Jeff Houser: 5 things I wish I knew as a new runner | GO

Jeff Houser

In 2023, I will be coming up with 16 years of being what many call running. I still think it’s crazy when people who want to integrate running into their lives ask me for advice on how to get started. Even after almost two decades, I don’t feel like I am an expert on all things running. Still, with more than 20 marathons and triathlons under my belt, I now realize a few things took a while to absorb. I feel many would have been highly valuable to know right from the starting gun. Suppose you are starting on your running journey. In that case, I invite you to consider the following list of five things I wish every novice runner knew.

  1. One of the most common discussions I have with new runners is why they feel certain parts of their knees or feet hurting. Nine out of 10, I learned that the new runners started their running regimen using very old shoes or shoes not meant for running. Inadequate shoes almost always lead to injuries. If this sounds like you or someone you know, go to your nearest running store such as Fleet Feet in Traverse City, and have a sales associate help recommend a pair of shoes that meet your running style and goals. Once you have a solid pair of shoes that can adequately absorb the pounding your body takes while running, make sure to ease into running over a few months. People often jump into a running routine as if they had been running for years. They usually get injured quickly as muscles and ligaments are not yet strong enough to support the wear and tear of running.
  2. “Runner’s Knee” or Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is a pain usually felt on the outside of the knee and is one of the most common running injuries. I spent months of my running career sidelined because of ITB. After many months of physical therapy, I finally discovered my best friend, the foam roller. Developing a religious morning and pre/post-run routine of rolling out the side of your leg from the knee to just below your hip is worth its weight in gold to help keep you healthy.
  3. Whether you’re comfortable talking about it, occasionally running makes you have to poop. Sometimes this occurs right in the middle of a race or on a long run with no restroom in sight. To avoid an awkward situation in the woods or behind a dumpster, try having a warm liquid right when you wake up or at least 30 minutes before running. My go-to is black coffee. Another recommendation, if you have no success, is to plan your running route where you know there will be an open restroom along the way.
  4. When snow and ice dominate northern Michigan, running does not need to stop or be only on the dreaded treadmill. Products like Yak Tracks traction placed over running shoes help enhance foot for running in winter conditions. In terms of staying warm but not overheating, a general rule of thumb is to layer clothing as if it will be 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.
  5. No one cares how fast or slow you run. People are often discouraged from getting out for a run or joining a running group because of what others might think of their pace or the lack of attire that makes them “look” like a runner. If you appear to be a good human being with a positive outlook, runners will accept you and cheer you on because you want to do the act of running.

As we head into one of my favorite running seasons, I wish runners, both old and new many happy and healthy miles for years to come.

Please email me at [email protected] if you would like to ask questions about triathlons, running or local running clubs.

Jeff Houser is on the Board of the Traverse City Track Club, an Account Manager at Knorr Marketing and drummer of Cleveland based Ska band The Rude Staff Checkers. Learn more about the Traverse City Track Club at

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