How to start running – Running can strengthen your cardiovascular system, increase bone density, and clear your mind. But to avoid injury or burnout, begin slowly, says John Honerkamp, the head of training for the New York Road Runners club, in New York City, who designed this walk-run regimen.
Before starting, get properly fitted for supportive shoes at a running store and grab a stopwatch to track your time. Then do this routine, outside or on a treadmill, twice a week to build endurance. (Don’t worry about how fast you go.) Gradually reduce the time of each walk break until you can comfortably run for 15 minutes straight.
How To Start Running #1: Getting Started
Sedentary Individuals – If you are very overweight or new to exercise in general, you should start with daily walking and developing a habit of regular exercise. You should spend a few weeks doing some other form of cardiovascular exercise such as cycling, using an elliptical or swimming 30 minutes a day 4-5 days per week before you are ready to start running. It is important to build a base of cardiovascular ability and muscle strength before you try running.
Lightly Active Individuals – If you are already in the habit of regular exercise, adding running to your routine will be a relatively easy transition. It’s tempting to just go out and run as fast and as far as you can, but this is a quick road to injury and imbalances.
Going too far, too fast is the most common cause of many injuries such as IT band syndrome, shin splints and patellar tendonitis (commonly called runner’s knee). These types of injuries can put you out of commission for a long time and stall your progress, or even set you back as you generally cannot do too many other types of workouts with knee and hip pain.
You’ll be able to run longer and at a steadier pace by starting more slowly and doing intervals of walking, slow jogging, and running. The idea is to gradually increase the amount of time you spend running so that you can continue to run and do not get burnt out, physically or mentally.
How To Start Running #2: Progression After Gaining Momentum
Start by adding one minute of jogging for every four minutes of walking, and gradually increasing the running time until you are at about a 2:1 ratio of running to walking. I recommend increasing the time by no more than 10% each week. You can go more slowly if you wish, but it is not a great idea to go more quickly.
For beginners, or those that are overweight or very out of shape, I generally recommend avoiding running two days in a row. Seasoned runners will often run 2 or 3 days in a row, changing from slower paced distance goals to speed goals or hills, but even then, the most seasoned runners try to give their bodies the rest required to perform as well as possible and you should, too.
On your off days, do something that doesn’t tax the same muscles you use when running, such as cycling or weight lifting. Cycling works the hamstrings (back of the leg) comparatively more than running. These are muscles not actively recruited when running, but very useful for improved performance and preventing imbalances that lead to injury.
Building your upper body helps to propel you forward, so doing some upper body resistance work the day following a difficult or long run can do double-duty as both rest and cross-training.
How To Start Running #3: Initial Soreness and Muscle Aches
Some soreness and muscle aches are to be expected, especially in the quadriceps and calves, any time you push further than you are used to. But these pains tend to be minor, dull pains that you will generally warm out of with a good warm-up and several minutes of easy pace jogging.
Sharp or sudden pains, or pains that persist or get worse as you exercise are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and they should not be ignored. Pain that is much worse on one side of your body can be a sign that one of your legs is much stronger than the other or that you are striking incorrectly.
If these things happen, take 2-3 days off and see a doctor. If imbalances are severe and pain is persistent, you may want to see an orthopedist to correct this prior to starting a running program.
How To Start Running #4: Overcoming Embarrassment
Get a buddy or run with a group – You can find a beginners running group or start your own on meetup.com, or any similar website. Even established running groups are very welcoming and inclusive, so don’t be afraid to go out with more experienced runners. They can, and are usually very willing to, teach you a ton. There are many more beginners out there than you think, and even more people who are in the same shoes of being too embarrassed to start running because of what other people will think. Band together and support each other through the awkward first steps.
Run at less busy times of day – Very early in the morning before the sun is up, or very late at night after the sun goes down are the best times go out for a nice long run. The weather is cooler, there is no chance of sunburn, and even less chance someone will see you. Just make sure to be aware of traffic. Sometimes not being seen is a bad thing! Midday on weekdays if you have the time is also a good time, as there is just not as much road traffic. Just be mindful of wearing sunblock when you go outside and staying hydrated.
Remember that most people won’t notice you – The fact of the matter is that most people are so wrapped up in their own lives, they will not even see you run by. And if they do, they likely are not thinking negatively about you, they are likely still thinking about themselves. Same goes for the few people who will say rude things to you from a car window or on the road as you run past. These people aren’t reacting to you, they are reacting to their own feelings about themselves. Let them be and see the next tip.
Remind yourself how awesome you are – When you start to feel anxiety, repeat to yourself how amazing it is that you got out for a run today. Develop a personal mantra even if it is simply “I can do this”
How To Start Running #5: Finding the Right Venue for Your Training
Running on a Treadmill – Treadmills offer a more forgiving alternative to road running, because they tend to be more cushioned than pavement and allow you to get a run in any weather, at any time of day or night. However, they are less than ideal in that you don’t need to propel yourself forward as much.
This forward-pushing motion is necessary for development of the quadriceps muscle (the front of your thigh) and calves, and many treadmill runners find themselves much less able and much weaker when they do go out onto the track or the road. For that reason, if you are training for your first race, make sure you do at least some outside running to prepare for the realistic conditions under which you will be competing.
How To Start Running #6: Running Form
There are many minor adjustments in form that can make running more comfortable and make you perform better. But, for now, focus on taking short strides and striking the ground with your midfoot and rolling onto your heel (that is, not running on your tip-toes or coming down full force on our heel).
Keep your elbows flexed and your hands relaxed. It helps if you envision holding something between your thumb and forefinger like a potatochip or something delicate. Avoid looking at your feet and, instead, look straight ahead at the horizon, or if you are trail running, look at the next 6 feet or so on the floor in front of you to avoid tripping over branches and rocks.
How To Start Running #7: Breathing
Breathing is the most important aspect of running. Many runners develop a pattern of breathing where they inhale for two (or three) footstrikes and exhale for two (or three) footstrikes, keeping the breathing even with each stride. Breathe in and out through your mouth in a controlled way. You can also recruit your nose, but this is a more advanced breathing technique that we can work on at another time.
To make the most of your breathing, try what is called “belly breathing”, which recruits your diaphragm and keeps your chest mostly still, allowing you to take in more oxygen with every breath. Learn this technique by practicing using your belly to breathe while lying in bed or on the floor. Breathe in and expand your belly, trying to keep your chest as still as possible. Then exhale slowly, allowing your abdomen to fall. Contract your abdominal muscles and try to hold the tension on inhale as well as exhale.
How To Start Running #8: Fatigue Management
Running is good for your joints (when done in moderation and with mindfulness) and your heart. But I don’t want you to force yourself through a jog that you hate every morning because you think it’s the only way to lose weight. I want you to fall in love with running. When you can achieve that, it will stop seeming like a slow slog to knock off the pounds and the fat will fall off on its own while you practice your new favorite hobby.