How to Start Running
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Many friends and family members have said to me: Kristen, that’s great that you run, but I could never be a runner. I wouldn’t know where to start!
Running is a human instinct, part of our fight-or-flight response passed on through the generations. Almost everyone can run. However, in today’s world we don’t typically face imminent danger, and many jobs are maintained behind a desk in front of a computer screen. This has meant running has taken a back seat.
Exercise in general has been increasing in popularity over the last decade. However, starting a new hobby, such as running regularly, is tough work!
Just how do you start running? For me, I like to pare it down to a few key ingredients. These have helped me get off the couch, out the door, and actively enjoying my running journey! I hope they will help you too.
1. Make the Decision
Whether you choose to go it alone or with others, the first point is making the decision to start. After all, it’s your choice to do something new. This might mean getting out of your comfort zone, like way out there. However, you can do it! For me, I saw the transformation of a coworker through running and was inspired. What intrigued me most was the glow that radiated from her when she talked about running. I made the decision to sign up for a learn-to-run group. Being an introvert and new to the area at the time, this was way out of my realm of comfortable, but I made a choice, took a chance, and didn't look back.
2. Show Up
If you’re like me, going out of your comfort zone can be anxiety inducing. Doubts swirl in my mind. What if people don’t like me? What if they’re all so much better and I’m really struggling? Will they laugh at me? What if it’s too hard or I’m too weak or it’s too boring? What if I can’t do this? More often than not, I try to focus on what good could happen instead of the bad and force myself to go. And showing up shows strength! Nine times out of 10, those moments I choose to just show up have transformed me, introduced me to many wonderful and encouraging people, and been the most formative of my life.
3. Choose to Commit
First and foremost, remember that running is a process. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s likely you you will probably start out walking, and that’s perfectly OK! In fact, I encourage it! Walking is a great way to build up a base of distance on your feet and get you motivated to take those first few running steps. If you make a choice to commit to the process, and have patience through it, you could soon find yourself running farther than you ever thought possible.
4. The Power of a Pack
If you’re just starting out and want accountability, plus the chance to meet truly incredible individuals, consider seeking out an official running program. Many cities have learn-to-run training sessions that help beginner runners navigate the maze that running can be. The more you train with others, the more of a community you’ll immerse yourself in, and most likely, the more fun you’ll have. For me, I found my pack at Fleet Feet Sports. If there isn’t a learn-to-run community near you, grab a few friends and consider starting your own. Chances are there are many people out there just waiting to start running but afraid to take that first step without accountability. You could be the push they need!
5. Keep At It and Mix It Up
Running is a love/hate relationship for many. Some days you’ll feel fired up, excited and spurred on by the sense of accomplishment that swarms over you. Other days, running for 10 minutes is all you can manage because you’re bored or anxious or—life. When this happens to me, I try to stick to my goals and keep at them. However, I also throw in other kinds of exercise, such as body weight strength training, walking, and tackling the elliptical. This way my body is still getting exercise but not having to deal with the feelings a run can sometimes elicit. Remember, running is tough. Congratulate yourself for your courage to stay with it through ups and downs!
6. Go By Feel
There are many fancy watches and apps you can download to keep track of your running paces and distances. My watch is admittedly one of my favorite tools, but starting out, you don't need all of that. All you need is to move forward at whatever pace is comfortable to you. A key to discovering a "comfortable" or "easy" pace is by having a conversation while you run. If you can talk to yourself or with others near you, you're at a good pace! If you do want an app, seek out ones that could coach you through run/walk intervals to help you ease into running. There are many learn-to-run apps! Couch 2 5K is one popular one.
In the end, there isn’t one definitive path to start running. You just have to want to do it and find a method that works for you. And even though beginning might be scary, remember it could also change your life for the better.