You've seen them effortlessly striding down the street, their sculpted quads shining in the sun. And now you've decided that you, too, want to be a runner. This head-to-heels guide will show you how to get going, keep moving, and make running a lifelong habit. We've even answered your need-to-know questions so you'll feel confident, excited, and ready to hit the road.
GET GOINGWalk—A Lot
It's here, in the beginning, where many new runners stumble. You think, Today, I'm going to start running! and out the door you go with the best of intentions—but maybe not the best preparation. Four minutes later your legs, lungs, and even your insides hurt. Don't despair. Whether you're fresh off the couch or coming from another sport, running takes time to break into.
"Every able-bodied person can be a runner," says Gordon Bakoulis, a running coach based in New York City. "Just start slowly and build up gradually." Most coaches agree that the best way to become a runner is with a run-walk program.
Begin by adding small segments of running into your walk. "Start with four to five minutes of walking," says Christine Hinton, a Road Runners Club of America certified coach in Annapolis, Maryland. "Then alternate with some running, always ending with a walking segment to cool down." (See "Run-Walk This Way," below, for a 10-week schedule.) Aim for running at an easy, conversational pace three days a week, with rest days in between. Over time, work up to running four to five days. Get seriously fit and have fun this summer with outdoor trail running.
Need to Know
Q: By the end of my run I can barely move—why?
A: If you're sore before you finish running, your workout session is too long, too fast, or too hard. Ease back down to walking to allow your muscles to heal, says New York City-based exercise physiologist and coach Shelly Florence-Glover of runningcoach.com.
Q: Can I still call myself a "runner" if I walk so much?
A: "If you're running, no matter how fast or slow, you're a runner," says Andrew Kastor, coach of the official ING New York City Marathon online training program.
Run-Walk This Way Start
Finish each workout with five minutes of walking. Then, alternate the following run/walk ratios for 30 minutes.
1: Two minutes running/four minutes walking
2: Three minutes running/three minutes walking
3: Four minutes running/two minutes walking
4: Five minutes running/three minutes walking
5: Seven minutes running/three minutes walking
6: Eight minutes running/two minutes walking
7: Nine minutes running/one minute walking
8: Thirteen minutes running/two minutes walking
9: Fourteen minutes running/one minute walking
10: Run the whole time!