It’s no secret that running can have a positive effect on your stress levels, immune system, and overall health, but how do should you begin? Starting a running program isn’t easy, but the health effects and mental benefits, and relatively low start-up costs make it one of the most beneficial lifestyle choices you can make. Here’s our guide on how to start running for beginners – with some simple steps and advice for sticking to your running routine.
1. GET THE RIGHT GEAR
One of the best things about running is that, unlike in other sports, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. But, while it might seem like a pair of running shoes is all that you’ll need, there are a few other items that can make your workouts a little more enjoyable and productive.
Here are a few items to consider before you start your running program:
SPECIALIST RUNNING SHOES
Whether or not you already own an old pair of running shoes or not, if you’re serious about starting a running program, you’ll need to invest in a good pair of running-specific shoes.
Visit a running specialty store where you can run in several different pairs on a treadmill before deciding on a model. Employees may also recommend specific models after watching you run and determining how your foot strikes the ground. The shoe you select should also match your overall fitness level and goals.
Sure, you can run in any old pair of shorts and a basic t-shirt.
But the truth is the more you run, the more you’ll appreciate technical, moisture-wicking fabrics made for runners. These clothes are also lightweight, built to keep you cool and dry in warm weather, plus they won’t irritate the skin. You should also consider a hat if you’re running in the sun and a sports bra if you’re a woman.
HEART RATE MONITOR
While training in heart rate zones may be more for intermediate and advanced runners, a heart rate monitor and GPS watch can be a useful tool for beginners who start running, too. In addition to tracking your workout time and mileage, a good heart rate monitor can also give you information, such as calories burned and recommendations on how much time you need in between workouts to recover.
2. FIND THE PERFECT PLAYLIST
When beginners start running, there will be plenty of mental hurdles you’ll need to get past as you increase your mileage. Listening to music while you run can help you relax and make the difficulty of a new activity a little easier to deal with.
An iPod or other small music player that’s easy to carry and a pair of wireless headphones that won’t get in your way are recommended.
3. MAKE A PLAN
Having a plan will help you stay consistent and avoid injury as you begin to add running into your weekly routine. Where you’ll run, how often, and how far will all need to be determined beforehand – just remember you can always adjust it depending on how you feel from day to day.
The following basic principles are good rules to abide by as you start to incorporate a running exercise plan into your weekly workouts.
4. START EASY
The temptation will be to run for as long and far as you can the first time you head out the door. The problem is the more often you do this the more you’ll expose yourself to injury and soreness that could prevent you from running in the days that follow.
Instead, start with a walking routine that includes short amounts of running. Do this even if it feels easy!
Depending on your fitness, your first workouts should look something like this:
- 30 minutes of exercise, alternating three to four minutes of walking with one minute of running.
- Gradually increase your total exercise time and shorten the amount of time you walk in the weeks that follow.
5. INCREASE MILEAGE GRADUALLY
The primary goal of any good running plan should be to stay injury-free. If you hurt yourself in the first few weeks after you start running, the chances that you stick with running are significantly decreased.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to start slow and be patient, building your weekly mileage at a rate your body can handle.
According to running coach John Honerkamp, you should aim to include your walk/run routine three days per week at first. Make sure you also have two rest days and two days of low-impact cross-training (stationary bike, elliptical, or row machine) as well.
6. EAT A BALANCED DIET
While you won’t need to go crazy on sports drinks or energy gels at this stage in your training, your body will need plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to recover properly. Try to stay away from processed foods and excess sugar or other foods that can cause huge spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Skipping meals or eating an unbalanced diet will make you feel sluggish and make it even harder to get out the door and run. Here is a basic breakdown of where your calories should come from for each meal:
- Half of your calories should come from vegetables, fruits, rice, and lentils – also known as complex carbohydrates.
- Thirty percent of your calories should come from healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts.
- Twenty percent of your calories should be lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and eggs.
- Make sure to drink plenty of water and supplement with a well-balanced multi-vitamin.
7. SET A GOAL
Let’s face it – some days are going to be harder than others.
Having a good reason to get up every day and run will help you to stay consistent and push through those difficult days. Whether you want to shed pounds or run a local race, setting achievable goals can provide the day-to-day motivation you need.
- If the goal is to lose weight, buy a scale and track exactly how many calories you burn during each run. While the pounds may not start to drop instantly, you’ll eventually begin to see small improvements that will help you stay motivated and continue to work toward your goal.
- If your goal is to run a set distance, look into group training runs or a structured running program to help you along. Whether it’s a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon, signing up for the free Polar Running Program can help you analyze your current training history and use this data to setup a personalized running plan.
A running program designed specifically for your needs will help you make progress towards your goal. To try the Polar Running Program, all you need to do is set up a Polar Flow account, available on desktop and as an app on Android and iOS devices.