Photos of gorgeously svelte runners, effortlessly floating across breathtaking scenery are everywhere I look. I see them in calendars on my walls, on glossy magazine covers, sprinkled throughout my social media feeds, and occasionally even along the side of the road or at local races. Sadly, my photos do not display the same effortless “runglam” that I see in the media. In an effort to help myself (and my resident insecurities), here are some top tips I’ve decided to focus on to look like a runner:
- Go for a run.
- Repeat in a consistent and well-planned manner (following your body/coach/running plan).
Additional helpful tips:
- Be the right shape: HUMAN. One of the beautiful things about running is that almost anyone can do it. Tall, short, wide, narrow — every human was created to be perfectly unique. Runners come in every shape and size. Yes, REAL RUNNERS come in EVERY shape and size. Your body is a runner’s body (if that’s what you want to be). To be fair, there is plenty of scientific evidence suggesting that being significantly overweight or underweight is not healthy. If you need to gain or lose weight for your health, then do it for yourself in a slow and healthy way. I highly encourage seeing a registered dietitian with expertise in running or sports if you’re trying to gain or lose weight while training for a race. Keep in mind that the shape of an elite runner is probably not healthy for most of us. Many top elites struggle with eating disorders and there has been a lot of press lately exposing the problems some of these runners have faced. Strong and healthy is BEAUTIFUL!
- Wear the right things: A smile and a great attitude. A smile makes everything feel better. There’s even some scientific research to support it. Whether you’re a professional runner who gets paid to pound the trails, or a new mom who wants a brief moment of sanity, approaching each run with eagerness and joy will add a sparkle to your workout. Other useful things to wear can be: well-fitting clothes that are designed for active people (sweat-wicking, anti-chafe) and that fit your body. I love happy colors and silly t-shirts. Expensive brands in the latest fashion are definitely not required. Personally, I prefer to be mostly-covered during a run (I sunburn easily and have an irrational dislike of attracting unwanted attention), but totally admire those of you running happily along in your bra and shorty shorts. Find what is comfortable and works for YOU!
- Have the best gear: Good shoes. Good shoes are A MUST for running injury-free. Be sure to get fitted by a pro (your local running store often has trained shoe-fitters). Track shoe wear/mileage and age; replace whenever needed. Choosing a shoe from a glitzy advertising campaign or magazine review often leads to pain (in the knee/hip/toe/wallet). A phone is great company for podcasts or music, safety, and apps to track mileage and time. Fancy gear is absolutely not imperative for a good run, but sometimes some basic add-ons are helpful. A couple of gear items to consider (per your needs/personal preferences) are: water container (hand-held/belt/vest with bladder), GPS watch, terrain-specific things like poles, gaiters, or navigation device.
- Obtain a fabulous social following: Coach/expert resource, understanding family and friends, encouraging running buddy. Running can be hard and stress the body even while it’s bringing joy and purpose. Having the right people to either encourage or caution you at the right time is priceless. On the flip side, be cautious about who/what you follow. There are plenty of “influencers” on social media, doling out not-so-sound advice or recommending unnecessary products.
- Run in amazing places: Wherever is safe and convenient for you. The odds of me running on the trails in scenic Chamonix, France this year are not good. But I can run around my neighborhood, and drive to local trails for some nature time. Find spots that work for your training level and goals, and that are safe, happy places for you. During each run, consciously take a moment to find something beautiful that makes your heart happy. For me, it’s usually is as simple as a fluffy cloud drifting across a baby-blue sky, a brightly-painted sunset, or a tree proudly wearing a jacket of multi-color leaves. Find your own amazing scenery on every run. Pro tip: Take a picture and post it for the rest of us to enjoy, too.
- Have perfect running form: Form that you and your coach feel is good for YOUR body. Many of the highly-visible pics we see are of runners with huge strides that would quickly lead to injury in most of us. If you have concerns about your form, work with a trained coach. Using online quizzes or social media blurbs to change your running form may actually cause more harm than good. Often changes are not necessary, or just minor tweaks that can be developed through training are helpful.
- Run an impressive pace: One that challenges you AND is within your training level and body abilities. I’m a back-of-the-pack runner, aiming to one day inch my way towards the back-of-the-middle-pack. My goals are very different from those of Courtney Dauwalter. This doesn’t mean I don’t set big, scary goal or train less fiercely. I give my running the same 100% and can still be proud of strong efforts and meeting MY goals.
In summary, dear Trail Sister, we can and do all look like real runners. We always have and we always will. I hope this silliness inspires you to get out there on our planet’s amazing trails or roads and show the world the beautifully unique runner that is you! Happy running.