Tips for New Runners

My sister in law recently started running and I couldn’t be happier. Dreams of family races are dancing in my head. Yay! Last week, she called me to get some running advice. Turns out she was struggling with running, and, most of the reasons were completely preventable. Inspired by her questions, I submit to you my best advice for new runners, including you Couch to 5k runners in training.

Q&A for New Runners

Why are my toenails bruised?

The short answer – your shoes are too tight. Most new runners start running in old trainers (probably the ones used for mowing the lawn, or going to the gym) and it’s an important rite of passage to buy proper running shoes. If your nails are bruising, your shoes are likely too small. Most runners like shoes at least a size larger than their shoe size (ladies – a size larger than flats, at least a half size larger than pumps). Another common culprit of bruised toenails is bad socks. Socks are largely an issue of personal preference and most runners are quite passionate about socks. Synthetic, wool, or blended socks are your best bet. I’ve written about a few different kinds of socks in my reviews. It’s a good idea to buy socks specific for running that are made from high quality materials. Wicking socks will also help prevent blisters. If new socks and the proper shoes don’t help, bruised toenails may be the fault of your running form or where you run. Downhill running can increase the likelihood of bruising. Consider consulting a running coach or staff at a running specialty store for more help.

How do you tell what pace you’re running and how do you run a consistent pace?

There are lots of great apps and devices for keeping track of pace, but that’s just numeric pace. I think the best way to manage pace when starting as a new runner is by feel. Runners and running coaches often talk about “conversation pace” runs, or the “talk test”. This means that you should run most of your runs at a pace at which you can have an intelligent conversation with a running partner. If you’re panting and can only sputter out phrases, slow down. You’ll be more comfortable, and build fitness faster, if you run most of your runs at a conversation pace. Once you have a good foundation of running, you can increase speed and challenge your fitness with different runs. If you want to keep track of numeric pace, consider downloading a free or low cost app for your phone (RunKeeper, Endomodo, MapMyRun), investing in the Nike+ system (its has an app, too), or making the larger investment in a Garmin Forerunner. The Forerunner line has a GPS-enabled running watch for everyone. Keep track of your runs and pace, using any method that works for you, in a running log. Then, you can review your log to learn more about what works for you as a runner. It also feels great to see evidence of your improvement.

What should I do about post-run soreness?

Rest, ice, and stretch. Self massage also helps. I love my foam roller and The Stick for self massage. Foam rollers are available everywhere and using them is easy. Basically, you lay on top of it and roll your body across it. It’s great for large muscle groups like quads and hamstrings. Google foam roller for instructional videos, helpful tips, and shopping. The Stick is an innovative self massage tool that has rolling washers attached to a longer post. Using it is simple – roll the Stick across sore muscles. Self massage is wonderful for post run soreness.

Are walk breaks ok?

Of course! There are a number of popular methods of running that include planned walk breaks, including the super popular Hal Higdon method. There is no shame in taking a break to walk, stretch, or lower your heart rate to maintain a comfortable pace. Running should be fun and if talking a walk break makes it more comfortable and fun, then do it! There’s also no shame in stopping at stop lights and standing still. Don’t feel compelled to run in place or dance around. Rest is good.

What can I do to control skin breakouts?

My best advice is to change out of sweaty running clothes as soon as possible, but I know that doesn’t always work. Running in sweat-wicking clothing helps. Running clothes that are primarily cotton trap sweat and dirt and that contribute to breakouts. I find it also helps to exfoliate frequently and to wash my face and skin with products that contain salycilic acid. I love the Neutrogena pink grapefruit line and the St. Ives skin clearing line (for a slightly less girly smell). Neutrogena makes skin and body wipes in the pink grapefruit line and they’re wonderful.

What stuff do I really need to make running more comfortable?

You don’t need much to run, but a few small things can make your running life much more comfortable. Invest in quality shoes. They are the most important part of your running life. Clothing that’s made specifically for exercise and has wicking material will make your runs significantly more comfortable. Target has a low cost line, RoadRunnerSports.com carries everything you could imagine, and specialty retailers like Lululemon, Lucy, Oiselle, and Athleta make great products for women. Don’t run in cotton if you can help it and select seamless or flat seam garments. Body Glide is  a wonderful invention that prevents chafing. I slather it on my feet in wet weather, on seams, and on any body parts that might touch and chafe. Buy some immediately. Purchase some nice socks, particularly if you’re prone to blisters. The blister-prone should also consider getting a box or two of Band Aid Brand Blister bandages. They’re specially made, cushioned bandages that last a long time, are impervious to sweat, and heal blisters. Finally, get a nice water bottle and keep it full. Be sure to hydrate enough, particularly if you live in a hot climate. Some people prefer a handheld bottle (I love mine and wrote about them on the blog), others prefer to stash a bottle mid-run. Either way, a nice bottle helps.

(And one from my brother) How do I stop my nipples from bleeding?

Two words. Nipple Guards. They’re nifty little yellow caps for the nipples. They really help (or so I’m told). Band aids are good (and much less expensive), and, in lower sweat conditions, Body Glide can help. Bloody nipples happen when the water and salt in sweat chafe the sensitive nipples, rubbing the skin off and making them bleed. Protect the nipples with a topical guard and wear proper fitting, wicking shirts.

Tips for New Runners

There you have it. My best advice for new runners, couch to 5kers, and everyone else who’s new to running and has questions. Have a question I didn’t address? No problem! Contact me using the handy link above, tweet me, or find me on Facebook. I’m happy to help.

Friday Favorite: Socks, Part 2

A few weeks ago I raved about Lululemon’s running socks in Part 1 of this two part series. I must admit that they are not my only sock love. I love (and feel the need to share this love with you) my Experia CoolMax Thin Cushion Mico Mini Crew socks by Thorlos.  Despite the obvious drawback of having a crazy long name, these Experia socks are amazing.

