I used to make fun of runners. I remember seeing cross-country runners in high-school and college and wondering what kool-aid they had all drank that made them voluntarily want to do that to themselves. Funny thing is, I actually did a lot of running growing up. I played competitive soccer so I was running all over the place, but unless I was chasing a ball then running was just plain punishment.

Somewhere in the last few years that changed, and without me realizing it, I found myself running and enjoying it. However, there were a few things I had to learn the hard way and if I had known better, running could have been even more enjoyable. So if you are a beginner runner like myself, you’re in luck. Learn from my mistakes and here’s 5 things I wish I knew when I started running.

1. Find the Right Running Shoe

This may be THE most important thing I wish I knew. I thought that I could run in any old athletic shoe, and it wasn’t until I went and got fitted for a shoe designed specifically for running that I realized what I had been missing. It’s important to get a running shoe that compliments your foot’s width, arch, etc. You want them to fit snug and have plenty of room for your toes to be free. I ended up getting shoes that were a size and a half bigger than my old shoes, and it’s amazing how much of a difference it has made! Because everyone’s feet are so different, there’s so many different styles and brands to choose from. I highly recommend going to your local running store and having a professional there help you pick out what works best for you.

2. Find a Route with Accessible Bathrooms

Ok, let’s just get it out there. Here’s the thing no one EVER talked about with me until it was too late. Running does something to your body’s digestive system. I’m sure there’s a lot of fascinating science behind it, but basically, it makes you need to go. So I highly suggest trying to use the bathroom prior to running, and/or finding a route that has some facilities accessible. As I’ve run more, my body has adjusted and things seemed to have normalized a little. However, it wasn’t until I had an unfortunate experience with needing to find a discrete bush to take care of my business in the middle of my run, that I realized I needed to plan a little better. I talked with other runners and realized I wasn’t alone, and it was almost like I was part of a secret club. But don’t worry, this is one club you won’t miss not being a part of.

3. Running is Way More Mental Than Muscle

Of course you need to train your muscles to run, but what really surprised me is how much harder I’ve had to train my mind. There have been several times, especially when I first started running, when my mind gave out before my body. I have had to work on building my mental toughness just as I work on building my physical strength.

4. Just Running Does Not Make You a Better Runner

I used to think that if I wanted to get better at running, I just needed to run every day. Makes sense right? But actually, if you want to be a better runner, you need to do a variety of workouts to help build all your different muscle groups. Strength training will help make you a better runner and help avoid injury. I enjoy alternating my running workouts with yoga, pilates, weight lifting, and barre classes.

5. Rest and Recovery are the Most Important Parts of Running

The biggest obstacle that keeps people from running is injury. There are several common injuries that can occur from running, and if you want to prevent and treat these injuries, it’s important to take care of your body. While you rest, your body is strengthening and repairing your muscles and it can’t do that without that time off. That’s why it’s critical that you don’t run everyday and take at least one to two days off each week. By doing certain stretches and foam rolling after my runs, I have been able to treat the wear and tear on my body and prevent any serious injury.

Let me know if these tips have proved helpful or what things you wish you knew when you started running!