Place one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right. Now faster and faster. And repeat. This is how to start running—quite literally and metaphorically too.
Those looking to start (or continue) their fitness journey by starting to run just need to take that first step and get out there and go for a run. The beautiful thing about running is that every single runner has felt the same and gone through similar runs at one point or another in their running career. This means both everyday people and professional athletes. We’ve all had that run where just feel slow, are tired, and hated every minute of it. Just like we have all had that run where we are fast, light on our feet, and can go the distance.
We’ve also all had to start somewhere.
It might be simple in theory. Just put on some sneakers and start running. Think about running as something that is freeing— and dare—we even say fun. Remember being a little kid and running around outside at the park or chasing friends in the backyard? We were all runners as children, we just lost the ability to “play” as we matured and adult responsibilities took its place. Our bodies just have to re-learn the movement that we’ve replaced with sitting at a desk or on the coach.
As adults, this means scheduling the time to get a run in. This often means making sacrifices. Waking up early to rise and grind or skipping happy hour to get in a quick run.
This isn’t high school P.E. class where you are being forced to sprint across the football field. Running should still remain something fun, better yet something we get to do.
Take all the pressures off performance and lace up and get out there. Experts recommend starting by running three to five days a week. Those looking to lose weight, increase speed or overall boost fitness can cross train (strength training, cardio classes, swimming, etc.) one or two days a week. Remember that rest days are needed! That’s because the muscles need time to recover to avoid overuse and injury.
A great way to start is by following a couch to 5k program. This program gets people from being sedentary to running a 5k (3.1 miles) over the course of nine weeks. While running nonstop for three miles seems daunting for beginners, it is achievable since each run consists of walking and running.
This is also known as the Galloway method, coined by American Olympian and the author of Galloway’s Book on Running. This consists of a run-walk-run method that even marathoners use to complete the race. Instead of walking when the body gets tired, the runner sets their pace and runs for some time, then walks, and so on as a form of interval training. This allows newcomers to run longer without getting fatigued, or bet yet, control their fatigue.
As a new runner, we are hard on ourselves. The biggest piece of advice any runner can give others is not to compare oneself to others. A 9-minute mile runner is a runner. A 12-minute mile runner is a runner. We come in all ages, sizes, and speeds. Some may need to walk sometimes. Some may feel like their pace is more like a jog. Just know that fast runners didn’t get there overnight. It takes hard work filled with lots of runs—and different types of runs. These include running hills (even when we hate it), a long run, and speed work like quarter mile repeats on a track.
With that said, running can be hard. It takes a whole lot of motivation to get out there some days. But just do it. Even if you are dragging your feet, you won’t regret the run. After the first half to full mile, your body is warmed up and ready to tackle the distance. It is a mental workout after all as well.
Joining a local running group is also a good idea. It gets the runner more involved in the sport and helps them to learn a few things when led by an experienced coach. It’s a great way to meet new people and find friends to make running less lonely. Just run together! It can be scary to branch out, but many runners are also starting out and run at different paces.
Invest in—some not all— running gear to start. It’s free to run meaning no gym membership, but having quality running shoes is the bare minimum required. No one wants blisters or other discomforts.
A second must-have item is a running watch like a Garmin, Apple Watch or other fitness trackers to be able to track distance and pace.
But besides these two items (which can be costly themselves), wait until the runner learns what they need or would like to make running more enjoyable for them. There are so many products out there to buy. Take one step at a time. Wait to spend money until your feet are wet in the sport.
Things like body glide to prevent chafing and moisture-wicking clothes are close to must-haves. But there are some runners who don’t chafe. Some runners (who only run 3 miles) won’t need that expensive hydration pack.
And taking up running isn’t an excuse to buy a new running wardrobe if the runner can’t afford the expense. Of all the clothes, nutrition supplements, and race fees, running can become expensive. Just slow your roll until you become more comfortable and excited to learn more about products and gear.
Shopping aside, running does make us rich mentally. We get to prove to ourselves that we can do anything we put our minds to. We learn in the power of ourselves and our bodies and mind. We learn what we are capable of is far more than we thought. Runners learn that putting in the hard work does allow us to reap rewards.
Make today the starting line of your fitness journey as we race towards our goals.
New runners should start with a goal—or two. There should be a short-term and long-term goal to keep the runner coming back for more. It helps keep the runner accountable to stick with running while pushing them to strive for more greatness.
Running a mile is a great short-term goal. Running a 5k would then be the long-term goal. For others, goals might be to run a half or full marathon, or run in as many states as they can this year. Some might want to run their fastest mile or losing weight by running as their workout of choice.
Write down the goal so you can visualize it. Keep a running journal to keep track of progress and pencil in scheduled runs. Plan in runs on your calendar as you would a doctor’s appointment or birthday party. Then show up. This helps the runner hold themselves accountable.
The only way to crush a goal is to put on those shoes and go be great.