Maybe you want to challenge yourself to run, or your friends and coworkers run and you’d like to join in on the fun. Learn how to start running TODAY!
I really enjoy running. It’s one of my all time favorite things to do. Which is one of the reasons rest, recovery, physical therapy, and now the slow roll back into running has been so hard for me. But I know if I don’t take care of my body now, it won’t serve me well in the future — and I plan on running for many more years to come!
With my newfound clearance to run, I’ve found jumping back in where I left off to be a most impossible feat. Yes, I stayed active and fit with cycling and the couple fitness challenges I’ve been hosting lately. But without putting feet to the ground and creating some impact, I lost a lot of fitness in my muscles, ligaments, and bones. My first few runs back were incredibly difficult. Despite my years of mileage, I was back to square one.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation — starting over. Or perhaps you’re someone interested in losing weight. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to run. Is it possible your friends and coworkers run and you’d like to join in on the fun? Whatever your reasons — coming back from injury, starting from scratch after a few years off, or beginning as a brand new runner — choosing to run is a wonderful thing. Starting your running journey on the right foot is paramount to enjoying the sport for many years to come.
Benefits of Running
First, let’s touch on why running is so great. The benefits of running are numerous and these are just a few of them:
- running strengthens bones
- you’ll sleep better
- your balance will improve which will help you avoid falls later (we’re much less balanced as we age)
- running strengthens the heart and the cardiorespiratory system
- your immune system will become stronger
Being physically fit will make every day activities easier. Running will add years to your life! But before you jump right into a running program, it’s important to introduce this new activity slowly.
How to Start Running
For all intents and purposes, running is the easiest form of exercise available to humankind. It’s such a simple form of locomotion that it’s the next step after learning to walk. Children run all over the playground for the pure enjoyment of it. So you may be asking — if it’s so easy, why do I have to learn to run? As adults, it’s likely we’re so far removed from our carefree running days that if we started to run as fast or as far as we did as children, we would end up injuring ourselves — which is the last thing we want to do. We need to retrain our bodies to learn to run so we can enjoy the sport for the long haul.
Before I teach you how to start running, let’s discuss what you need:
Get yourself some running shoes.
They don’t have to cost an arm and a leg but you do want something to protect your tootsies from the elements, terrain, and/or treadmill belt. If you’d rather run barefoot, I support you. But if you’ve never run before I strongly recommend shoes.
Invest in some gear.
Again, it doesn’t have to cost a lot, but make sure it fits, it’s comfortable, and it wicks sweat. Check out my post on running apparel buying tips if you need guidance.
How to Start Running
Now that you’re properly shod and dressed, let’s learn how to start running. It’s fairly straightforward with a few basic rules.
1. Start slow and low.
What this means is slow speed (or pace) and low distance (or mileage). If you start off too fast, you’ll peter out and give up. If you go too far, you’ll also peter out and give up. By starting slow and low, you’ll set yourself up for success through beginner running.
2. Use the run/walk method. Religiously.
When you first start running, or if you’re coming back from injury, it’s best to use the run/walk method. When you begin running, your muscles, bones, ligaments, heart and lungs will be introduced to a new stressor — running. It will be taxing on all the systems of your body. By using the run/walk method, your body won’t be overloaded and will be able to acclimate to these new stressors in a slow, controlled manner.
To effectively use the run/walk method as a beginner, I suggest using a 30-second run/90-second walk ratio and repeat it for 20 minutes 3-4 times per week. After you’ve mastered this ratio, you can bump up your running time to 60 seconds. Continue with the 20 minutes and 3-4 times per week workouts for the first couple of weeks while you get the hang of running. Over time, you’ll steadily increase your running time (2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and so on and so forth), decrease your walking time (60 seconds, 30 seconds), and increase the duration of the workout (20 minutes, 25 minutes, and finally 30 minutes). After a while, you’ll be running for 30 minutes straight! This process will take approximately 10-12 weeks.
If you’re interested in a detailed beginner running program, click here!
3. Stretch and rest.
Do not underestimate the importance of stretching. Stretching is something veteran runners fail to do every day (me included) and it can — and will — come back to bite you in the a$$ if you don’t keep up with it from the start. Adequate stretching will help keep your muscles balanced. Balanced muscles mean less chance of injury. Less chance of injury equals more enjoyable running.
To get the full effect of stretching, hold each stretch for a minimum of 30-seconds. This will allow the muscle to relax and return to its ideal length. Your body won’t let you stretch to the point of injury, but if something hurts, stop and move into a different stretch.
Rest is another important aspect of learning to run. As I mentioned, running is a new stressor that’s hard on all the systems of the body. With each run, you will be breaking down muscle and bone and with each rest period, muscle and bone will be regenerating and growing back stronger. If you fail to take adequate rest days, your body will be unable to repair itself and will therefore be at risk for injury. Rest on rest days.
4. Treating soreness.
There will be some days that you’re sore from a run (or any workout for that matter). The soreness that appears many hours after exercise (sometimes up to 72 hours later) is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or commonly, DOMS. DOMS is completely normal, albeit uncomfortable, and the soreness will subside after a while. It is NOT recommended to continue the same exercise that caused the DOMS while still sore since the soreness is an indication of muscle breakdown and the muscle needs time to heal. So if you’ve got DOMS after a run, take an extra day to rest. Taking an extra rest day won’t derail your running, I promise.
So that’s it! Now that you know what you need, how to start, the importance of stretching and rest, and the potential for DOMS — you are READY to start running!!
The more you run, the easier it will become. Pretty soon you’ll be running a 5K every weekend and you won’t believe you used to never run in the first place. What are you waiting for??
For new runners: what questions do you have? I’ll share answers in an upcoming post!
For veteran runners: what’s one piece of advice you’d share with a newbie?