How to Get Started Running

With the exception of learning how to walk and talk, learning to run was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  I’ll freely admit that I thought all those people who said they loved running were just plain old liars.  Either that or sadistic.  Sadistic liars!  The worst!

Some how though, I managed to stick with it – mostly because it was my ticket to significant weight loss.  I kept going because I wanted to be sure I maintained said weight loss.  Then somewhere along the way I came to love it.  Damn you running – you weren’t supposed to be so enjoyable!

If you don’t care about learning to love running and just want some ideas on how to get started – here’s what I tell any one who asks me how I did it:

1. Run, Walk, Run

When people ask me how to get started running, I often point them to the Couch to 5K program. I didn’t design this training program, I didn’t even use it.  And I definitely don’t get any money for sending people to that link (but I totally should).

I tell people about it because it’s a bit more fleshed out than my running start:

Run some, walk some, then run again, then walk again, then run a little more.  Repeat as needed.

C25K tells you exactly what to do and how to do it and has worked for many people – including me.  Sort of.  Not really.

2. Start S – L – O – W

In the beginning, it’s just about getting your body use the idea of having both feet simultaneously off the ground for even a split second.  That’s what running actually is you know: both feet off the ground at the same time, no matter how short that period of time is.  You can achieve that without going super fast or even moderately fast.  Start slow so you don’t hurt yourself and can keep going.  If you care about speed, trust that it will come with time.

3. Find a Race

Register for a race in your area and mark it on the calendar.  Make it a big one with lots of people so you can cross “Coming In Last Place” off your list of things to be worried about it.  Running with a goal in mind can be a great way to encourage you keep going.  Be sure to tell all your friends and family about it so you don’t have to add “I’m Such a Dope” to the list of things you think about yourself.

My first race was 3.5 miles and I got started with about a month until race day.  I was in good enough shape to run from Satan (the neighbors dog), so I started by running for as long as I could (i.e., not very long at all).  After running to the point of suckiness, I’d slow to a walk until it stopped sucking quite so much.  Then I’d run again until I felt I had to slow down, alternating running and walking like this for about a half hour to 40 minutes.  In short, see #1.

I did this work out two days a week and soon found that while still somewhat sucky, it was getting easier to run further and decrease the frequency and duration of walking.  It took about four weeks to get through 30 minutes without a needing a walk break.

There’s no need to worry about completing your race distance before race day either, just get close to it.  Inspiration and motivation will carry you through to the end.  Consider praying for a really strong tail wind that day – just in case.

4.  Find a Friend

Convince a friend to sign up for your race with you.  Having someone to train alongside or even just to bore endlessly with your training plan can be a very powerful tool.  This person could also come in handy should you happen to pass out.

5. Don’t Run in the Sneakers You’ve Had for the Past Eight Years

While I love the principles behind the minimalist shoe/barefoot movement and enjoy running in my Vibrams – I still recommend a good pair of sneakers to a newbie.  I also recommend going a half size up to save yourself from learning about black toenails the hard way.

The people (who work on commission) at the running shoe store are happy (and oh so eager) to help you find a pair of sneaks that fit you well to get you on your way, so don’t be afraid to go to a specialty store and ask for help.  Think of this it way: you’re helping these sales people pay their utility bills.  How nice of you!  Remind them to thank you for their electricity before you go.

If you’re brave and aren’t afraid of the unconventional, absolutely go for the minimalist shoe approach!  Read Born to Run and you’ll skip the shoe store altogether.

6.  Try and Avoid Running in Extreme Weather (at least at first)

When you first start out, try to time your runs for the most pleasant time of the day.  In the summer months, that’s typically early morning or late evening.  In the winter, it’s not unusual for me to run a bit later in the day when the sun is out, it’s a bit warmer and the roads might be dry.  Running when it’s really hot out or really cold and snowy feels awful for any runner.  Running in extreme weather could discourage you enough to stop all together.  Do everything you can to make it as nice an experience as possible.

7. Stick With It

It sure is easier said than done – but if you want to run, then you have to get out there run.  Period.  Know that it’s going to take time.  Know that it’s probably going to suck for a little while.  You don’t have to run every day or and you don’t even have to run the entire time – but keep getting out there and keep going.  Before you know it you’ll be writing a blog post about how you got your running start and then sending the link to everyone who asks you how you did it.

7 Responses

  • Sarah says:

    Can you start to run on a treadmill then, going twice a week running miles? would it work??

  • Sarah says:

    but, once your running, don’t you get tired and you want to stop? or do just love running so mutch that you don’t even get tired?

    • Alison says:

      when you first get started yes, you will get tired and find that you need to slow down and recover. if you stick with it, eventually your endurance will improve and you’ll find that you’ll be able to run further and longer without needing to stop.

  • Sohaib says:

    Hi there,

    I know i’m late to the party as it seems like you wrote this a LONG time ago :)
    I was just looking for some material to get me started for running. I’m hoping that in about a months time I will be able to run 5k, not a race but for myself.
    I personally tend to get shin splints and its not very pleasant…I was wondering if you could maybe tell me whether you came across that at all or not. It would really help me change up my technique if need be. Today, in a few hours is when I’m going to start running, I started working out about a month ago to become a more healthy and happy ME. 😀

    Thanks for the website, you’re a great inspiration and I hope you never quit running.

    • Hey Sohaib, so sorry I didn’t see your comment until NOW! Oy!

      Anyway, I usually recommend Chi Running for improving form and for learning how to run pain free. Shin splints can have a few different causes, from simply being a new runner to improper form. This chi running video might be helpful… proper technique can make a huge difference in how you feel during and after a run, good luck!

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