Running is extremely good for you. That’s not my opinion as the writer of a health blog…that’s science!
Jogging just ten minutes a day can reduce your likelihood of dying from a heart attack. Obviously, running helps you lose weight, too. You’ll breathe better and enjoy lower cholesterol and triglycerides if you run regularly. Still not convinced? How about the fact that running is also an effective treatment for depression?
If you can’t imagine yourself running, then it’s time to expand your mind. Humans are superb runners. Our long legs give us an efficient stride. We can run long distances without overheating. And no matter what shape you’re in, your body will be happier if it’s running!
Better yet, everybody’s doing it! In the U.S. alone, 65% of people report having run in the past 12 months. That’s up from 45% in 2008. You’re joining a massive club when you start to run!
Running Tips for Beginners
Running is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But as you reach for your sneakers, you may feel intimidated.
What if you don’t run “right?” What if you wear the wrong clothes? Do you need to run a certain distance?
Running occupies a certain place in popular imagination. Many people think of runners as universally slim, hyper-fit devotees of some fitness cult. That’s why my first piece of advice for beginning runners is simple:
- Know that you can run. There is no ID card to flash, no security guard making sure that the “wrong” people don’t run.
- Running is for everyone. It is for you. More people run than you realize. They are of all shapes and sizes.
- Being big or overweight should not dissuade you. Consider cross-country running coach Mirna Valerio. She is 39 years old, 250 pounds, and the author of the blog Fat Girl Running.
- She trail-runs and regularly contributes to running magazines! Marathoner Julie Creffield is also a runner who doesn’t fit the stereotypes.
- Here’s the bottom line: your weight, appearance, age, or previous activity level has little to do with your ability to run. Don’t let it stop you!
- Now I’ll give you a few more tips and tricks for running newbies. Don’t worry! It’s much easier to start than you think!
- The only piece of running equipment you really need to invest in is shoes. A good pair of shoes will support your ankles.
- Your toes will need to wiggle, too. Most importantly, your feet will need arch support. It’s worth your while read about pronation before you buy.
- Pronation is how your foot rolls when you step on it. If you happen to have high or low arches, you may not pronate correctly.
- Runner’s World advocates the Wet Test to find out what kind of arches you have. Wet the sole of your foot and step on a paper bag.
- Use the examples at the link to compare your footprint to a normal, low-arched, and high-arched foot. Then, support accordingly.
You do not need expensive new clothes. You can buy some if you want to. They’re not critical. But Andrew! You say. Look at all these runners in their fancy running suits! They look so good!
My response: Consider the military. When soldiers work out, do they wear tight-fitting, brightly colored technical fabric? They do not!
Instead, they wear lightweight shorts and tee shirts. Market versions of those shorts cost about $13 compared to $35 for comparable “real” running apparel.
Running is a big part of the job for our guys and gals in uniform. Listen to their wisdom. You can work out in any breathable clothing as long as it doesn’t chafe.
Go for nylon or polyester shorts and short sleeves. Invest in a reflective belt or vest if you’re running on the road. Expect to sweat. Trade secret: that would happen in fancy clothing, too!
Expect it to be hard, but not too hard. Your body will need about six weeks to acclimate to running.
During this adjustment period, employ moderation. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll just make yourself miserable.
You could also hurt yourself. Remember, just five minutes of light running per day yields measurable long-term health benefits! Do what you can and don’t run through pain. Expect to feel a little drained afterward. Once your body adjusts, you’ll recover more quickly.
- Join a group, Running clubs are common for a reason. Having friends to keep you coming can help you establish new habits. Your doctor will also approve. One study showed that rats who ran together had healthier brains.
- Hydrate! I can’t stress this enough! Drink more water than you think you need. Drink even when you aren’t running. Remember, you’ll be sweating.
- Work it into your schedule. Make it a priority. Running doesn’t need to be your lifestyle, but it does need to become your habit. Aim to run every other day.
How long should I run the first time?
