“Start where you are.”
There are many reasons to run. Even with all the positives, some people want no part of it. They hate it. They think it sucks.
I get it. I used to be one of these people. One of my first blogs ever was about how I went from hating running to becoming a runner – and loving it.
Right now though, there have never been more reasons to run. It’s a chance to get outside. It’s a chance to escape for a few minutes to yourself. It’s a chance to set aside fear and do something powerful. And, for some, it’s quite literally the only exercise option, with gyms closed and at-home workouts not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the perfect opportunity to build a healthy habit of running.
More Reasons to Run – And One Reason Not To
Although gyms may be opening soon, adding the simple environmental facts that weather is getting nicer and days longer presents an even greater opportunity to start running.
If you’re thinking about giving it a go, here are a few tips from me, a former anti-runner, on how to get started running.
But first, I have one pre-list tip: If you’re really not interested in running, if you’re only thinking about it because you feel like you should, don’t do it. That’s all.
1. The Right Gear
Although it might seem premature to go out and buy running stuff before you really even get started, it’s an important first step. Why? Running will be miserable if you don’t have the right gear. Think of chafing and other forms of general discomfort, all the way up to pain in your feet or other potential injuries.
On this same note, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy all the things. You probably don’t need a fancy watch, compression socks, the most expensive shoes, or a variety of belts, bottles, and night gear.
All you really need to start is a good pair of shoes, proper-fitting shorts or pants, a moisture-wicking tee, and quality athletic socks – some of which you might already have. Ladies, one additional thing you’ll want is a good sports bra that holds your boobs in place.
For all the parents out there, a good running stroller may be another piece of gear worth the investment. No excuses of not being able to go when you can bring the kiddo with you – bonus, if they’re like my son, they’ll enjoy the time…and it’ll be some of the few moments of peace from them you get all day.
2. Start Slow
Maybe you ran an 8-minute mile in high school. Perhaps you saw your friend post their 5k time on Facebook. Whatever the reason behind having a pace you think you should run, avoid going into the first few runs with any sort of pace-per-mile goal.
When starting out, run at a pace that’s comfortable. This will help avoid burning out too fast and potential injury. You’ll have plenty of time to build from there.
3. Minimal Mileage
Similar to pace, don’t try to run too far too soon. Again, it might seem like a total breeze to head out and do a 5k but, even if your head tells you to keep going and you’re in fairly good cardio shape, your body might not be up for it.
One option is to try running for a minute or a few, then walk for a few minutes. Gradually work on extending the running minutes and eventually you’ll reach a point where a full mile or more is more than doable, it’s comfortable.
4. Find a Buddy
One of the reasons I started running and stuck with it early on is because I had a friend, Jen, who was also getting into it. We often ran together and, even when we didn’t, we’d keep in touch about our runs and keep each other on track.
While I no longer have many people I run with, and especially not now, I have virtual running buddies, both those I regularly text and those in online groups that keep up that runner connection and inspo.
And a buddy doesn’t have to be an actual human. For many years, my dog, Burton was my go-to running buddy. Especially on days I wasn’t really feeling it, his energy and annoying-ness forced me to get up and get out the door – and, almost always, I was happy we went.
Starting a running routine is exciting and, while some find it’s hard to stick to it, others find it’s hard to lay off it. It’s important to be sure you’re not overdoing it and only running. It’s equally important to focus on strengthening your runner muscles, for some that may be your hamstrings, for others, especially mamas, that’s your pelvic floor. Switching up your running with other forms of exercise is also a good idea.
On that same note, healthy running isn’t just about the run itself. An easy, light warm-up and a quality cool-down stretch or yoga sesh are good injury-prevention, as is taking a rest day when you need one and giving your body a break.
6. Set a Goal – and Have a Plan for How to Get There
As with anything fitness related, having a goal is key to sticking with it. If you’re just looking to run now until your gym opens up, this step isn’t as crucial – though that right there is your goal. If you’re looking to build a running habit and stick with it, a goal is a must.
And a goal doesn’t have to be a 5k race or anything along those lines. A goal can simply be to run twice a week – that’s it. Just getting yourself up and out the door (or on the ‘mill) to get in the run is a quality goal. Figure out what you need to do to achieve that, maybe it’s going early in the morning before your kids get up, maybe it means going in the evening when your energy is highest.
Another goal-setting must is choose something realistic and measurable, that way you can reflect on what happened if you miss it one week (which is totally normal and okay – don’t give up!) or, if you’re consistently crushing it, maybe it’s the right time to push yourself and up it for the next week.
7. Stick With It
Some days, running is great. Some days, running sucks. I’ve been running almost 15 years and I still have days I don’t want to do it. Some of those days, I don’t. Others, I need a little more internal coaching to psych myself up. Don’t give up and let those bad days prevent you from having the good ones.
I think when people give up on running it’s because they think they just don’t love it, it doesn’t come easy to them, or they’re just not like those runners who have it figured out. I can’t speak for all runners but I can tell you one thing: I don’t have it all figured out. What I know is how good running makes me feel and that keeps me happy to stick with it, even with tough days.
Most days, I genuinely love it but I’m certainly not immune to the ‘running sucks’ feelings every now and then. It doesn’t mean you’re missing some magic running gene, it means you’re human.
The point: Don’t quit running. That doesn’t mean don’t take a week off. That doesn’t mean you must run every day of the week. As much as you can, try to stick with it at some level of consistency. Because, as you may be experiencing right now, starting up or starting over is tough.
Side note, if you’re interested in more healthy habit building, check out my tips from last month’s edition, how to start being mindful or meditating.
Fellow runners, what other tips do you have for getting started running? Those of you who aren’t regular runners, have you found yourself wanting to hit the pavement during COVID-19 quarantine or because the weather is becoming more favorable to encourage it?
The comments are all yours so please share your thoughts.