How to Start Running
Sure, putting one foot in front of the other is literally how you run, but for anyone who has tried to start a running habit, it doesn’t feel that simple! As a self-made runner 10 years and running (you can laugh, it’s OK), and a Certified Running Coach with Chicago Endurance Sports, I routinely answer the question that may seem silly, yet is anything but! “How do I start running?”
I could give a zillions little tips of what I’ve learned over the years, but these are the top 3 that I feel matter most when you’re starting out.
There are points from head to toe you can work on to have ideal form, but when you’re stating out, I recommend focusing on your foot strike and posture. You may have heard the term foot-strike, and all that means is how your foot hits the ground when running. Your goal here is to avoid over-striding. You want your feet to hit the ground under your hips, as opposed to outstretched in front of your body. This will reduce the impact on your legs which can cause injury.
Next up; posture. We know how important posture is throughout your day, but it becomes even more important when running. Why? Think about the stress on your low back when you slouch when standing, now think of that stress being compounded with the force of each foot-strike. Many new runners begin to slouch because running is tiring! Doing a “reset” is what we teach our CES runners. Every 10 minutes or at each mile, raise your arms above your head, roll your shoulders up and back, squeezing the blades together and making your chest broad. Notice when your shoulders start to creep up towards your ears and your back starts to round and correct your posture.
The best way to counteract this natural occurrence is by strengthening your core. Here is a 6-minute core focused video you can do at home to do just that! Focus on those two elements for now, and when they become second nature, click here for more good form tips.
I distinctly remember the first time I ran 10 miles, training for my first half marathon. I remember it so well because – aside from being my first double digit run – I had an “a-ha” moment that seems insanely obvious now. My dad was an amazing supporter and rode his bike alongside me, talking to me off and on throughout. I thought, “if I just ran a little slower, like this, I could keep going forever!”
Unbeknownst to me, he was keeping me at conversation pace. This pace is ideal for building your running base, yet I had been pushing myself just past that on my solo runs. I, for some reason, thought that running should feel hard or you aren’t pushing yourself enough. Sure, there are tempo runs and speed workouts and races where running shouldn’t feel easy, but for the majority of your running miles, especially as you build a running base, your goal is to be at conversation pace. Aim to be able to hold a conversation, still breathing heavier than at rest, but not to the point where you’re gasping every 3 words. It’s easy to test this when running with a friend or local running group, but if you run alone, speak a line of your favorite song or the Pledge of Allegiance every so often to gauge your effort.
Starting with run/walk intervals has many benefits to both new runners and those prone to injury. Here are a few main reasons:
- Erase fatigue
- Allow endorphins to collect during walk breaks (makes you feel good!)
- Mentally break up distance into manageable increments
- Speed recovery
- Reduce the chance of injury and lessen aches and pains
- Allow for benefits of endurance of the distance, without the pain and stress on joints and tendons
Start with walk intervals that are double your run intervals; 1 minute of running (at conversation pace!) followed by 2 minutes of walking. Repeat these cycles for 20 minutes, building up to 30 minutes. Once this is comfortable, increase the intervals to a 1:1 ratio; 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking. After a couple weeks, increase to a 2:1 ratio; 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. From there you can increase the number of minutes running while keeping that minute walking recovery until you can eliminate the walk all together.
I should point out, some people prefer this style of running and even racing. Run/walk intervals are done by many at even the marathon distance!
There you have it; my top 3 tips to start running. Above all, remains my golden rule: Consistency. Aim for 3 days a week of 20-30 minutes. If you can only fit in 10 minutes, do it! Having that consistent mindset as well as physical practice is more important than getting a set number of minutes or miles. Have fun and know that even elite runners have off days and runs that don’t feel great.
If you’d like a more personalized plan, or simply want outside accountability and someone to point your questions to, I’d love to work with you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and get up and running today!