Conventional wisdom states that your first runs should be between 20 and 30 minutes long.
This will maximize your cardiovascular benefits. But don’t be afraid to start slower. Even a couple minutes of running is better than nothing.
If you’re running to lose weight, then half an hour should be your goal, even if you struggle to reach it at first.
Refer back to my article about losing belly fat. You don’t start burning fat until you’ve gone through your body’s immediately available sugar. That takes about ten minutes. So keep on running!
Don’t run every day, either. That’s a great way to hurt yourself! Instead, run 20 to 30 minutes two or three times per week. Later, you can increase the frequency and intensity of your runs.
How do you become a runner?
It’s easy. Put on your shoes and get out there! Don’t feel awkward. You’re doing this for you.
Don’t you deserve good health and a long, enjoyable life? Start slow. Don’t give up in the first month. Join that group and make some friends!
Unless, of course, you want to become a semi-pro or professional runner. If your goal is to win 10k races and run marathons, then expect a much more intensive training regimen. I’ll talk about that in a little while.
How can I learn to run properly?
You’re in luck! In these fitness-conscious times, there are plenty of places to learn to run. Try these to start:
1. Online fitness experts. Before you even know other runners in real life, you can learn from trustworthy sources on the Internet.
2. I’m particularly fond of Nerd Fitness. The blogs Shut Up and Run and Runners Connect are also good places to learn about running and running culture. Runner’s World, the great magazine for running enthusiasts, is also a great online source of advice.
3. Get to know real-life runners! I can’t say enough about running in a group. The benefits of runner’s clubs really are myriad. Your running buddies can help you on your way to fitness.
4. Join a gym. Many gyms have personal trainers on staff who can consult with you about your fitness. They’ll also have advice on how to run better if you’re struggling.
How can you be a faster runner?
Once you can knock off five or six miles at a go, you may be ready to run faster. Here’s how to train:
- Run hills. Runners hate hills, but there aren’t very many better training grounds for speed. Hills improve your form, toughen your mind, and push your lungs to the limit. All of these are critical for fast runs!
- Time yourself. Know your baseline speed for a mile, two miles, and three miles. Then, try to shave a little bit off of those times every day! Keeping a spreadsheet can be helpful.
- Try exercising on a track. Tracks are about a quarter of a mile around. Knowing this will let you keep those speed stats I just mentioned. Many colleges and high schools have tracks that are available to the public at certain times.
- Hydrate and eat accordingly. Even if you run the same amount of time per day, you’re using more water and fuel if you’re running faster.
- Don’t push. Overnight results are mythical. In reality, forcing yourself often ends in injury. As badly as you want to be fast, how do you think you’ll feel if you have to take a three-week recovery break? Train gradually.
How do you breathe when you run?
Breathe deeply and regularly. When you run, your breath often syncs with your steps. This is why many runners find it helpful to run to music or say a mantra as they go.
Try breathing in for three steps and breathing out for two. Focus on deep belly breathing instead of short gasps. This will prevent you from getting a stitch in your side.
If you find yourself out of breath, then you’re probably going too fast. Slow down. Speed will come in time.
What is proper running form?
There are right and wrong ways to run. The wrong way involves injury, pain, and frustration.
The right way will make you feel great!
Here’s what to do, according to the National Health Service of the U.K.:
- Keep your head up. Focus your eyes about 40 feet ahead of you.
- Relax your jaw, your hands, and your shoulders. Tensing can throw your posture off.
- Don’t hunch. It’ll be harder to breathe.
- Your arms should be bent about 90 degrees at the elbow. Swing them forward and back, not side to side.
- Lean forward just a little. Not too much, though, or you can strain your back.
- Keep your hips forward. Don’t twist them or stick your butt out. Your legs are moving; your hips are not.
- Move your legs forward without lifting your knees significantly. High-stepping will just tire you out.
