Running is might be one of the oldest and most common of all aerobic exercises.
In my opinion, there is nothing cheaper, more convenient and more accessible other than running when it comes to getting in shape and improving health and fitness level on all levels.
I might sound like a true running evangelist, well, it is because I am. And I enjoy every step of it.
I have written extensively about how to start running, but this post is intended for the complete beginner who might feel intimidated about taking the first few steps. Those of you who are really out of shape or overweight will appreciate these beginner running tips.
Therefore, if you want to try out running, stick with it for the long haul while loving (almost) every step you take, then keep on reading.
1. Get motivated
First of all, if you are not a runner right now, you either don’t know how to start or are not motivated enough to give it a shot, maybe both.
If you don’t know how to start running, then keep on reading this guide, or check some of my resources here.
On the other hand, if lack of motivation is to blame, then here are a few physical and mental benefits of running:
Sheds weight like crazy. Most people take up running for the primary objective of losing weight and keeping it off for good. And according to my experience, it works like a charm.
Gets you healthier. According to several studies, sticking to a regular running program can bulletproof you against a plethora of chronic diseases, while, at the same time, improve your overall fitness, health and well-being levels.
Gets you eating right. Once you start running regularly, you’ll understand that the main goal behind eating is to fuel you, not to fill you up. That’s why you are going to start eating cleaner and think twice (or more) about everything you put into your mouth.
Gets you feeling better. Research shows that running is a great stress reliever, improves mood, boosts self-esteem and increases mental power like nothing else.
And so much more.
Of course, this is a short list. For more check my post here.
2. Be Realistic
I hate to break it to you, but your first few runs are going to be hard—even exhausting at times.
In fact, your first few workouts are going to challenge your resolve like nothing else.
So don’t feel surprised if you felt like giving up every now and then (more on how to manage that later on).
Most beginners give up on running too soon because their expectations aren’t met. They try it for a couple of weeks, then they either get injured, burned out, or worse, both. This is, in truth, a mistake I see many newbies make the common pitfall of too much too soon.
That’s why, as a beginner, you have to get your head out of the clouds and be realistic about your current abilities and fitness skills.
Otherwise, expect trouble along the way.
Also, if you push too much too soon, you might lead yourself into believing that you suck at running. And you don’t want that. Do you?
Therefore, please set realistic goals during your first few weeks and months out. Do not shoot for the stars. Keep things real, buddy.
It’s simple: Start slow and build gradually. Give your body the time it needs. Or suffer. In silence.
3. Get The Right Shoes
Another thing you should consider doing, if you are serious about a pain-free beginning, is to get the right shoes for the job.
Of course, running is cheap and does not require lots of equipment, especially in the beginning.
But, in my experience, a good set of proper shoes is non-negotiable.
A proper pair can help you run comfortably and reduce the likelihood of pain and injury.
Run in the wrong pair, and you are risking a host of overuse injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, knee injury, plantar fasciitis, not to mention blisters, calluses and other nagging pains and aches.
As a result, head to the nearest specialty running shop, so the expert staff there would provide you with the right pair according to your own gait, foot type and unique running style and needs.
The right pair has to fit just right while providing you with the proper biomechanical support you need while running.
What fits according to your needs and foot type is what matter most. The rest is trivial. If you fail to put that into the buying equation, you’ll lose. Big time.
As a general guideline, expect to shell out something in the $75 to $100 range on a running pair. But that doesn’t mean that’s the most expensive pair is always the pair.
Short on money?
In case your budget is small (or don’t feel all that confident about the whole running premise) then consider purchasing last year’s version of a running shoe to save some cash.
4. The Run-Walk Method
Once you get real on what you can or can’t do and have a set of good running shoes, it’s time to take that body for a ride.
But it’s not easy as it sounds.
Those first few steps are going to either make or break your resolve to become a runner.
So you have to be careful here.
In my years as a runner, and coaching newcomers into the sport, the best entry strategy into running is the run/walk method.
