The question “how to start running” sounds a bit like the start of a joke, with the punchline being “one step at a time” but I remember my first run and understand that starting running is not as easy as that.
If you want to get fit and lose weight, running is hard to beat. It’s a simple activity for which you need very little equipment. And yet, a lot of new runners never make it past being a beginner. They start well enough, but for one reason or another they give up. That’s a shame because, once you get into it, running is a wonderful way to exercise.
Consider these tips before you start running.
1. Shoes – get yourself a good pair of running shoes. Comfortable, supportive, cushioned running shoes will help make running much more enjoyable. Not sure where to start? Check out my article Best Running Shoes for guidance.
2. Walk before you run – if you are new to exercise, get yourself fit for running but by doing a walking program first. This will make running much easier. I’ve written a walking fitness program for exactly this purpose, and you can find it in my article Walking for Health.
3. Start slow and build up gradually – nothing ruins a workout faster than trying to do too much too soon. It’s good to be enthusiastic, but if your enthusiasm makes you do more exercise than your body can cope with, you’ll just end up tired, sore, and even injured. Start slow and easy and build up gradually. To help you do this, you’ll find a beginner’s running plan in my article Running for Beginners.
4. Run every other day – don’t be tempted to run every day. That might be okay for intermediate or advanced runners but is no good for beginners. You need to rest and recover between runs which is why I recommend running every other day. If you want to exercise on your rest days, I suggest that you go for walk.
5. Plan your routes – running should be enjoyable. Make sure you choose running routes that make exercising as pleasant as possible. I like to run in the countryside and on quiet streets. I also prefer running laps rather than out-and-back routes. Choosing enjoyable routes means you are more likely to look forward to your workout, and that’s important for making your new exercise habit sustainable.
The tips above apply to most new runners. However, if you are older, very unfit, or overweight, there are a few other things you need to consider.
Starting running at 40-50+ – almost anyone can run, even the very elderly. My father still runs regularly, and he is almost 90! But, being older means you need to take a few extra precautions…
- Adjust your workout to how you feel on the day. If you are tired or sore, it’s okay to take an extra day off or do less running than you might have planned. Recovery is often slower when you are older.
- Warm up before you run. The older you are, the more likely it is that your joints and muscles are stiff and even painful. Make sure you look after your joints by warming up before you run. A brisk five-minute walk and some stretching can make all the difference. Also, make sure you stretch after every run to stop your muscles from tightening up.
- Speak to your doctor before you start. Advancing age is often accompanied by some medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Because of this, make sure you speak to your doctor before you start running. He’ll probably be very pleased to hear you are taking up exercise but may want to adjust your medication to reflect your new exercise habit.
Starting running when you are out of shape – even advanced runners were once unfit and out of shape. We all have to start somewhere! If you haven’t exercised in a long time and are very unfit, make sure you consider the following…
- Always do less than you think you can. When you start, make sure you always finish your workout feeling like you could have done more. It’s always better to “leave a few miles in the tank” than run to exhaustion. Increase the length of your runs very gradually, adding no more than 10% at a time.
- It’s okay to walk. You don’t have to run the whole way. In fact, it might be better if you start off by alternating running with walking. For example, run for a minute and then walk for two minutes. Repeat five times and then, over the next few weeks, try and run more and walk less.
- Run with a friend. Running alone, when you are very unfit, can be hard. Make running more enjoyable by going with a friend. You can give each other support and motivation and talking while you run is a great way to pass the time.
Starting running when you are overweight – a lot of people take up running to help them lose weight, but running can be extra hard when you are carrying extra pounds. Use these tips to help make running easier and more comfortable…
- Wear supportive, cushioned shoes. If you are overweight, you need to protect your feet with supportive, cushioned shoes. Running is a high-impact activity that is made worse the heavier you are. Good shoes will make a big difference.
- Walk the weight off first. If you are very overweight, I suggest you get fit and lose weight by walking regularly before you try running. Running when very overweight puts a lot of stress on your knees, hips, and back. Walking is much easier on your joints but will still help you lose weight.
- Don’t ignore your diet. You also need to eat a little less to lose weight by running. Exercise burns calories, but not as many as you might think. You need to eat a little less and exercise more to make your body burn fat. Try Intermittent Fasting for easy weight loss.