- Your foot should land below your hips, striking the ground between the ball and heel. This is pretty natural for most people. Don’t try to eat ground with your feet, just trust your body to move forward.
- Short, light steps are key.
- Breathe! Take deep breaths and breathe in rhythm. Having a song or mantra can help with this.
I want to start running but I’m overweight
Good for you! Your weight is no obstacle. What matters here is that you want to run. Even if you have to go slow at first, you can absolutely become a good runner while overweight.
Yet Mirna regularly runs half-marathons and Julie started her own fitness club.
Being overweight can be a health issue. No question. But to say that being big is just a problem is to vastly oversimplify.
In fact, being big has a huge social component. If you worry about how you will look to others as you run down the road, then you’re not alone.
However, even if you encounter resistance, most people will admire what you’re doing. Here’s what to do:
- Find a club or some friends who are willing to undertake this running adventure together. Support each other. Run in a group.
- Don’t fixate on losing the weight. Sure, dropping some pounds will help your health, and that may happen along the way. But YOU are the reason you run, and YOU are not your bathroom scale. You’re a plucky, interesting person who has bravely decided to take control of their health. You deserve acceptance and support – especially from yourself!
- Try a gym first. Gyms may seem intimidating, but they’re often supportive environments. Many people join gyms because they struggle with their weight.
- Don’t give up! You’re already strong enough to want change. You’re strong enough to run!
How to start running when out of shape
Clearly, running is possible for almost anyone. But you’re not already in shape, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start slowly.
Avoid hurting yourself. Let your body get used to this new idea that it’s going to be running. If you force the issue, you’ll never adjust.
Running shouldn’t leave you gasping for breath. If this happens, then you’re going too fast. Try slowing down. If this doesn’t work, then talk to your doctor.
Your shortness of breath could be from asthma. If that’s the case, then it can be easily treated with an inhaler.
Half Marathon Training Schedule
Maybe you’ve already started running and you just can’t get enough. You may want to start running seriously!
May new runners set a goal of running races of certain lengths. Many people begin with a five kilometer, or 5k, race. (That’s about three miles.) 10k races are twice the distance of a 5k.
Half marathons are about 13.1 miles long. A full marathon measures 26 miles.
Many new runners set a goal of completing a half marathon. Although this may sound extreme, it’s completely doable! Here are some outlines for half marathon training:
- A lot of new runners like the Jeff Galloway Jeff stresses that finishing the race is secondary. Your first goal is just to finish.
- Hal Higdon’s system is for runners who are more experienced. Like Jeff’s schedule, Hal’s stresses intervals of running and walking.
- Once you’re comfortable running half marathons, you can work on your speed. The shoe company Nike has a free, comprehensive half marathon training manual just for this.
Marathon Training Plan
Marathon Training Plan…
The idea for marathons comes from an ancient war. In 490 BC, a Greek messenger raced from the city of Marathon to Athens to tell the Greeks that they had won a significant battle.
Today, there are over 500 marathons held in the United States annually. But don’t be fooled by the numbers!
Marathoners are an elite group. Only 0.5% of the U.S. population has even attempted a marathon. Each race is 26.2 miles long.
Many of them donate their proceeds to charity, so entry fees can be steep. If you’re ready to take on this ultimate running challenge, then there are some great training plans out there:
- com has a fantastic 12-week training schedule available for free on their website. They stress that overtraining can be as bad as not training enough! Make sure to honor your rest days.
- Cool Running’s marathon training schedule allows up to 17 weeks to prepare for the race.
- The Boston Marathon has training schedules for four skill levels! Runners are advised to begin with a three-week prep phase.
Half Marathon Training Plan
Plan to put aside at least 12 weeks for half marathon training. If you’re a beginner, put aside as many as 19. If necessary, allow for those six week you’ll need to let your body adjust to exercise.
Before you begin half marathon training, you should be able to run three miles. For most beginners, this is between half and hour and forty-five minutes of running.
When you train for a half marathon, you won’t run every day. In fact, you may only run three days of the week, with rests or walks in between.
