Guide to Becoming a Runner

As you may already know, I’m a fairly new runner – I’ve only been running about 3 years now. I still remember the excitement of training for my first race, seeing my weekly mileage first creep into the double digits, and the first time I laced up my sneakers and thought, “I’m a runner. I’m an athlete.” I vividly remember crossing the finish line of my first race (a marathon – the story behind that here) and realizing that I was completely hooked.

Running has changed my life in dozens of ways, big and small – it’s made me a more confident person, it’s built my mental (and physical) strength, and it makes me happy. While there are plenty of sports that can do the same, running is uniquely accessible because you can do it anywhere, you need little more than a pair of running shoes, you don’t need special training, and you can do it alone on your own schedule.

So maybe you’re reading this and you’d like to start running or give it a shot but you’re not sure where to start. Read on! Here are tips from my perspective for new runners.

A Guide to Becoming a Runner

1. Have the Right Gear
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– The essentials: Properly-fitted running shoes and wicking athletic clothes (including socks). You might be tempted to grab an old pair of sneakers out of your closet, but running shoes are specially built to prevent injury from the repetitive motion of running and you want to get ones that support your running gait/ motion. Get fitted at a running store for your first pair, and then you can buy discounted pairs online once you know what brand/ type of shoe works for you. Wicking athletic clothes and socks will keep you comfortable during your run and prevent blisters.

– It’s also a good idea to have a watch or run with your phone to time your runs to ensure you’re completing your workout and to see your improvement over time.

– You’ll eventually need a water bottle (like this one) as your runs get longer or if you’re running in hot weather.

2. Find a Time and Place

– One of the hardest things about starting to run may be finding the time! I suggest finding a half-hour slot 3-4 days a week – ideally around the same time of day for consistency and spaced out over the week – and scheduling it in your planner or calendar. It may take some trial-and-error to find the time of day that works best for you; I know that I skip workouts frequently if I schedule them after work, but that I’ll get it done in the morning 95% of the time!calendar

– Location can be treadmill or outside; most runners find the treadmill a little boring, but it’s a good option if you don’t have running paths/sidewalks near your home, you’re planning to run when it’s dark outside, or the weather isn’t cooperating. Find what works for you – what’s most important is that you’re getting it done!

3. Set a Running Strategy

– For new runners, the run/ walk method is a great way to start; you run for a set number of minutes, walk for a set number of minutes, and repeat. And no, stopping to walk doesn’t make you any less of a runner – experienced marathoners use this strategy all the time! You can customize it to your fitness level (anywhere from 1 min run/ 1 min walk to 9 min run/ 1 min walk) and aim for 20 min a day, 3 times a week for starters. If a run starts to feel too easy (you don’t feel challenged at all during the whole workout), consider increasing the ratio or the overall length of the run.

– If you’d like to work out more, add 1-2 days of cross-training activity like cycling, swimming, yoga, or even walking. Anything you do will benefit your aerobic fitness or strengthen your muscles, so pick what you enjoy.  Once you’ve been running 3 days a week for a couple of weeks, you can swap out a cross-training day for another run for a total of 4 run days.

Warning: Resist the urge to build your mileage too quickly – that’s a sure-fire way to get injured! A good rule of thumb is to add no more than 10% each week to your running mileage (or time) – e.g. if you’re running 90 min total this week, you can add about 10 minutes next week.

– If you want more structure, follow a training plan! It takes all the guesswork out of increasing your runs and you’ll be sure to increase your fitness over time. Here are a few good ones: Hal Higdon Novice 5K, Jeff Galloway 5K or 10K, and the ever popular Couch to 5K.

4. Find What Motivates You

– My #1 recommendation for motivation is to set an achievable goal you want to accomplish in a few weeks or months, like running 10 miles a week, being able to run a certain time/ distance without stopping, or completing a local race. I’m a HUGE fan of the last one because I think you’ll feel a great sense of achievement when you cross that finish line!10173700_10100270342887488_8835060745046639594_n

Make a list of the reasons you want to run – and pull it out when you’re tempted to skip a run. Your brain will always find excuses to stay on the couch, so be prepared to fight for your health and wellbeing! Here are 11 reasons to run, to get you started.

5. Have Fun!

– At some point (it’s different for each individual), you may start to feel happy or elated during or after your run – it’s the coveted “runner’s high”! Embrace the endorphins and don’t be surprised if you start to crave your next run…

– Running is a great way to meet people and be part of a community, both online (Runner’s World has a bunch of forums) and in person. If you’d like some running company, join a Meetup group, find that coworker who mentioned running a race recently, or recruit a family member to join the cult sport :D

Read running articles, blogs, books and magazines to continue to stay inspired! I’d love it if you include yours truly in your reading rotation – I try to write about running and fitness at least once a week on here.IMG_20140201_074728_389


I hope this was helpful for any new runners out there. I’m by no means an exercise or medical professional, so if you start to feel pain during your runs, please stop and consult your doctor before proceeding. And I’d love to hear updates on how your training is going – it makes me so happy to hear from new runners!

Runners, what have I missed? What helped you when you started running?

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