How to Start Running

Set realistic goals.

As a beginner, you should first write down some short term goals that you can easily achieve. Post them on the refrigerator to remind you. They may be as simple as “I will work out for five minutes longer today.” Build on these small victories first to get a sense of accomplishment before setting long term goals. Later, as your running progresses, and to challenge yourself, make long term goals that you can conquer. One day you may find yourself running in a 5k, 10k or 13.1 half marathon.

Start with the right shoes.

For a sport that depends on healthy feet, a quality pair of running shoes is the most important gear you will need. Deciding which shoes are right for you can seem overwhelming, but visit a running store where they have specialized personnel trained to analyze your running gait and recommend the best running shoes for your style. A reasonable price for a good pair of running shoes will cost $75-$100. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

Get the proper running apparel.

While you don’t need to break the bank for running clothes, it is important to buy the right apparel. Cotton t-shirts and shorts will get heavy when they become wet from sweat, which may cause painful chafing to your skin. Invest in running clothes made of 100% polyester or similar synthetic materials that wick away sweat and keep you more comfortable. Women should always wear a supportive sports bra to prevent permanent sagging of their breasts.

Fuel your body.

Running will help you burn 400 calories or more per hour. But in order to get or maintain a fit body, you’ve got to replace them with healthy food. “Your pre-run snack should be sugar boosting, like a banana, energy bar or energy drink says Coach Edwards. Running on an empty stomach is neither good for your body nor does it make running fun.

Hydrate before you run.

Beginners need to pay attention to what and how much they’re drinking before, during and after exercise. Staying hydrated is critical to your running performance and, more importantly, for preventing heat-related illnesses. Drink water often during the day. “The rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 0.6 to determine the amount of water in ounces you should consume every day to keep your tissues healthy and injury free,” Coach Edwards says. Dehydration in runners may cause fatigue, headaches, decreased coordination, and muscle cramping.

Stretch before and after your run.

Some research suggests that static stretching cold muscles can cause injury. “Loosen up cold muscles with light stretching of your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves to avoid shin splints, hamstring pulls and other common running injuries. Hold each stretch for 15-25 seconds. Add easy jumping jacks, a five minute run, or a brisk walk,” says Elizabeth Edwards, a high school track coach and 9 time marathon runner. Cool down the same way to help maintain a healthy range of motion in your joints and prevent tight muscles, which can cause inefficient form and injuries.

Motivational music is cool.

While some runners think music is distracting, many runners believe music provides them an advantage when they pump up their tunes. “Research is mixed on the topic, but I use my music playlist to pace my distance. One day out the week I run without music to focus on my form,” says Coach Edwards. Other runners enjoy listening to books, podcasts or motivational speeches to pass the time. Try what works best for you.

Start at a slow pace.

While you may feel you can run a good distance fairly fast, start with 20 to 30 minutes (your body will be surprised at how long it feels!). Don’t overdo it. Give your body a chance to adjust to this new activity. Gradually increase your distance with a walk and run plan until your stamina improves. Aim to increase your running by 10 percent each week. You should be able run and to carry on a conversation without being out of breath. As you start to feel stronger, run more and walk less, the distance will naturally increase. This will ultimately help you feel better and stay injury free.