Since 2010, I have been asked dozens of times “how did you get into running?”. Normally this is followed up with a story of how the person asking has always wanted to become a runner but the whole process is scary and confusing. From experience, I know that being a beginning runner you have a million questions and never enough answers. For the next few months, I am going to write a series titled, The Basics of Running, where I will go over things like how and where to being running, a guide to getting to your 5k, race etiquette, and more. Hopefully this will be a good starting point for anyone who is looking to hit the roads running!
First and foremost a disclaimer! I am not a certified trainer, coach or running expert. I consider myself an intermediate running, having spent two years running completing a marathon, some half marathons, and handfuls of 10ks and 5ks. Nothing on this site is designed to be taken as medical advice. A Run with Meghan is meant to provide general information on my personal running, training and medical experiences only. I suggest everyone consults or gains advice of your trainer or physician before beginning a running routine.
Now, onto how to being!
Step One: Buy the Right Shoes
Shoes are the biggest and most important expense for runners, so it is imperative to get this purchase right. Spend wisely by buying well-made shoes from major brands. Search out for a model that will properly fit your foot, and is designed for the surface you will run on the most. If you are unsure of which show will work best for you, find a local running store which has experts who will watch or video you walking/running to figure out what type of shoe will fit your foot best.
Buying a pair of running shoes is not an exact science! From experience, it may take you take two or three pairs of shoes to find a brand or style which fits your foot and feels good throughout your run. Remember, the further your running distance is the more important your shoes become! I have bought shoes, two weeks later during a ten mile run discover that these shoes are starting to hurt my feet and have had to retire them. If you discover the shoes you are running in are hurting your feet STOP running! Your feet should not hurt while running if you have the right pair of shoes. Failure to wear the right pair of shoes could result in injury or other problems throughout your run. (I personally, only buy Asics running shoes as those always have been the most comfortable for me, while my husband prefers Mizuno.)
When decided where to purchase your shoes from, make sure you inquire about their running policy! You will want to buy your running shoes from a store which will allow you to test the shoes on outside runs for 2-4 weeks, and still allow you to return them if you encounter problems. Playmakers in Okemos, MI has a 30 day no questions asked return policy. Elite Feet which has three locations in Michigan has a 2-3 week return policy. Just because you get fitted in a store and try on a pair of shoes, does not mean you have to purchase your shoes there. You can check out RunningShoes.com, an online store with amazing prices and offers a 90 day no questions asked return policy. (Just remember, before ordering a different brand/style of shoes online you should always go try that shoe on in a store first!)
Just be prepared, even once you find a brand and style of a shoe you love, each year the manufacturer will slightly change the design of the shoes. You may go through two pairs of the shoes you love and find the third pair you buy hurts your feet. Also, you need to remember that every pair of shoes has a limited lifespan. You should keep track of the miles you run, and plan to replace each pair after about 350-500 miles of wear.
Step Two: Start Slowly
Becoming a runner is not something that is going to happen overnight. The process is a slow one, and your progress will be gradual. Becoming a runner will take time and patience, but starting low and slow is the best piece of advice a new runner can get! As you move forward you will have days where you feel great and will be tempted to push yourself faster or further than you are scheduled to go. Resist the urge!!! Pushing yourself to hard and to fast is the number one cause of injuries to runners.
If you are a true beginner, and cannot run for 10 minutes straight, you should start with a walk/run training plan. Below is a good plan to start with and you will do each one three to four times a week:
Week 1: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 1 minute and then walk for 1 minute. Repeat the jog 1 minute/walk 1 minute intervals for 10 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 2: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 2 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat the jog 2 minutes/walk 2 minutes intervals for 10 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 3: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 3 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat the jog 3 minutes/walk 2 minutes intervals for 15 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 4: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 5 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat the jog 5 minutes/walk 2 minutes intervals for 20 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 5: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 7 minutes and then walk for 2 minute. Repeat the jog 7 minutes/walk 2 minute intervals for 30 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 6: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 8 minutes and then walk for 2 minute. Repeat the jog 8 minutes/walk 2 minute intervals for 30 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
Week 7: Walk for 10 minutes to warm up. Jog slowly for 10 minutes and then walk for 2 minute. Repeat the jog 10 minutes/walk 2 minute intervals for 30 minutes or until you become uncomfortable. Walk for 5 minutes to cool down.
