3 Things I'd Do Differently If I Started My Running Journey Over Today
Starting Over Running: What I Would Do With What I Know Now
I started running when I was in 7th grade. More accurately, I started high jumping in 7th grade, on the track team. I had no interest in running races - I was coming over from gymnastics and I wanted to jump and...well that's it.
Multiple collegiate conference and national meets, open races, USATF championships, and more as a 400m and 800m runner later...I spend a lot of time reflecting back on the start of my running journey.
People always want to know how I went from barely a runner to a professional runner. I love sharing how it went down and all the fitness/hard work lessons I've learned over the years. But what about what I'd do differently?
While I wouldn't take back my running journey for the world, there are quite a few things I do wish I'd handled a little differently. In this post, I'm sharing 3 things I wish I'd consider a little bit more, a little earlier on, and why I feel that way.
1. Incorporating Some Strength Training Earlier On
It sounds weird, but I actually think putting intense strength training off helped me in a lot of ways. For context, I didn't lift in high school at all. I vaguely remember going to the YMCA and like playing around on the machines randomly because my dad suggested I do strength training.
It wasn't very much and it wasn't planned at all.
College was my first lifting experience, and because I had no experience, the lifting coach really held me back for most of the first year. Which was definitely annoying, but came from a place of not wanting me to get hurt. (I think.)
I think that a "chill" strength training start helped me not burn out early on. I also think it allowed me to see tremendous growth once I entered a program that basically was able to teach me everything.
That being said, I saw major growth once I started. It was so motivating and came at a good time, because the transition to collegiate running is pretty tough. I started feeling WAY better during and after races.
Emphasis on after races: I used to throw up with no fail after any race 300 and up. Once I was stronger, I saw changes in how I felt towards the end of the race and even started feeling less sick afterwards. I simply think my body was much better able to handle the speed I was putting it through.
Focusing on this earlier on would have given me more confidence in my ability. My form would have improved earlier and I think the trajectory of my performance would have been better, and perhaps more sustainable.
The running strength training keys that I wish I implemented earlier:
learning true strength training for runners (aka the right moves for the right muscles)
having a consistent and progressive strength training plan
tracking weight room gains (or at least taking the tracking process more seriously)
effectively working strength training into my run training weekly schedule
2. Make Good Sleep A Habit
I knew that sleep was “good” when I was a younger athlete, but not HOW good. Then, even when I was told how powerful it was, I heard people say it but wasn't really listening.
I went to high-tech, professional, scientific, elite performance centers - heard them explain just why sleep is so important - and STILL didn't really make it a serious part of my training. 😂
I deemed myself a night owl early on and told myself that was just "who I was." To the point where staying up late felt out of my control. Even if I deep down didn't want to, I just would. Routines are so powerful.
There are plenty of theories about putting off sleep, like revenge bedtime procrastination, 🤯 and looking into them can help you figure out more about your habits.
All of this is to say that I wish I'd learned key habits that make getting good sleep easier, early on.
It's one thing to say "get more sleep" or "I know that not enough sleep makes my workouts way harder every week," it's another thing to learn actual habit-building techniques that help you overcome your challenges and improve your sleep.
3. Track How MY Body Responds To Certain Workouts
Different workouts working for different people didn't even cross my mind for so long. It wasn't until late in my collegiate track career that I started realizing how true it was!
What works for one really good runner, might not work for another really good runner. And that's completely ok. We all have different body types, nutritional needs, functions, etc...so why should we train exactly the same?
What works for one really good runner, might not work for another really good runner.
When you train with a group like in high school or college, it's obviously hard to have different workouts for each person. Especially when there's only one coach.
But when I had a coach that really started looking into the differences of each athlete and implementing it as well as he could, I definitely noticed a change.
So if I was starting over, I would definitely try to tune out the noise of what works for other people. Of course, a running plan for beginners might be more generalized to get you started. Plus, I think it's great to get inspiration from others. (Their workouts might really be for the same type of runner as you, too!)
But, all of that should be taken with a grain of salt and adjusted for yourself specifically. This doesn't just include types of workouts, it includes order of the workouts each week/season, recovery time/efforts between workout types, strength training types, and learning what diet you might need most.
Starting Running Over
I've learned a lot over the years about running, both physically doing it and mentally sticking through the ups and downs. But these are some of the things that come to mind when asked what I might do a little differently.
You can also check out my 10 running tips for beginners if you're just getting started on your running journey! All of these are really helpful for building a running plan for beginners too.