How To Start Running (Even If You Dread It)
While running seems simple enough in theory (you just put one foot in front of the other, right?), we know it can be a lot easier said than done to get started. But if you’ve decided you want to start running, you’ve already done the hardest part: finding the desire to do it. So to make the endeavor as easy as possible, we pulled together these five pro tips to help you get started.
1. Find the Right Pair of Shoes
This is a no-brainer, right? But running shoe shopping isn’t just about finding a kickass pair that looks good. If your feet don’t feel right – if your toes are pinched, your heel slides around, or there’s too much cushion – running is going to suck. Head to your local running specialty store for a professional shoe fitting. Most places have treadmills where you can actually test out the shoes before you buy them, and they can help you figure out if you have flat feet or high arches, or if you pronate or supinate and all that other nerdy run talk.
That said, there are some things you should pay attention to when you’re trying on shoes. “A properly fitted running shoe should feel snug around the heel and midfoot but roomy around the toes,” says running coach Hollis Tuttle. She recommends shopping for shoes late in the day when your feet are larger and trying both shoes on as one foot is usually bigger than the other. “Select the size that fits your bigger foot,” she says.
And don’t freak out if you get home and you’re having second thoughts. “Most running shoes feel amazing when you first put them on compared to the dress shoes you’ve been standing in at work all day or the 10-year-old sneakers you wear for gardening,” says running coach John Honerkamp. “Do your first two or three runs on a treadmill so you can return them if they feel weird or don’t seem to work. Most running shoe stores will allow returns if the shoes aren’t dirty.”
2. Commit to Running
Starting a new habit is hard, especially when it’s one you kind of dread. But here’s the trick: Don’t go all in, and swear you’ll run six days a week if you’ve barely run before. Create a schedule – whether you use an app or an old-school calendar – and stick to it, Tuttle says. “Plan your runs one week at a time. On Sunday night, you should know when (day and time), where, and for how long you are going to run. Check it off when you’re done – this sense of accomplishment feels awesome and helps keep you motivated,” she says.
Treat your training time like you would an important appointment, adds Becs Gentry, a Peloton Tread instructor. “By adding this time in for yourself, you’re committing to chasing your goals, and so you become the only one responsible for cancelling that time.”
If you’re really struggling to commit, Honerkamp suggests finding a workout buddy. Then you become accountable for one another, and no one wants to be the one to bail on a friend when they’re counting on them.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Run/Walk
Just because you’ve decided to start running doesn’t mean you need to run continuously from the get-go. Start with a run-walk program, where you intersperse short intervals of running into your walking. “Running is an extension of walking, so all you need to do is start humble,” Gentry says. “Accelerate your walk into a power walk for intervals so your heart rate rises and falls. Then when that feels easy, accelerate to a jog in your interval and power walk in your recovery,” she says. You can even figure out your pace by using this handy run/walk calculator.
Gentry suggests starting with a “sandwich” run, where you accelerate during the middle of your run. For example, a 10-minute session would include a 3.5-minute power walk, a 3-minute jog, and another 3.5-minute power walk. From there, keep the total time at 10 minutes and extend the middle section gradually until you jog or run the entire time. Repeat that pattern by continuing to build on your total time.
And don’t focus too much on your mileage in the beginning. “I find it best to work with time rather than distance, but keep track of total distance covered,” Tuttle says. “It’ll be exciting when you see it increasing every week.”
4. Gradually Increase Your Time and Distance
If you haven’t run in the past, chances are, you’re not going to lace up those awesome new running shoes and bust out five kilometres. Start with where you’re comfortable, even if that’s only one kilometre or 10 minutes once a week. After that, most coaches swear by the 10 percent rule, says Honerkamp. “Don’t increase your weekly time or mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next,” he explains.
For example: If you run 10 minutes, three days a week, this equals 30 total minutes. Ten percent of that is three minutes. So the next week, you can safely run 33 minutes total (either one extra minute each day or three extra minutes during one run). From a distance perspective, if you run three kilometres per day, three days a week, this equals nine total kilometres. The next week, you can safely run 10 kilometres total.
Depending on your pace and mileage, you’ll figure out what works for you. But even if you fall in love with running and want to hit the pavement every day, don’t go too hard, too fast. “It’s imperative that you increase time and/or distance slowly,” Tuttle says. “Adding too much time or mileage too quickly can result in injuries because your body won’t be prepared for the additional workload.” The last thing you want to do is sideline yourself right when you’re really starting to enjoy yourself.
5. Try a Coach or Training Plan
Once you get the hang of regular running, you might want to sign up for a race as extra motivation, but it can be daunting to plan your own training schedule. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to runners these days from apps, to training plans, to coaches.
“Ask your running friends who or what they use,” adds Honerkamp. (If there’s one thing runners love, it’s talking about their training.) “But do your research,” he says. What works for your marathoner friend might not be best for you.
Tuttle recommends reaching out to an established run coach. “They’ll be able to provide you with clear direction and answer questions that you may not have thought of.” If that feels intimidating, you can try a running-based exercise class, a run club in your area, or even an app.
This article originally appeared on runnersworld.com.