I freely admit: I’m not a running professional. It wasn’t that long ago I wondered how to start running myself, but I knew I wanted to try it. So I talked to my doctor (to make sure I was healthy enough) and I talked to my personal trainer (to get some specific tips) and I learned a lot… and I got started! This weekend I ran my second 5k, and I’m already registered for a few more… maybe I am something of a veteran after all! If you think you might want to give it a try, and are wondering how to start running, I can help. Here’s everything my doctor and personal trainer told me, plus a little of my own real-world advice thrown in for good measure. Here are 8 tips on how to start running.
1. Are You Healthy Enough?
Hold on, sweetie… don’t load your iPod and map your route yet! The first thing you need to do before you start running is talk to your doctor to make sure your heart (and the rest of your body) is healthy enough for it. Once he or she gives you the go-ahead, you can get going, but until then, don’t attempt it… thousands of runners are injured each year because plain and simple, their bodies aren’t healthy enough for it.
2. Find the Surface
Upon the recommendation of my personal trainer, I started running on the asphalt track at the local high school. If you think the round-and-round of the track will bore you, start running on a smooth street or surface, or a grass or packed-dirt path. Gravel is okay, too, as long as it’s not loose, and there aren’t many large potholes. Running on a level surface is vital to avoiding the most common running injuries.
3. Get the Right Gear
Some people just need the right pair of shoes to complete their gear and get started running, but I’m high maintenance, and needed more. Shoes are key, of course, so get fitted for a pair that fit your foot and your running style. Now find the right socks to go with them, and a comfortable pair of shorts or pants (I prefer tight-fitting leggings with a pair of shorts over them, for modesty) and a moisture-wicking running top. There! Your outfit is complete… now how will you hold back your hair? Think about that too, when you’re considering how to start running.
4. Get an App
I’m not making this up: there are several apps out there designed to get you from the couch to finishing a 5k in six weeks. Some of them are even free! There are loads of other apps that give you a lot of help if you don’t know exactly how to start running, from GPS-enable run mappers to vocal encouragement providers. Download a few and see which of them works best for you!
5. Start Slow, Part 1
Let’s be realistic. There’s no way you’re going to run a 4-minute mile your first week running. It’s important, in fact, to start slow (time-wise) when you first start running. You’ll learn within the first two weeks exactly what your magical pace is… don’t push yourself too hard.
6. Start Slow, Part 2
Remember this one key concept: you don’t want to increase your distance more than 10% over the distance from the week before. So if you started out running a mile one week, don’t try to run more than 1.1 miles the next week. This gradual approach (starting slow!) is one of the most important ways to avoid the injuries new runners sustain by pushing themselves to hard, too soon.
I was appalled at how quickly I ran out of breath when I first started running… I could barely do a quarter mile before I had to stop, gasping for air like a fish out of water. Then a friend told me I needed to breathe better… I had no idea! I took his advice, and it worked: the very next time I ran, I was able to do a mile, and when I was done, I wasn’t nearly as winded. The trick? Breathe in through both your nose and mouth for three counts, hold it for one count, then exhale for two counts. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it works! Maybe I ought to have put this at the very top of my list of tips on how to start running, that’s how big of a difference it makes.
8. Find a Friend
I’ve found that my friends who run are invaluable sources of advice and encouragement. Whenever I have a question or an issue, I ask my few friends who run and they have an answer, one they know works because they’ve worked through the same issues that I have. When you get going, if you have any other questions about how to start running, feel free to ask me, here… or ask your other, real-life friends who run… they’ll be happy to help!
It’s not difficult to start running, especially now that you know how to start running! I’ve used every one of these tips, so I know they work… especially that one about breathing! Which of these tips do you think you’ll find most helpful? Or do you have another running tip for beginners to share? Please do!
Top Image Source: mckeeverphotography.com