The Mental Finish Line: How to Get Started Running

by | Oct 2022

Strohkirch during the 2021 Twin Cities Marathon, waving to her daughters.

Photo: Emily Strohkirch

Local marathoner offers running tips for beginners.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a runner—especially a runner with passion? One that gets up every morning to train and exhausts their legs until they cross the finish line or their daily mile goal? For marathon runner and Edina resident Emily Strohkirch, it’s really all about mindset.

“I really love the mental aspect of running,” Strohkirch says. “It’s a natural anxiety [reducer] for me. Every time I run, I mentally just feel less suffocated. It calms me down.”

Strohkirch ran her first marathon in 2002, a couple years after graduating college. She fell in love with the sport, going on to complete 10 more marathons before having her three daughters. After taking a break from long-distance running post-kids, last year Strohkirch started training again. In October 2021, she took on the Twin Cities Marathon. “That was the first time my girls saw me run in a marathon,” Strohkirch says. “I really wanted to set an example for them. I wanted them to see what hard work looks like and how it pays off—how sticking to a schedule and training your mind and body really pays off.”

Looking to develop a running practice for your physical and mental health? Strohkirch shares her top tips and recommendations for anyone wanting to develop habits of running and cross that mental finish line.

Emily Strohkirch and her sister at her first marathon.

  1. Invest in the Right Shoes
    Strohkirch says that getting the right shoes is a game-changer and can prevent injuries. “I recommend Fleet Feet [Minneapolis],” she says, noting that it has staff who can help you find the right shoes for your particular feet and gait.
  2. Set Goals but Start Small
    Though she acknowledges that running long distances seems overwhelming at first, Strohkirch says the way to build up your mileage is to start slow and small, and gradually add miles as you train. “See how much mileage your body can handle,” she says, even if it’s not a lot. And she stresses the importance of giving yourself grace, especially when starting out. She says, “If you are tired, walk.” She also says it’s much easier (and more fun) to work toward a goal when you have accountability, like a running friend or group. Many running stores will have information on local running clubs.
  3. Stay Hydrated and Fueled
    Being hydrated and properly nourished can make all the difference when you’re training or preparing for a race. “If you know you’re going out for a run, a day prior fuel your body with clean foods,” Strohkirch says. To help stay hydrated, Strohkirch likes adding a half packet of an LMNT electrolyte drink mix to her water, and she often runs with GU energy gels for an extra boost during a workout.
  4. Develop Your Mindset
    Strohkirch strongly believes that what goes into hard work, routines and training has less to do with your athletic ability and has everything to do with your mindset. Over the years, she says she has trained her brain, learning to push herself to go for a run even when she doesn’t feel like it because she always feels physically and mentally better afterward. But, like muscles, she says this mindset and drive has taken time to develop. Another thing that helps with mindset? A change of scenery. Rather than running the same path every day, Strohkirch encourages runners to explore a variety of routes to keep things interesting.

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