The question I get asked more than anything would be “How do I start running?”. I wish I had a straight and easy answer for how to get started, but realize that running is a journey. No run ends after one step, so you can’t expect to be able to be good at running after one try. Running is an endurance sport that takes, perseverance, determination, and a ton of mental strength. Distance running is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. I’m going to take you through what I think is the best way to get started running and continue this post with a series of other posts that are hopefully helpful to anyone starting off on their running journey. I’m going to try and hit my most frequently asked questions here, but please let me know if there is anything else I can expand on to help you out! Now, to get started running you…
- Start slow
- No one is expecting you to run a marathon the first time you tie up your sneakers, so don’t expect that from yourself either. If the first time you go for a run you only make it down the block, you still successfully went on a run! A run is a run no matter how far! Just go out the next day and run the block again, and then do it the next day. Maybe next week run two blocks. That’s how I started! On my first run I made it a block and a half, then turned around and came back.
- Walk when you need to
- I know this might sounds crazy, but walking for a bit won’t ruin your run. If you don’t feel like you can get through an entire run, do a walk-run. Run for 3 minutes, walk for 3, run for 3, go home and feel successful. You will get to the point where you can keep running for the entire time, but if that’s not where you start, that’s totally ok.
- Run for time, not miles
- This is great way to get started! If you get down on yourself about how far you run, stop worrying about how far you run, and start worrying about how long you have been running. Set a goal to run for 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter how fast or far you go, it just matters that you kept going. This will boost your confidence so that you can run for a little bit longer each time. And then out of nowhere you will be getting loads of miles in!
- Better to take it too easy than too hard, at first…
- If you run too hard at first and then get too tired or too sore, you won’t go run the next day. The only thing more important than running today, is making sure you also run tomorrow. Consistency is key, and multiple easier runs that get you into a habit are much better than very few hard runs.
- You’re not only training your legs, your also training your lungs
- Running takes your entire body. Your legs, your arms (yup, crazy I know), and your lungs. If you are used to working out, it’s very possible that your legs are in better shape than your lungs. Don’t let this discourage you! Just like any other muscle in your body, your lungs need to get used to the new levels of stress. You are asking a lot of your body, don’t be surprised when it gets a bit tired. When your lungs get too tired, take a break, start walking, or stop and stretch. Once you catch your breath, start again, but a little more slowly. Your overall level of fitness will get there, you just have to keep trying.
- Run where you feel best
- Another great question is whether it’s easier (or smarter) to start running on a treadmill vs. running on the road. I don’t think there is a perfect answer to that question, it all comes down to what you are used to and what your goals are. I started running on the road, and I love it. The scenery keeps me interested and the changes in footing and elevation lets me use different muscle groups and cushion my joints. Running on the road also mimics racing, so I will always recommend it. I also know people who love the treadmill. They like to know everything about their run laid out right in front of them. They have the control of the incline, the speed, their heart rate, even the temperature in the room. I hesitate to recommend the treadmill because it is hard on your joints, but on many occasions, the treadmill is just more realistic of an option. Run where running makes you happy.
- Run first, run fast second
- This keeps with the theme of starting slow. Your first race isn’t going to be your fastest. Get in a healthy amount of distance before you try and push the pace. Getting the endurance in will set a foundation, then build strength and speed on top of that.
- Make running your bad habit
- It takes 21 days to form a habit. Three weeks of consistently doing the same thing. Knowing this works to your advantage. You only have to make it three weeks. And then it won’t feel like a struggle, it will just feel like you are going out on another run. I’m not necessarily saying it will magically get easier, it just won’t be as much of a mental block. Beyond that point, you’re just doing what you do all the time, just going for another run. When I was running track in high school, the first two weeks of any season were always the hardest. Getting your body back into that habit even after a short break is hard work. But after those weeks, it was time to stop complaining and just put in the work.
- The buddy system still applies
- The easiest way to make sure you don’t wimp out on a run is to have a buddy relying on you to show up! Having your friends keep you consistent is a great way to stay motivated. Better yet, get a buddy to join in on the challenge and run with you. Running is always better with pals!
I know I just threw a ton at you, but running is such an important part of my life, that if I can help one person get started and find that same joy, my dreams would have come true! Good luck out there, it is well worth it.