The brainchild of the legendary running coach and Olympian Jeff Galloway, this training strategy is ideal for beginner runners who are looking to get started on the path without getting hurt.
Here is how to proceed on your first few workouts:
After 10 minutes of easy walking as a warm-up, alternate between intervals of running at a low intensity for 20 to 30 seconds with boots of walking for recovery. The exact ratio, depends on, of course on your fitness level and training goals.
How much is enough?
The exact run to walk ratio depends, mostly, on your current fitness level and training goals. So you have to pick a ratio that works for you.
With that said, here is a few combination to give an idea on how to proceed:
Complete beginner: Run at an easy and slow pace for 10 to 20 seconds, then walk for one to two minutes.
Intermediate (two to three weeks into running): Run for two to five minutes then walk for one to two minutes.
Experienced (more than a month of training): Run for ten minutes, walk for 30-second to one minute.
Stick with a given ratio for a week, then see how you feel.
If you feel like you can do more, then do more. If not, then scale it down and re-adjust your training approach accordingly.
If you are feeling overwhelmed (or your body is showing signs of injury and/or burnout), feel free to stick to the walking and leave the running part for afterward.
Start adding the running once you feel ready for more challenge.
Also, if the whole thing about the ratio and all is unnerving, then consider using an app for that. It will do the thinking for you, giving you enough space to focus on the training part, which is, after all, what matters the most.
One of the best apps is the Couch to 5K app. This amazing app can help ease you into running without much second guessing.
This app will have you ready to run 3.1 miles in roughly a couple of months of doing 25- to 30-minute sessions that alternate between running and walking three times per week.
5. Warm up Like a Pro
One thing you can do to make running feel easier—regardless of your current fitness level, whether you are a beginner or an elite athlete—is to start your workouts with the right warm-up.
And by warm-up, I don’t mean those awkward looking static stretches you use to perform in gym class. In fact, research shows that static stretching before a workout can do more harm than good.
According to this study, holding a stretch for a prolonged set of time—what static is all about—can reduce performance during the run itself and might lead to injury before a workout.
That’s why you need to ditch that old way of warm up.
So what is the best way to warm up?
The best way to warm up before a run is the dynamic way.
So what is it all about?
It’s quite simple. A dynamic warm-up involves taking a few minutes to do a set of bodyweight movements to get your muscles firing and body ready for the workout.
For more, check this 7-minute dynamic warm-up sequence.
Here is how to proceed:
First of all, start your warm-up with a 5-minute brisk walk to raise your heart rate and body temperature.
Next, stop, and do 30 to 45 seconds of the following dynamic exercises.
Lunge with a Twist
Then, start running and pick up running pace slowly and gradually.
Also, once you are done working out, do not stop on the spot. Instead, finish your run with 5-minute cool-down walk. According to theory, doing this might help reduce post-workout soreness and speed up recovery.
6. Buddy up
As you already know, you are the company you keep. Research shows that we are the average of our five people we associate with the most. That’s why fit people tend, on average, to spend more time with other like-minded individuals, and vice versa.
In fact, if my experience tells me anything, the BEST way to stay to get the most out of a training program—not just running—is to get a training partner. This is going to hold you accountable for your action and progress.
And that’s not the whole story…
Research shows that those who work out with a partner or a group are more consistent over the long haul than those who exercised alone.
Not only that, you are more likely to run a bit further while experiencing less fatigue, according to study. It’s all about the perceived level of exertion they say.
Therefore, if you feel like you can’t stomach the isolating nature of running, or you are very social and outgoing, then I encourage you to try out running with a friend, a beginner just like you.
Just make sure that your partner has a similar fitness vision and is actually supportive, not competitive. Your goal as a beginner is not to win over someone else.
You want more of this?
Well, you might enroll the help of a pro or a very patient advanced runner who is willing to take you under their wing and teach the tricks you of the trade without putting you in any danger.
Featured Image – Chris Hunkeler via Flickr