Two of these runs will just be 30-minute jogs. One will be for distance. You’ll start by running three miles. Week by week, you’ll work up that distance until 14 miles is within your ability.
Some runners like to train with weights or other types of exercise on off days. This is called cross training. Here are some popular cross training activities for runners:
- Martial Arts
- Weight lifting
5k Training Plan
The most popular 5k training plan is probably the Couch to 5k. This system starts slowly and ends with you at the finish line! However, there are other 5k training programs that will also get you out of the house. They include:
- The NHS Couch to 5k plan. This isn’t the trademarked system, but it does the same job!
- com features an excellent five-week 5k training plan. However, they recommend that you already be a comfortable runner before trying it.
- com has one of my favorite 5k running plans. Like the other ones I’ve spotlighted here, theirs is free!
Training for a 5k
Just like with marathons and half marathons, 5k training depends on patterns of running and resting. You’ll only jog three days out of the week.
On the other four, you’ll perform cross training workouts or rest. Resting is very important! Building muscles requires your body to create tears in the muscle you already have.
The process of repairing those muscles is what causes them to grow. Long story short: You can’t get stronger unless you take breaks!
How to Start Running
Starting to run is easy! Here’s what you need:
- Time. Set yourself a specific time when you’ll run. Many people like to jog in the morning, before the pace of their day picks up.
- Water. Hydrate even when you’re not running.
- Light, breathable clothing. Nylon and polyester is ideal.
- Reasonable expectations. Prepare for four to six weeks of adjustment before you really begin to enjoy running. During that time, take it slow!
- Talk to your doctor (if you want). Running is great for almost everyone, but there are exceptions. A healthcare professional can help you choose the workout that’s right for you.
10k Training Plan
If you’ve triumphed over your first 5k and you’re ready for more, then a 10k is your next step! Best of all, you’re already used to running. Your 10k training will mirror your 5k, but with greater distances involved. Try these comprehensive (and free) plans:
- Coach Jenny Hadfield’s 10k plan. While you do need to enter your email address to get the plan, it’s completely free after that.
- CoachMag has a number of free 10k training programs for all levels of runners. They stress nutrition as well as social running.
- Run and Become believes there’s a runner in all of us. Their 10k training schedule will convince you that it’s true!
Running for Beginners
Everybody starts as a beginner. This is true of life itself. Just like we don’t expect a baby to be able to file their own taxes, it’s important not to expect yourself to immediately complete a marathon.
Before you begin to run, there’s one thing you should do. Before you buy the nylon shorts, make a running playlist, or find a running group, this one thing has to happen.
- Understand why you are running.
You can be running to win races. You can be running for exercise. You can even be running because your doctor told you to. But when it gets right down to it, why are you running?
For you. For a loved one? For you children?
You must know reason that you run. Because you’re worth it. Because you deserve it. This understanding will keep you from despair when you miss a goal. It’ll insulate you from infatuation with running, which can cool. Above all else, it’ll remind you who you’re doing this for when the going gets tough.
Varying your running routine can be crucial to your success. Just running may not be enough to help your body reach your goals. Try these and mix up your regular workout:
- Stair running. This exercise uses plyometric motion, which builds the same muscles you use when you run.
- Hill charges. Running uphill increases your power. Downhill is where the real work happens! Your quads will strengthen with every decline.
- Tempo run. Also known as a lactate threshold run, this exercise is favored by endurance runners.
- Progression runs. The premise is simple: start slow and finish fast. Not only do they boost your fitness, but you’ll recover faster!
- Fartlek workouts. This kind of run requires you to run fast, then slow, then fast again.
Running is great for your body, but even better for your mind. Running teaches you how to endure, puts you in contact with other people, and gets you out. Over time, you may even experience the thrill of victory as you complete your first races! It’s time to add years to your life and a spring to your step. It’s time to start running!
What have your experiences with running been? Are you planning on starting soon? Comment