I am often asked by non-runners how to get started. Oftentimes these people just want to get back in shape, find a new way to exercise, and sometimes they have signed up for a half marathon and have no idea where to start training. Either way, I always give the same three pieces of advice.
1) Get running shoes that fit!
A lot of people tell me they “can’t” run or they “aren’t made for running” but often it seems they just don’t have the right equipment (clearly I understand that some people do have legitimate injuries and I’d never encourage someone to run if they are in serious pain!). I always recommend that people head to a running store the specializes in fitting shoes utilizing technology that can determine what type of shoe is best or if someone needs insoles due to imbalances.
Road Runner Sports is my favorite local running store since they utilize their “Shoe Dog” technology which helps customers determine their type of shoe based on qualities such as arch height, pronation tendencies, body type, and weekly mileage. I went to Road Runner when I started to train for my first half marathon because I was having knee pain. As soon as I was fitted with good shoes, the pain disappeared and I haven’t been injured since (*knock on wood*).
To reiterate – never start running in any old pair of shoes! Get fitted for shoes and buy them!!!
2) Start Slow!
To a new runner, running even 1 mile without stopping can seem really overwhelming. The key to building endurance isn’t to run fast, its to run long. So first, slow down. If a 12 minute mile is the pace you need to run to run a mile without stopping, then do it.
That being said, if you want to build endurance and don’t feel like you can run the whole time, that is totally okay too. I recommend a walk/run plan. For your very first run/walk, start with 1 minute walking, 1 minute running. Try 20 minutes of this to start. If that’s too easy, then try 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking and then 3 minutes, 1 minute. Work your way up until you can run a full mile without walking. Move you way up to 40 minutes of run/walking and eventually 40 minutes of running and set yourself new goals as you go.
I regularly ran 10:30 minute miles in training for my first half marathon and I distinctly remember the first time I ran 4 miles without stopping because I was so incredibly proud of my accomplishment. Each personal milestone in running is important so please do not get caught up in how fast or far others are running. Focus on your own achievements and keep setting goals for yourself!
Moral of the story – don’t be afraid to run slow and don’t be afraid to walk! Time on your feet is what is going to build your strength and endurance.
3) Sign up for a 5k!
A lot of people who come to me actually don’t want much more than to just start running for exercise. However, I’ve found that having a goal motivates me to get out and run so I always suggest they sign up for one too. Of course, races aren’t for everyone but I think it’s a great way to get motivated to run 3-4 days a week. Knowing you have a race will get you out the door for those runs better than anything else!
If you do want to run a race for the first time, I always recommend Hal Higdon’s training plans. I used his beginner half marathon plan for my first half and I found it very motivating. I printed it out and put it on my fridge and marked off each workout. I didn’t complete them all, but I did most of them and I made it to the finish line!
You can find Hal Higdon’s free training plans here.
You can also search for local races using this website.
What are your tips for those entering the running world for the first time? If you are new to running, what other questions do you have?