How to Become a Runner: A Beginner’s Guide
You see those people going for a run on a Saturday morning or the woman at work who talks all the time about the half marathon she runs and you think, why not me? Or maybe you think, I wish I could do that too?
Well, why not you? You certainly can be given the right training, preparation, and dedication!
Here are my top 5 steps to become a runner, even if you’re starting at the very very beginning with no fitness base or ability to even run down the driveway or idea of how to get started!
Start small. Start by building the habit. Very few people out there can get up and start running one day (and those are the people we glare at and love to hate). For most of us mortals, we need to start small. Pick 3 days a week to wake up early and walk for 15 minutes or 3 days a week you can go for a walk for 20 minutes at lunch or after work. After a week of that, add to it! Add in some 30 second run intervals or add on one strength session a week. Slowly build that habit of working out into your schedule. It’s a lot easier to increase intensity or length of workouts once you already know that every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday you workout.
Invest in a few key pieces. When I started running, I used a pair of Nike’s I got at the goodwill. I had no idea what I was doing. I can now look back and attribute some of the knee and ankle pain I had to bad gear. Running is relatively cheap to start with, but you do need some key pieces. Namely, a good pair of shoes and a good bra! My favorites are Brook’s Ghost for shoes and the Brooks Dare bra. For bras, Target also has some great ones by Champion that are a fraction of the cost. Your body wll thank you later when you’re not as chaffed and don’t have a bunch of weird aches and pains from poor shoes.
Start slow. Most people who want to run start out WAY too fast and then wonder why running sucks and is hard all the time. Start at a pace where you can speak a complete sentence without sucking air. Or even better, make sure you can sing the Full House theme song outloud to yourself! Once you can run a mile straight, you can play around with increasing speed! For most of us, that means you’ll need to start with alternating walk and run portions to achieve a given distance or time on feet–and that’s OK! You are still a runner, even if you walk!
Strength train. Including strength training is a key element to stay healthy while becoming a runner. A common belief I hear from non-runners who will occasionally hop on the tread or go for a run is that running is a form of strength training so they don’t also need to strength train. That is false. While running does strengthen your muscles, you need to strength train to both prevent overuse injuries and improve performance on the run. Studies have shown that strength training does all these things (read more about the studies and benefits here!). And if you're not sure how to start running with strength training, check out my free two week plan to get started!
Don’t run in a vacuum. If you want to start something new, don’t try to do it completely alone or separate from the rest of your life, but rather include the other pieces of your life in it. This is a big one! If you are new to exercise, you’ll need to tell your spouse/partner/co-parent/etc. about it. If you are getting up earlier, does that mean you need help with getting the kids breakfast ready? Will you bring the dogs on your run with you instead of walking them? Think these things through so that life is *less* likely to get in the way or your new routine as you’re building those habits.
Another important piece of this is your nutrition. Yes running is great for fitness, but if you don’t think about your fueling before and after your run, it will be hard, you may experience GI distress, and you will struggle with hunger. Make sure you eat a small snack before heading out, fueling with protein post run, and are drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. Those simple ideas will help tremendously as you start to become a runner!
I truly believe ANYONE can become a runner, regardless of where you’re starting. I am so excited that you’re even considering starting this journey!
If you’re looking for more advice or tips, check out these resources: