A lot of people ask me how to start running. If I was a smartass, I’d say “put your shoes on and run.” But I’m not, and I don’t want you to hate running, so that’s definitely not my advice.
I’ve been running for almost 20 years and I’ve completed seven marathons, seven Around the Bay 30 km races, and 12 half marathons. All of those races have happened in the last 10 years. The first 10 years were spent running casually, not training. I didn’t start off running marathons from the get-go. I worked my way up to that kind of distance.
Over the years I’ve put a lot of kilometers on these legs. I would like to think I’ve gained some wisdom that I can pass on to new runners. Here are some things to consider as you lace up for your first run.
- Start in the spring. You should be outside in nice weather and it’s still cool this time of year. I am not a fan of the treadmill (or dreadmill as some of us call it). To me, the treadmill is only to be used as a last resort when the weather outside is next to impossible to deal with.
- Get fit for shoes. Being a flat-footed gal, I’ve always had trouble with shin splints. I believe in starting off on the right foot (see what I did there?) and being fit for the right shoes for your feet and body. The Running Room or a trusted running store where all they sell is running gear, staffed mainly by runners is the best advice I can offer. They will watch your gait as you run and walk to determine which style is best for you. On impact, your feet absorb about three times your body weight so put something comfy in between them and the road. Running starts from the ground up (ah man, I did it again!).
- Be able to carry on a conversation while you’re running. If you’re gasping for breath, you’re going too fast. Slow down until you can speak and run at the same time. You’re not running a race, are you? Because then, you shouldn’t be able to talk. But when you first start running, start slooooww and then build from there. You have lots of time to get faster.
- Try the run/walk method. I learned this at the 5K Running Room clinic, and I still use it today in my training and races. It works like this: run for one minute, walk for one minute and repeat for however long you want to be out there. If you want a 20- minute run, do this for the whole 20 minutes. Simple! Set your phone to notify you of the intervals, or invest in a simple Timex watch that has intervals built in. You can program it to beep every minute, so you know when to run and walk. Try 1:1 for a week, then bump it to two minutes running and one- minute walking the next week or so. Keep progressing until you’re up to 10:1. That’s the standard at the Running Room but once you feel comfortable, you might just prefer to run straight through and that’s awesome too!
- Run with a buddy. I started running with some friends at work during our lunch hour. They were more experienced but welcomed me to join them. We would run to a certain point where I could rest and catch my breath, then they would take a lap around a pond and come back to pick me up and we would continue. It was motivating for me to run with people better than me and it pushed me to get faster and stronger so I could keep up. You could also join a Learn to Run clinic like the ones offered at the Running Room. You’re starting with other newbies so you’re basically the same level, and you’ll always have someone to run with. On days when you don’t feel like going, you’ll feel accountable to your new friends and get your butt there. Plus, you’ll learn all kinds of fun things such as how to dress in hot or cold weather, how to pace yourself and how to fuel your body.
- Here’s a tip for dressing for the weather: dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer. You might be cold when you leave the house, but once you start running for a few minutes you will warm right up and thank me for not wearing that jacket you now have to tie around your waist.
- At first, just run for time, not distance. Maybe it’s 15 minutes a few times a week. Then 20 minutes a few times a week. A long slow build is ideal because you risk injury doing too much too fast (hello, shin splints!).
- Be consistent with your runs. I would recommend running three to four days a week with at least a day off in between. Don’t run back to back days when you’re just starting out. Your body needs rest to deal with the new stress you’re putting on it. When I’m injured, I try not to run back to back so I can give my body a break. In regular training, I can run back to back days but never three days in a row.
Overall, be kind to yourself and figure out what works for you. These are only guidelines, not rules. Most of all, enjoy the journey and get outside!