How exactly do you start running? While the simplicity is one of the many reasons that running is such a fantastic form of exercise, the right plan, workouts, and gear can make the difference between becoming a runner or not sticking with it.
Hi everyone! Thank you so much to Jill for having me guest post today. My name is Laura, and I blog and coach over at This Runner’s Recipes. Today I want to share some tips for new runners.
Spring and summer are the prime seasons to begin running. Few people want to start running in the cold dreariness of winter, but summer invites you outside with long daylight hours, pleasant temperatures, and radiant sunshine.
How do I start running?
Run-walk intervals are the best way to start running without overtaxing your body. Running does not just work your aerobic fitness; it also places stress on your joints and muscles. Even if you have a good cardio fitness from other forms of exercise, run-walk intervals will prevent you from overstressing your musculoskeletal system and therefore prevent common beginner’s injuries such as shin splints.
Run-walk intervals are simple to do. Using a stopwatch, GPS watch, or app on your phone to track the time and divide a 30 minute run up into running, walking, and running again. How long the intervals are and how often you walk depends upon your current level of fitness. If you do not normally do cardio exercise, start with 1-2 minutes running at a comfortable pace and 1-2 minutes walking.
New runners with decent cardiovascular fitness (say that you attend spin class or use the elliptical regularly) can begin with longer run intervals and shorter walk intervals, such as 3-4 minutes of running at a comfortable pace and 1-2 minutes of walking.
Once you find you can comfortably complete a 30 minutes run using walk run intervals, you can either increase the duration of your run by 5-10 minutes or lengthen the duration of your run intervals. Don’t change both of these at once, and always give your body a couple weeks to adapt to the new load.
How often should I run?
New runners will do best in aiming to run 3 days per week on nonconsecutive days. Too much more can seem overwhelming and pose risk of injury, while less will not deliver the same benefits.
Once you’ve consistently been running 3 days per week for a few months, you can add another day of running. Just make sure you safely increase your distance, keep your pace easy and you new run short, and give your body time to adapt.
Should I run by time or distance?
While this is completely a personal option, I highly recommend that new runners use time rather than distance to track their workouts. 30 minutes sounds less intimidating than 3 miles. By running based on time, you are not tempted to push the pace beyond what you safely should run in order to complete the workout sooner. No matter how fast or slow you run, 30 minutes is 30 minutes.
Should I do speed work?
You want to have completed at least 6 months of easy running before you attempt any speed work. Speed workouts, especially workouts done on the track such as 400 meter or mile repeats, impose additional stress upon your joints, muscles, and heart. You want to make sure your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems are adapted to the stress of easy running before you push the pace in order to decrease your risk of injury and make running an overall more enjoyable experience.
If you want to get faster, don’t worry – even running at an easy pace will speed up your pace over time.
What gear do I need?
With the plethora of complex GPS watches, hydration packs, wireless earphones, and endless racks of shoes at your local running store, choosing gear can be overwhelming! To start running, you only need a few basic items:
- Running shoes: Basic gym cross-trainers will not provide the appropriate support and cushion for running. Go to a local running store and get fitted for shoes that are appropriate for your arch, gait, and pronation. If cost is an issue, get fitted to find the best shoes for you and then search online at sites such as Running Warehouse or Amazon for deals on those shoes.
- GPS phone app: You don’t need to invest in a fancy Garmin right away! Numerous free phone apps such as MapMyRun, Strava, and Runkeeper will track your time, distance, and pace with a good degree of accuracy.
- Wicking socks: Cotton socks can cause painful blisters, so opt for a pair of running specific socks that will wick moisture away from your feet. You do not need to spend a lot of money; stores such as Target and Kohl’s carry running socks at affordable prices.
A supportive sports bra: Running requires more support for your chest, since running is a high impact exercise. A good sports bra will make the difference between painful runs and comfortable runs! You can purpose sports bras in varying levels of support, but ideally you want at least moderate support even if you wear a small cup size.
Should I sign up for a race?
No matter the experience of the runner, racing is a personal choice. No one says you have to race at all to be a runner! I ran for years, up to 30 miles per week, before I decided I wanted to do a race.
If you do want to sign up for a race, I highly recommend selecting a race that is at least 3-6 months away and choosing a 5K as your first race. There will be time in the future for marathons and half marathons!
Most importantly: be patient with yourself.
Running is not easy no matter how long you have been running, but the miles are always worthwhile.
Believe in yourself, trust the process, celebrate your accomplishments, and enjoy the journey.
Laura Norris, a running coach, blogger, outdoor enthusiast, distance runner, and Midwest transplant living in Seattle, Washington. Laura writes about running, hiking and food on her blog This Runner’s Recipes. Laura has a passion for helping runners achieve their goals through healthy eating and research-backed training. When she’s not running, coaching, or writing, she loves to head to the mountains with her husband Ryan and their adventurous puggle named Charlie.
Have you ever considered running? If you have any questions for Laura leave them in the comments below.
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