Where to Begin as a New Runner!
Are you just starting out as a runner, or is it something you’d like to do? From experience, I know that a beginner runner has a million questions and never enough answers. I won’t be able to answer every question here, but this should be a good starting point for anyone who wants to hit the roads.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer, coach (yet)or running expert. I consider myself an intermediate runner, (trainer in training) having done a several 5ks, 10ks, 10milers and half’s, and have been running since I was a kid! But what I should share is what I’ve learned along the way. Also, see a doctor before starting a new running program. I don’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks!
Most Important Advice Many people, when they begin running, go hard. I was one of those. Let me tell you right now: hold yourself back, and start out slowly. Progress gradually. It takes some patience, but this is the best advice I can give you, and I know that it’s important because of experience.
It’s best to start out very easy, at a slow jog, and focus not on intensity but on how long you’re on the road. Start out with a small amount of time, 10 minutes or 20 minutes, depending on where you are — and run or walk/run comfortably the entire time. Do this for the entire first week, and even two weeks if you can stand it. Gradually increase your time until you can run 30 minutes.
From there, you can stay at 30 minutes or increase the amount of time you run gradually, every two weeks. But do not overdo it in the beginning!
Walk and Run Plan If you are a true beginner, and cannot run for 10 minutes, you should start out with a walk/run plan. Here’s a good one to start with (do each one three times a week):
Week 1: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 1 minute, and then walk for 1 minute. Repeat these 1/1 intervals for 10 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 2: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 2 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 2/2 intervals for 10 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 3: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 3 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 3/2 intervals for 15 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 4: Walk for 10 minutes. Jog slowly for 5 minutes, and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat these 5/2 intervals for 20 minutes, or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
You get the picture. The idea is to gradually increase your running time until you can do 10 minutes straight. Then increase the 10 minutes to 12, and so on, each week, until you can eventually run for 30 minutes. Now you’re a runner!
Make it a habit If you struggle with making running a regular habit, try doing it every single day at the same time. Habits are easiest to form if you do them consistently. This may sound contradictory to some of the advice above about starting slowly, but the key is to go very easy in the beginning, nothing that will stress your body out or make you sore the next day. Also, instead of running every day, you could swim or bike or do strength training, so that your running muscles are given a rest while you continue to form your exercise habit.
Most important advice: just lace up your sneakers, and get out the door. After that, it’s cake.
The importance of rest: Some runners try to go hard every single day. They are ignoring the truth about muscles, your muscles grow by giving them stress, and allowing them to rest and heal after the stress so that they can grow. (I hear this from my personal trainer all the time!) If you run hard every day, you will just continually break your muscles down, and improvement will be slow and difficult and it could lead to burnout or injury.
It’s best to rest the day after a tough run, to allow your body to recover. Does this mean you should rest completely, with no running or exercise at all? Not necessarily. The important thing is that you don’t run hard two days in a row. But you can do a very easy, short run (or other type of easy exercise) in between harder runs and still allow your muscles to recover.
First 5K One of the most motivating things in running is an upcoming race. I suggest you sign up for a 5K after a month or two of running, even if you don’t think you’re ready. Why? It will motivate you to keep running, so that you’re prepared to do the 5K.
Now, some people have a nervousness about signing up for a running race, because the other runners are so much better than them. Relax. There are plenty of very good runners in every race, but there are also many beginners. Don’t worry about the other runners. There’s usually so many people at a 5K that you won’t be noticed. And don’t be afraid to walk or run/walk. Many, many other people do. Just run your own race, and most importantly, have fun! It’s a blast.