First, and most importantly, these socks hold tight and don’t shift around while running or cycling. The foot-hugging shape makes the socks stay put – even on long runs in the rain. There is a subtle drawing in around the arch and top of the foot that really holds the sock in place. Next, the Experia socks have a unique padding distribution. According to the manufacturer, the thin cushion padding is sculpted to and contoured to match the natural foot strike pattern. This means that the padding is soft and squishy only on the ball of the foot and bottom of the heel. I love thin socks, and the cushion in the Experia socks adds comfort without bulk. The padding is just right for me – it doesn’t add bulk to the sock, but adds noticeable cushioning. Finally, there is a reinforced area at the heel. As someone prone to blisters, I really appreciate the slightly reinforced point at the top of the heel. It adds a little bit of padding and protection just where I need it. I think it protects my heel from blisters and holds the top of the sock in place. Though my preferred Experia is the Micro Mini Crew and one would think that means a no-show sock, the rise on the sock is a bit higher. It touches my ankle bone, giving me ample protection from rocks and debris on trail runs. I have the Experia is lots of colors (check them out – they have great colors!) and I love every pair.

Friday Favorite: Socks, Part 1

Today’s Friday Favorite is the first of a series on my favorite socks. I am blister prone and running socks are of critical importance to me. I was thinking about my socks yesterday, when I ran in 100% humidity and rain showers. Good socks are vital to foot happiness, particularly in wet conditions!

My favorite thin socks are the Lululemon Ultimate No Show Running Sock.

I love several things about these socks. First, they have a thin, soft fabric. They are body-mapped (or foot-mapped?) with special support in the arches and curves around the toes. They are foot specific and fit snugly and securely. The socks never slouch and stay put even on long runs. They come in cute colors and last a long time. My favorite feature of these socks is that they have extra padding and come up a bit higher in the heel area. As someone prone to heel blisters, this is wonderful. I love these socks.

Gear Review (and Giveaway!): Sof Sole Socks

Not only is this post a gear review – it’s a giveaway! One lucky reader will win a cool box of goodies from Sof Sole. Read on to see how to win!

Some time ago, the nice folks at Sof Sole sent me a box of products to review for the blog. I had fond memories of some Sof Sole socks I wore long ago (in high school!), so I happily agreed. In the box came a lovely package of CoolMax Lite socks, Airr Insoles, and a coupon for my next purchase.

I immediately set out to test the socks and insoles. While I like the insoles just fine, I’m not much of an insole person. They were suitably squishy and I enjoyed them. If you like a nice, soft insole with some spring, I would recommend them. But, I really want to draw your attention to the CoolMax Lite socks, because they were pretty cool. Haha.

The Sof Sole CoolMax Lite socks have several key features most runners and fitness walkers would like. They have a nice, deep heel pocket, which minimizes sock shifting (and blisters). They have a thin, synthetic fabric construction, which is not only comfortable, but moisture wicking. Finally, the socks have a snug arch band for a good fit and a little bit of arch support.

I am prone to blisters, so I first tested the CoolMax Lite socks on a normal work day in some casual sneakers. They were a success. My feet were comfortable and blister-free. Thus, they graduated up to short run wear. That test was a success. The final test of the CoolMax sock was a long walk with my mom in Florida. I really wanted to test the cooling and anti-shifting properties of the sock. I must say, the socks were great.

I really liked the deepness of the heel pocket. The sock stayed up and situated on my foot. Despite the relatively deep heel pocket, the socks didn’t come up much higher on my ankle than any other low-cut sock and the sock didn’t shift at all as I wore them. This is really important to me as a blister-prone wearer. I could be sure the sock would stay in place and protect my foot. The sock also didn’t have any seams or changes in thickness on the heel. On me, the slightest change in thickness can cause blisters. I couldn’t find anything that would create a heel blister in the CoolMax socks. I also liked the fabric of the sock. It has a nice, smooth synthetic feel that seemed soft on my foot. The socks are quite thin, with a slightly thicker fabric on the bottom. I generally like thinner socks, particularly on the top of my foot, so I liked the thinness of the sock. It did the job wicking and helping my feet stay cool on a 90 degree day in Florida. I was impressed with the ability of the sock to manage foot moisture. For me, the socks were a success. They didn’t shift, they didn’t give me blisters, they felt soft and smooth, and they kept my feet cool and dry. All in all, I liked the Sof Sole CoolMax Lite socks and would recommend them to anyone looking for an inexpensive, but high quality thin fitness sock.

Details: Sof Sole CoolMax Lite socks are available for men and women and are sized extra small to large for custom fit. The socks are available at major retailers and online. Head over to the Sof Sole website for more information. You can also learn more about other Sof Sole products like their insoles, and shoe care products on their website.

Now for the giveaway…

If you’re interested in trying out the Sof Sole CoolMax Lite socks, this is your lucky day! One lucky reader will be the proud recipient of a box of goodies from Sof Sole, including the CoolMax socks featured in this review (men’s and women’s sizing is available). To win, you must either: 1) Like Sof Sole on Facebook and tell me you did in a comment, or 2) Follow Sof Sole on Twitter and tell me you did in a comment. If you do both, you’ll be entered to win twice. I will randomly select (on March 15, 2012) one lucky reader as the winner of a Sof Sole box of goodies. Good luck!

PS – While you’re on Facebook and Twitter, like and follow me! You can find my links on the right side of this page.

Disclosure statement: Sof Sole provided me free products to review for this post. I was not compensated monetarily and do not have an ongoing relationship with Sof Sole. Though I was given free products to review, I conducted the review with integrity and the content of this review represents my personal experience with the product.