Do you want to run, but aren’t sure how to start? Here is your beginner guide.
Maybe you have some friends who run, or you saw an exciting marathon on TV, or you want to meet nice, healthy people, or maybe you need more physical activity in your life for better health or weight loss.
Whatever made you decide to read this, that’s a good reason!
I was a beginner once, too. I had to learn everything. So how did I first make it to the starting line?
*Caution: I recommend getting a full checkup if you are not sure you are healthy enough for this program. But almost anyone can do the walking program as long as you pay attention to how you feel . Do NOT push yourself too hard! If you feel light-headed , extremely shaky, weak, or any alarming feelings, please stop and try again another day.
- Prepare your muscles, bones and joints for the impact of running by starting a walking routine first.
- Here is a good walking routine. Start with one mile a day for two weeks, with a couple days off during each 7 days. Then walk two miles a day for two weeks. These walks should be fast enough to increase your heart rate. Maintain good posture , head high, and swing your arms. If you have not exercised in a long time, keep up the walking program for as long as you need.
- Go to a running shoe store and get fitted for a good pair of shoes. This is important. Cheap shoes will hurt your feet and possibly even give you injuries such as shin splints or Achilles tendinitis. They might cost a little more but if you only use them for running and walking, they will last about 400 miles or more.
- Wear comfortable clothing. If you aren’t comfortable in shorts, at least wear some stretchy yoga pants or capris or sweat pants and a comfortable top, preferably not cotton. Tech material is best. Buy some performance type, non-cotton socks. If you’re a woman, invest in a few good sports bras. Clothes do not have to be expensive. I buy a lot of my running clothes at Walmart.
- Purchase a fitness tracker or running watch or at least download an app onto your phone to track your miles and keep track of your workouts. Strava, Garmin Connect, MapMyRun, and many others are available for free! Those apps use your cell phone to keep track of distance, pace, and calories and will save them to a history in your account. These apps can be very helpful in monitoring your progress as well as making connections with other runners.
- Choose a Couch to 5k program. After your legs and feet have adapted to a month of walking, you may benefit from a structured plan. These programs give you incremental increases and help your progress from mostly walking to mostly or all running. You can Google Couch to 5k. Here is one link I found. Couch to 5k plan
- Work the plan and give yourself time to see results.
- Use the Couch to 5k method. First warm up with walking, then run a little bit, then walk, then repeat until you complete 30 minutes or whatever the program says. Each week will increase the amount of time you run. For example walk 2 minutes, run 30 seconds. Then, reduce the walking each week by about 30 seconds and run longer. You can make up your own plan to fit your needs, just try to get at least 30-40 minutes on your feet 4 or 5 days per week. If you are having trouble , just repeat that week until you feel ready.
- Walking is okay! The goal is to be able to run comfortably and many people prefer to take walk breaks even when they are very experienced runners, including myself. Very important! Do NOT sprint. Just run at a pace that you can still breath easily. You are not racing yet! Easy does it.
- Do not worry about what other people think about your pace. You are moving faster than those sitting on the couch!
- Start browsing online for races, if that is your goal. Running is so popular that it’s easy to find races near you. Here is one of many sites. https://runningintheusa.com/race/find-by-state/ Sign up! Put the date on the calendar and keep training! Maybe you can find a friend to join you or get your family interested. Running is a great family activity. Have a small child? Run with a jogging stroller! Also, join some Facebook or other social media groups that welcome new runners. You will get lots of encouragement and advice.
- Find or buy a water container. If the weather is hot you will want to carry water with you . For 30 minutes, you may not need water, but in Texas , I always carry water because it is so hot and I am a thirsty runner. There are so many great choices now for how to carry your water. You can carry a bottle in your hand, wear a water belt, or buy a vest that has pockets for bottles ( and other items like your phone and keys), or a vest with a bladder in the back pocket. I have all of the above and use them for different situations.
- Learn about fuel and hydration products . Fuel simply means carbs for most runners. You can eat anything you want before, during and after running, but purchasing special products and individual packets offers convenience and the assurance of getting the proper combinations of helpful ingredients. Races usually provide some type of fuel but in training, it’s up to you. For a 5k or even 10k you probably will not need any calories during your run, but you may want to learn more about different types of fuel for runners because eventually you’ll probably be signing up for a half marathon or longer. It’s almost inevitable!
- Stay healthy and uninjured. Along with running, you need recovery time and stretching. Actually a dynamic warmup is important as well. This means stretching while moving your body, not holding a stretch too long. You don’t want to injure yourself stretching cold muscles. Yoga for runners is a good option as well. Cross-training such as bike riding, swimming, elliptical, weights, and other exercise is a good way to keep fit without having to run every single day.
I hope this gets you started on the road or dirt path to running! Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments. And I’d love to hear about your first race!
I get pretty enthusiastic about this topic because running changed my life. I give God the credit for bringing running into my life because my first 5k race was a little one at my church in April of 2011. That experience was so fun and so motivating, I haven’t stopped running since! You can click on the Running/Races Category in the Menu to see all running posts. Here is one. Every Race is a New Adventure
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed physical therapist or doctor, so keep that in mind. I cannot be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur from your running experiences.