So you are considering running. It seems simple, just strap on some shoes and move those legs.
Here are some things that I wish I had known when I first started running.
- Try a Couch to 5K program. – This is an excellent way to begin running if you cannot run 30 minutes without stopping. If you have a Smartphone consider one of the C25K apps. This is a run/walk method that will slowly ramp you up to running a half hour without stopping. It will take all the guesswork out by telling you when to run and for how long.
- Look up Hal Higdon – If you can run a half hour without stopping and would like a training plan, try Hal Higdon’s novice plans. They are great for beginners and they are free! As you progress you can move on to his more advanced plans.
- Don’t worry about how fast you are running. – When I first started running I thought that I should run fast every time that I ran. This is not the case and the opposite is actually better. Running slowly allows your body to adjust to running and will make you a better (and faster) runner.
- If you have any aches or pains, rest. – As a beginner do not try to run through pain. Running will not be easy, it may hurt and will not always be fun. But if you feel any actual pain then it may be better to rest or try another activity instead of running.
- Warm up slowly and stretch after running. – Allow your body time to warm up. Just walk or jog slowly. Take the time to stretch after running. There are excellent resources online for good stretching routines.
- Sign up for a 5K race. – Having a goal will help keep you motivated. Convince a friend that doesn’t run to also make the commitment to run a 5K race. The 5K distance is extremely beginner friendly. If you are afraid that you are too slow, just start at the back. Chances are there will be many other beginners at the race. Pick one that is in a scenic location and that is held when the weather should be nice (at least 50 degrees is good for running). Some races are much bigger than others, keep that in mind when you pick a race. Some people like to run with crowds and some don’t. Give yourself at least 3 months to train.
- Get running shoes. – If you have the $$$ and there is a running store near you, take the time to go and be fitted for running shoes. There are also online sites (such as Road Runner Sports) that will help you pick an appropriate pair of shoes. People tend to wear running shoes 1/2 size to a full size larger than everyday shoes due to feet swelling while running. It is best if you can try the shoes before purchasing. If you can’t do this, make sure you pick a site that allows returns. Some running shoes can be very pricey ($100 or more). Often it is possible to pick up the last year’s model at a substantial discount. If I find a shoe that I like, I often stock up on the model when it is on sale. I once had a shoe that I loved and the next year’s model was changed so it no longer worked for me. Luckily I was able to stock up on the older model!
- Get a comfortable running outfit. – I once hated the look of running shorts. Let’s face it, they aren’t exactly stylish. But they are the best for running. You will want clothes that do not chafe. Cotton shirts will not wick sweat so you will want a “tech” shirt (fancy term for polyester). I usually get my running clothes at a discount online when it is off season, but you can also try places like TJ Maxx. Target carries the Champion brand which offers decent running clothes at a nice price. Old Navy also offers an Active line that I like quite a bit. UnderArmour Outlet is a good online site to check for running clothes at a wallet friendly price.
- Log your runs. – Whether you use an app (Nike+ and Map My Fitness are good, free ones. Friends also recommend RunKeeper and Strava), online site, or a spreadsheet, keep track of your miles. It is nice to see the miles add up and how you are progressing.
I think those are the most important basics. Just listen to your body and take it slow. Keep it fun.
You may be surprised at how much you enjoy running and hopefully it will become a lifelong habit.