A Straightforward Runner Story: Tips, Gear, What Not To Do and More…

Paola Garcia
6 min readDec 2, 2020

Full disclaimer #1: I’m not a professional runner. This article is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, especially if you’re new to running.

Full disclaimer #2: I’m not getting paid to advertise brands and/or promote any videos/social media platforms — anything I mention in this article are products/views/people/accounts I genuinely recommend and are my own opinions.

Sports All My Life, Running as a Hobby

I have been a soccer player my entire life — grew up playing with boys, played at the regional level then Division II and I in Costa Rica, before getting a soccer scholarship to play NCAA Div. II in the USA in 2010.

After graduating, I needed a hobby to keep up with exercise and to stay active. I decided to start “running” in early 2013. Went right into it and by the end of February, I had already signed up to run the NJ Half Marathon in April that year.

That was crazy if you asked me at the time, but it’s even crazier if you ask me now. Any experienced runner would agree with me that preparing for a half marathon takes more than just 8 weeks; especially if this is your first time running. Anyways, the thrill of running a half marathon for the first time then, was enough to make me run at least twice per week for the weeks previous to race day. I thank the lucky stars I did not get injured. I made it — it was dreading and painful and exciting, all at the same time.

Running the NJ Half Marathon. Left: 2018. Right: 2019.

Torturous Runs

For the next four years, I’d be running inconsistently here and there. Signed up for a few races in the summer. Some weeks would go by without runs, others sometimes 4 or 6 miles/week. Then do the same thing over and over — prepare for the only half marathon I’d run for the year, only 8 weeks before. I did not enjoy the process, only enjoyed a few runs at a time. Dreading, painful and exciting. I’d ask myself why I even bothered running races.

Then came 2018. After a water rafting accident that left me “out” of running for 6 months due to an ankle injury, I was thankful to be alive. It was then, when I promised myself I’d start running more consistently. In March of 2019, week in and week out I started running ~12 miles/week, and enjoying the runs a bit more. I finished 2019 with 330 miles ran and made myself the promise to run at least 365 miles in 2020.

July 2018: Rafting the Lehigh River after a week of rain and an open dam at 5,000 cu. feet of water per second. This was right before the accident that left me out of running for 6 months.

COVID-19: The Pandemic That Changed My Running Habits

We all know 2020 as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. What I did not know was that it was going to be the year I started LOVING my runs. Yes, you read that right — LOVING. It’s a strong word and one I don’t use often unless I mean it, but it’s the fact that I’m now running without using my asthma pump and going for longer runs without dreading it.

September 2019: Miles for Migraine 10k. I won 3rd place in the overall woman’s category.

To get to the fun part of this post(tips, gear, etc), I’m now averaging ~20 miles/week and I’m close to completing 700 miles of running and still have a month left of 2020.

Left: February 2020 — After a 10k around Congers Lake, NY and right before all of the quarantine rules were put in place. Right: August 2020 — During a 30-day, 141-mile challenge, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether you want to start running or currently run but would like to start enjoying it, here are five tips I think can help you:

Tips

#1: Consistency & Discipline
Regardless of the mileage, it’s important to start a consistent running routine and set goals for yourself. Start small, but commit to running at least 2–3 times per week. As you start to feel better, increase the mileage.

#2: Wearing the Proper Gear
My favorite store by far, Road Runner Sports. They help me get fitted, create custom insoles and find the best shoe based on how I run, my arch type, and other factors they know more about. It’s called science and it’s been working for me like a charm. Running with the proper gear helps you avoid common pains and prevents injuries. I’ll provide a detailed list of my gear below.

#3: Focus on your Stride, Posture & Cadence to Run Properly
A mistake I made since I started running in 2013 and up until 2020, was to not inform myself and learn to “run properly.” As I increased my running activity, I felt the need to do it and started watching videos (i.e: Proper Running Form) and following runners on social media, like @runtothefinish, @learn.2.run, and @runrx on Instagram.

#4: Eat, Sleep & Recover
Ok, I admit I’m not the best at eating healthy, but I’m trying and eating well is important. After all, if eating does not complement your exercise, then you may just not find the energy to even dress up to go for runs.

Just as important, is getting rest. I also admit, I’m a night owl but recently, I enjoy running in the mornings. So, what I do is set my clock to remind me to go to sleep early the night before my runs. I try to get at least 6 hours of sleep — I’m pretty sure more hours are recommended, but like I said, I’ve been a night owl all my life and change takes time. I’ll continue to work on that.

I decided to take on a challenge over the summer, the NJ Half Marathon #RunTheShore challenge. It was then when I found out that, if I wanted to really start running more miles and more consistently, I needed to take proper actions to rest and recover the sore muscles. I found the Recover app to be very helpful.

#5: Track Your Progress
I like numbers. As crazy as it may sound, tracking my miles has been a great way to help me stay consistent. I use the Strava app to record all my runs and set weekly/yearly goals. The app is a constant reminder to get out and run to reach those goals.

Speaking of goals, set them realistically and work towards competing against yourself.

Now that you have some of my tips, I’d love to hear your thoughts and any other tips you have to share. Also, I’ll leave you details about all of my running gear like shoes, insoles, socks and bottoms. Check it out below:

My Running Gear

Running Shoes
Brooks Adrenaline GTS
After getting fitted by shoe experts at my local Road Runner Sports, I found out the type of sneaker I needed was for stability. They have all different types, but you only find your type by going through some tests and getting evaluated based on how you run, etc. Check out this How to Choose Running Shoes article for more information.

Insoles
R-Gear Custom Insoles
I have a high arch, and these insoles are my saving grace.

Socks
R-Gear Superbreathable Medium Cushion No Show
I never thought socks were going to make a difference, until I started running in these. I swear by it. Again, I get them from the Road Runner Sports store and they have different styles (medium, thin, thinnest). I have tried the thin and medium and found that the medium are the best for me.

Bottoms
Kyodan Leggings and Shorts
I came across this brand at Marshall’s and now that’s all I look for. I particularly like it because they have pockets and they’re not too expensive. I run in their shorts during the warm weather, and wear leggings in the winter.

Requesting Your Input

Do you have any questions, comments, concerns or anything else we should know about for new runners? Please share with us (sharing is caring)! I’d love to hear!

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Paola Garcia

Lifelong learner, technology & soccer lover. Oh, and I run.