So you want to be a runner. Great! Now what? Well, if you’re clueless like I was when I first started, you might not know. Running has been instrumental for me in my weight loss efforts, not only because of the calorie burning power, but because it is an outlet for me to de-stress. There are tons of exercises you can do to lose weight, but not all can give you the rush of endorphins and zen-like mentality that running can bring. If you want to start running but don’t know where to start, follow these seven steps to start a running routine you can stick with.
1. Invest in the Right Equipment so You can Start Running Right
The right pair of sneakers is critical. I’ve worn many different brands of sneakers over the years. When I first started running, I was significantly heavier and I got Brooks running shoes because I saw them in a magazine for “heavier runners” (which obviously made me feel terrible, but was good advice.) They were great. Then moved on to Asics Gel Kayano, which I loved. Now I have Mizuno running sneakers, and they’ve been treating me quite well. I usually try on 5-10 pairs before I pick a new pair. Some stores even let you run on a treadmill in them to try them out before you buy them. Don’t worry so much about your foot type or “gait analysis” when you first start running…or for that matter, ever. Some people will try to sell you shoes to correct over pronation or under pronation. It’s been long touted, but has now been disproven, as an important factor when choosing running shoes and avoiding injury. Just find a pair that give you support and feel comfortable. Another important item is your sports bra. If you’re overweight and/or have a large bra size, it’s really critical to find a sports bra that will give you the support you need so you don’t have too much bounce or get back pain. Check out this article from Self Magazine about how to find a sports bra for a big bust. I wear #3 on the list, the Enell sports bra with a 10- hook-and-eye closure. Super intense. It’s like a straight jacket for your boobs, so they don’t go crazy on you. It’s the best one I’ve found to minimize bounce and keep me feeling locked and loaded. Lastly, make sure your clothes wick away moisture and don’t ride up or fall down when you run. The more comfortable you are, the better.
2. Start Slow
I start every workout with at least 5 minutes of walking to warm up. You have to get your body moving to heat up and to loosen your joints and muscles to avoid injury. You’ll find your natural rhythm and pace as you go, but in the beginning, aim for a brief walk and then a leisurely jog before picking up the pace. You only have to compete with yourself, so go at your own pace, even if it’s an 11, 12 or 13 minute mile.
3. Interchange Jogging with Walking
There is NO SHAME in walking! Jeff Galloway famously pioneered the Run-Walk Method, which encourages runners to walk when their breathing increases to a “huff and puff.” Then, you walk until breathing gets easier, and then you start running again. I use a heart rate method. I used to run with a heart rate monitor but now I have an Apple Watch. It monitors my heart rate as I work out. I try to make sure I stay in the 75 to 85% max heart rate range when I’m exercising. For me, at age 32, that means I run until I get up to about 160 beats per minute, then I walk until it lowers to about 140, then I start running again. Sometimes I go a little higher but I try not to sustain that for too long. If you’re unsure of your ideal range, use this handy tool to find your sweet spot.
4. Explore Your Surroundings
I love running outside and finding new paths and trails to explore. In Connecticut, there is a great variety of running options. I can run by the water, in the hills, on forest trails, or on suburban streets. I try to keep it fresh by choosing a different route each day, even if it means running the route I ran yesterday, but starting where I ended and running back to where I began. I also go to my gym and run on the treadmill some days when I’m feeling pressed for time or less adventurous, or when i just need to squeeze in more HGTV on my iPad, because honestly I just cannot get enough of House Hunters.
5. Build Up Your Endurance
In the beginning, I would do about a 1:5 minute ratio of running to walking. Then 1:3, then 1:1. Eventually I could run for over an hour straight. I ended up getting injuries in my IT bands though, so I rarely run for more than 20 minutes without taking a little walking break. Nowadays I run/walk for about 30-60 minutes, 4-6 times a week. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adapt and start running more. Your lungs and heart adapt to the strain and it becomes second nature. Give it time, and each run you put in will build that endurance.
6. Stretch, Strengthen, and Recover
There is nothing more disappointing than having a fitness goal and being sidelined with an injury. When your mind is determined and your body lets you down, it can be really demoralizing. Getting off track with exercise can lead to getting off track with healthy eating, and if you’re like me, a downward spiral is never too far of the radar. In order to avoid injury, stretch after EVERY run. This is imperative, not only when you start running, but every single time you run. Check out these post-run stretches for inspiration. Incorporate resistance training into your routine, like squats, lunges, calf raises and kickbacks to strengthen all of your leg muscles so they take you further. Take days off from running when you do other exercises. Try walking, cycling, swimming, or the elliptical. Be sure to give yourself at least one complete rest day a week. For me, it still includes at least a 20-30 minute walk, because a) I need to keep my momentum going and b) I don’t believe our bodies were ever made to be completely sedentary.
7. Make it Fun
The more fun you have when you start running, the more you’ll keep running, and there’s plenty of ways to make running fun. As you get better and faster, try doing some races. You can find local races like a 3K, 5K, 4 miler, or a 10K- It’s fun to race and try to set a new personal record. Explore new running routes to keep it fresh and fun so you don’t get bored. Wear shirts with sayings on them that keep you motivated so you feel ready to go when you suit up. Find inspiration from social media- there’s a huge online community of running enthusiasts you can connect with. Run with friends or family to stay accountable and on track. And of course, be proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished to become a runner- it’s no small feat. Get out there and start running! Good luck, and have fun!
How did you start out your exercise routine? What is the best beginner advice you received?