The idea is to gradually increase your running time until you can jog 10 minutes straight then you can begin to increase your 10 minutes to 12, 14, 16 and so on, each week, until you can eventually jog for 30 minutes. Then, congratulations! You’re a runner!
As you move forward from this point, I want you to know that you should never hesitate to walk! Even as an intermediate runner, I still walk portions of all my longer distance races! Pausing to walk during a run or race is not a form of cheating, but a common practice among even the most experienced runners.
Step Three: Run Safely
Before you even head out for a run you should take a minute or two do a quick safety check. Are your shoes tied? Are you familiar with your route? Does someone know where you will be running and when you are expected to return? Once you begin your run you should continually be doing safety checks.
If you are running on the road make sure you against traffic so you can see cars coming at you and always stay attentive! Watch out for cracks or bumps in the sidewalk or even rocks or branches along the running path.
Always make sure you are visible regardless of the time of day you are running. I suggest wearing white or brightly colored running clothes. When running in the early morning, night or dusk make sure you have reflective running gear on. Here and here are examples of some of the reflective running gear I own. There are also options such as a reflective running vest, reflective arm and leg bands with LED lights, or strobe lights which clip onto your running belt. There are also products like Yaktrax which will help you run safer outside during the snowy winter months.
As obvious as it might be, I feel the need to say it: Do not run alone at night! No matter how comfortable you feel running at night, as the wife of a police officer I know firsthand that there is always more safety in numbers! If you wish to run solo, try to ensure you can complete your run during daylight hours.
Always carry your identification on you. Put your driver’s license and your insurance card (in case you get injured) in your pocket or running belt. If possible, try to run with your cell phone as well.
Finally, trust your instincts! If a running location or person on the road/trail makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and run in the other direction!
Step Four: Hydrate during Your Run
One of the most important things for a runner is to stay hydrated during their runs, especially during the hot summer months. For longer runs you can purchase running belts like these, which will help you hydrate throughout your run. It is important for a runner to be more of a casual sipper rather than a guzzler.
Step Five: Make it a Habit
If you are anything like me, running will start feeling like a chore. It is best if you try to make running a habit in your daily life. Habits are most easily formed if you do them consistently. Try to form your training plan where you run the same days each week and around the same time of the day. On your “off days” (none running days) try swimming, biking, or strength training in order to keep your body active. This is known as cross training. Cross training keeps your body active but allows your running muscles time to rest and recover.
Step Six: Listen to Your Body & Rest
It may be easy for a new runner to push themselves too hard in the beginning. New runners are usually excited and want to hit the pavement every single day ignoring the truth about muscles — your muscles grow by giving them stress (slightly tearing them), and you must allow the muscles to rest after the stress in order them to repair and grow. If you run hard every single day, you will continually break your muscles down, your running improvements will be slow, and you could cause your body to burnout or seriously injured.
It is best to rest the day after a long run in order to allow your body to recover. Does this mean you should not exercise at all the day after a long hard run? Not necessarily! The most important thing is that you do not run hard two days in row. If your body feels good, you can do a very easy short run or some other type of cross training.
Use pain as your guide. Listen to your body! Runners get hurt and I can attest to that from experience. Of course, runners rarely hurt ourselves seriously like snowboards or football players, but injuries do happen and most are self-inflicted. Runners normally bring injuries upon themselves by running too far, too fast, too soon, or too often. Injury prevention is often as simple as following your training plan. Use pain as your guide to know whether or not you are pushing yourself too quickly.
One of the greatest things about running is that it gives everyone a chance to run. Unlike other sports, there is no need to beat an opponent or an arbitrary standard. As a runner you will be able to measure you against your own standards. When you improve your time, increase your distance, or set a personal record in a race, you win — regardless of what anyone else has done on that same day!
Here are some links which have additional information that you might find helpful as you begin your running journey: