Do you keep saying you’re going to set a running or fitness goal and then just not follow through? Saying you want to start running sounds great in theory, but how do you actually start running? Yes, anyone with two legs can run, but it’s sticking with it and making it a habit piece that is elusive. I’m no personal trainer, doctor, or any sort of scientist, but I started running out of the blue and have more or less stuck with it for the past six years. Not only that, but I’ve grown to love it, so I wanted to share some of the strategies that worked for me when I started. All this from the girl who was put into the “you’re not that fast and I don’t know what to do with you so you can run middle distances” group on her high school track team.
1. Get dressed
This one’s obvious! But really, getting your workout clothes on is half the battle, especially when the weather is nasty (hi, January in New England!). You’re just starting and don’t need fancy gear; your regular old sweats or leggings will do for these first few sessions. Just be sure to bundle appropriately for the weather and don’t forget accessories like a hat, gloves, and something to carry your stuff in. Once you’re all dressed up in Lycra it feels silly just to sit down on the couch and watch TV, right?
2. Start small
There is no need to be a hero when starting out! Your first few runs are going to hurt no matter what (see tip #3) so don’t go overdoing it and getting yourself injured. If you try to go too hard, you’re more likely to quit early. For that first run, go for an easy jog of a 1-2 miles (take walking breaks as needed—listen to your body!) so your lungs can slowly get acclimated to the burning cold air and your legs can start to get a sense of this pounding-the-pavement motion. Be sure to map it out ahead of time so you don’t get stuck on a five-mile-loop when you only meant to cover half that distance. And, of course, download the ASICS Runkeeper app so you can get those distance cues right in your ear!
3. Expect it to hurt
No, this tip is not inspiring or exciting, but the more realistic your expectations are, the less likely you are to be disappointed, no? Running is hard. Fact. If you’re starting completely from square one, your legs are going to pretty sore for a few days. Don’t let that deter you — embrace it! Those are your muscles breaking down and being built back up into super awesome running muscles (getting real scientific here…). Let it happen and be sure to rest, stretch, foam roll, ice, etc. as needed!
4. Find Your motivation
It might take a bit of time to experience the esteemed runners’ high, so find your own shorter-term reasons for running. Plan to buy yourself a piece of cool, brightly colored running gear after you hit a certain milestone. Find an interesting podcast or playlist and reserve it only for your runs (serial!!). Pick a dream race in a dream destination to run someday. Keep those 30 minutes of running as your special “me time” where you can get lost in your thoughts. Turning running into a treat instead of a chore is going to help you stick with it for the long run.
5. Tell your friends about it
When your legs are still sore after that first run, start bragging! Tell people — at work, at parties, at the salon — that you are now a runner. You will likely find others in the crowd who are runners too and are willing to share their tips, tricks, and favorite shoes/routes/races/distances/younameit. Runners are an obsessive bunch and they will welcome you with open arms. Even those friends of yours who aren’t runners are probably going to ask you a few months in how that running thing is going, and you’ll want to have a good answer for them, right?
6. Carve out a time that works for you
Conventional wisdom is that mornings are the best time to work out. Not for this girl. I once tried to throw my alarm clock at my roommate who came in to wake me up for a morning run — even though I swore up and down the night before that I wanted to run at 6 a.m. I am not a morning person, I will never be a morning person, and unless it’s a 100-degree day, I will never run before 10 a.m. A nice evening run after work, though? Sign me up. That’s my time to think about the day and pound it all out on the road. I am alive and alert then and runs feel magical to me at that hour. There’s a theme to this article, and it’s called do what works for you.
7. Nerd out about it
One great way to keep running from being a chore is to actually make it a hobby. There are amazing running resources out there, so dig in and read Runner’s World and other running websites. Follow running bloggers and professional runners on Instagram for inspiration and tips. They are fun, nice people (or at least they seem so digitally), and they will suck you in. Get into the scene a little bit. Also, spend time looking back on your runs in your Runkeeper app. See how you did on different routes, at different times of day. Pat yourself on the back for shaving a second off your pace or going just a bit further. Enjoy all the cool photos you take on a run (yes, stop and snap cool scenery or a selfie!). Each run is a memory and should be celebrated as such.
So, that’s what worked for me. Not to say there weren’t times I hibernated most of the winter or didn’t train enough for races and hit the wall, but running has become my thing and my life is better because of it. It’s not going to be easy every step of the way, but it is awesome. And remember: If you run, you are a runner. Yes, it’s as simple as that!
Which of these tips appeals most to you? Seasoned runners, how did you get started?