If you’re reading this, you are likely wondering how do I start running (consistently)? Perhaps again, or for the very first time. You may have spent a good chunk of time researching 5K plans, or running plans (thanks, Google!), and feel a bit overwhelmed. Or by chance, this is the first post you’ve read on how to start running. Regardless, here you are, and below are eight tips for you to start running (and keep running!) properly.
I myself came back to running after a long period of time, and although I had many years of running under my belt, I still made mistakes! Whether you’re brand new to running, or coming back after a long hiatus, this article is right for you. Read on, then get started!
8 Tips – How to Start (and keep!) Running
- Focus on TIME on your feet (versus pace or distance). When you first start running, don’t be concerned with pace, or the distance you cover. Initially, run for a time goal (ie: 15-20 minutes) at an exertion level that you can sustain. The amount of time you can endure is directly related to your effort level . Thus, run (or run/walk) at an effort that is “comfortably challenging.” On an exertion scale, that’s about a 6 on a 1-10 scale. It is OKAY to slow down in order to continue running. There truly is no wrong pace, do what is right for YOU.
More below, but it’s important for your running to become a habit. Simply aim initially for 15-20 minutes three times a week, and then increase as outlined below.
- STRONGLY consider the RUN/WALK method. I ran my first marathon with the run/walk method. I didn’t know how initially, but quickly learned. It’s a great way to either start running, or increase to a distance you’ve not done before. Says Gordon Gakoulis, a New York City based running coach, “every able-bodied person can be a runner. Just start slowly and build up gradually.”
There’s so many different options for the run/walk intervals. A great book to read on the topic is by Jeff Galloway, The Run Walk Run Method. Or, you can access the Jeff Galloway site here with different recommendations of run/walk time intervals. Bottomline, pick a combination that allows you to keep moving for at least 20 minutes, even if the run duration is shorter than the walk duration (ie: 2 minutes of run, 4 minutes of walk).
- Rest AND recover. This is especially true when you first start running. Your body needs time to recover from the stress endured on the run. Your muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, cardiovascular system (everything!) are all taxed, and need time to recover and repair. Plan for running every other day — which equates to three, maybe four runs per week. AND, if you’re hoping to prevent injuries (right?!), this is a must do! On the off days, static stretches, and foam rolling are great ways to keep yourself loose and limber.
- (Please!) Don’t skip the WARM-UP. Yes, it’s tempting when in a time crunch to just start without informing your body it’s about to run. But, warming up will make the entire run easier, and you are less likely to get injured. The warm up increases your circulation, wakes up the neuromuscular connections, gets synovial fluid (in your joints) moving, to name a few reasons. Andrew Kastor, former coach of the NYC Marathon online program states, “a good warmup makes it much easier to get going and keep going.”
You may wonder exactly how to warm up. Dynamic stretches are key, versus static stretches. It takes less than five minutes to do them properly. Don’t have time to click on that link? Here’s what you need to do at minimum on each leg (~10 reps): reverse lunges, side lunges, walk on heels/toes for about 20 yards, butt kicks, and high knees. (Pssst: warming down is important, too – walk for several minutes if at all possible.)
The Right Gear, Ramping Up & Staying Motivated
- Proper GEAR! Running is a fairly inexpensive sport, thankfully. But, one area to not skimp when you start running is your running shoes. A local running store is the place to visit early on. They can best assess your foot shape/size, how your feet strike the ground while running, among other things. This is important for your comfort, and to prevent injuries. Please be sure the store does have a 100% money back guarantee if you have issues, or don’t fit well. Here’s a Runner’s World guide to educate yourself before you set out to shop on the different options available.
While not a big cost investment, the right socks can make a huge difference. Socks specifically made for running help wick away sweat, support your foot and decrease friction (think blisters/chafing). My personal favorite is the Balega brand. I’ve never had issues with either chafing or blisters, regardless of the distance.
Lastly, athletic clothing. One of my Team in Training coaches often says “cotton is rotten” for running. Dri-fit materials, and even clothing made with bamboo, such as Raw Threads are better options. They help wick sweat away, which not only keeps you cooler, but lessens the odds of chafing. There are so many great clothing options. The most comfortable running skirt/short brand I’ve found to date is Bolder Athletic Wear. Fun fabrics, great construction and design make this my very favorite running skirt. And, 90% of the time, you’ll find me running in a Raw Threads top!
- Step it up SLOWLY. A common rookie mistake is to add on more time or mileage too soon. When you’re able to run (or run/walk) for 20-30 minutes comfortably, then it is time to challenge yourself a little. Here’s the key: increase either the time/miles the following week, or add a day — but not both!
A rule of thumb often used is to increase no more than 10% in a given week. Meaning, if you are running 10 miles/week, increase by one mile the week following. 90 minutes of running equals 99 minutes the following week, and so on.
- Give yourself some MOTIVATION. Nothing will motivate most of us to stick with a fitness plan (including me) like a race on the calendar. Once the money is paid, you’re likely more compelled to stick with your training. I strongly encourage you to find a race that is a reasonable distance for your first (or first in a long while) race. For most, that is a 5K (3.1 miles), and here’s a post with a 5K plan.
Races are a great way to be with others in the running community. You DON’T need to be the fastest, best, or any of that. You can run, run/walk, or walk the entire distance. There are a multitude of different paces at any race. I have found the running community to be very supportive of all speeds and abilities. If anything, a race will push you to race yourself, and you may be surprised with your results!
- Be ENCOURAGED. If you’re like me, you’ll get tired, you’ll have a bad run now and again. You’ll want to either skip your run, or end it early. This is not unusual, but also doesn’t mean you should give in! When you feel like quitting, remember why you started. It’s when we push through, despite wanting to stop or quit, that we feel the most satisfied when we’re done.
Matthew Meyer, a running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York says, “Running is more of a collection of work—day by day, you work for it—and it’s at the end that you see everything. So just focus on showing up a little bit every day. Some days you’ll feel amazing; some days you’ll feel terrible.” He continues. “Success is not determined by one day, but by all of them put together.”
Need more motivation? Here’s 8 tips to maintain your fitness motivation.