just really took off and it opened his eyes to the idea of the connection between performance and training and how we fuel our body. I guess it goes back to our messages it's experimentation but definitely we need to think about how are we going to fuel ourselves when we start running.

Christine: Also too can cause digestion problems too like if that hamburger may taste really good but it may give you some results in your stomach, at least I do. I’m just speaking from experience. It’s all about following the proper running program, following a proper diet and yes you can have your cake and eat it too but only in moderation.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: That’s safe advice, I like that. We like to wrap up the show with something called the Make Your Body Work take away and that’s just kind of the one action step that Calyn or anyone else who’s in this position could take. For a runner who says, “I’ve never run before but I want to start,” what can they do today?

Christine: Be gentle with yourself. Find that right running program for you and enjoy the journey and it may sound cliché but I think that life is full of trial and error. Just go out there and find that program and don’t be hard on yourself if that program doesn’t work for you because there are a lot more running programs out there it just hasn’t found you yet.

Dave: I know we’re trying to wrap up but you just gave me another question here. You’ve mentioned program so much, how important is it for a new runner to follow a program versus saying, “Okay, I’m going to go and run three time a week as you suggested.”

Christine: I think it keeps you on track, no pun intended. It keeps you on track. It’s also recording in your logbook and it just keeps you that goal and also by doing that you’re inspiring others. You can talk to people about it what you’re doing.

I think like I’m big on goal setting like I need something to work towards. You’ve won’t discouraged, you won’t get like, “I run three times a week,” but that’s three times a week, how do you feel that day, “Hey, I feel great,” or, “I feel lousy. I had a hard day at work.” It’s about just having a motivation and I think just having something written down or typed in, it just helps.

Dave: Yeah, I completely agree. It keeps you focused, you have a very specific plan so it’s never any guessing. I know if I have a workout plan and I wake up and I don’t feel like working out but sitting there on there on the page and telling me, “That’s all I need to do.” It’s way more doable than just thinking, “I got to figure it out and then go make it happen.”

It just seems like one more barrier, sort of hurdle to jump. Christine, I know there’s going to be a lot of people who want to find out more about you and about your show and I was wondering if you can just tell us a little bit how they can connect and how can they find you.

Christine: Please go to my website which is runwithit.ca, www.runwithit.ca or on Twitter at ChristineRuns, Facebook the same Christine Runs. It’s pretty easy to find people these days on social media and I have the show Run With It, it’s a running fitness and health show and it’s on YouTube, Run With It just do the Google search. That’s basically where you can find me, I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Dave: That's perfect. Yeah, and I’m going to put again links to your website and your show and everything that we talked about today right in the show notes. One last time that’s makeyourbodywork.com/58. Christine, you’re a wealth of knowledge when it comes to running and just an inspiring story as someone who just got started out and found your passion. Thanks so much for sharing with us today.

Christine: Thank you for having me and I hope to come back on your show. I enjoyed chatting with you.

Dave: Certainly, yeah, anytime. Like I said I have a whole bunch of running questions waiting to be answered so I will have you back for sure.

Christine: Okay, thank you, Dave. It’s a pleasure.

Dave: Thanks again, Christine for joining us on the show today and for giving some really practical steps for anyone who wants to get started out running. I think it’s so important, so many people just dive in like we talked about to running and then quite often end up either getting frustrated or even worse getting injured. I really appreciate. Thanks for your advice on how we can do that safely.

Also thanks to you the listener for tuning in. The whole purpose of the Make Your Body Work Podcast is to provide you with expertise from guest from all over the world to help you live a healthier, happier life. If you have a question for the show feel free to email me anytime, you can reach me at [email protected].

I also want to give a special thank you to our sponsor for today’s episode Yes Wellness and Yes Wellness is where I’ve been getting my supplements for quite sometime and we partnered up to offer the listeners, you the listeners of the Make Your Body Work podcast. To offer you a huge selection of pretty much any health related supplement, vitamin, proteins, anything that you’re looking for at really, really great prices.

Check them out yeswellness.com. Like I said I’ve been purchasing my supplements from Yes Wellness for a long time and I’ve been really pleased with their products, their prices and their service and they’re Canadian just like me and this podcast. Check them out yeswellness.com and yeah, thanks for tuning in today. I can’t wait to see you here again next week.

Thanks for joining me today!

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  • Chris Johnson

    Very nice blog Dave. Thanks for such nice information.
    #Vitasave