Toned muscles, a sense of accomplishment, a healthier heart; there are plenty of reasons to start running, but if you’re new to the sport, how exactly do you make it a habit? If you’ve always wanted to call yourself a runner, these tips can help you start logging your first miles in no time.
Lay the GroundworkOne of the best things about running is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime. All you need is the right gear. When you’re just starting out, focus on the basics: a quality pair of running shoes, a moisture wicking top and bottom and, for the women, a sports bra. Fancy GPS watches, compression socks and fuel belts are nice to have, but definitely not necessary in the beginning.
Before you log your first step, ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Do you want to create an exercise habit? Lose weight? Finish a 5K? Having a goal in mind will help you stick to your plan.
While competition isn’t for everyone, signing up for a race can be a great motivator. An event on the calendar (and a non-refundable entry fee) can make all the difference on days when you don’t feel like running. A 5K is a great starting distance for beginners, but if a mud run, relay race or longer distance seems more appealing, that’s fine too.
Stick With ItThe key to creating a lasting habit is to make those first couple of runs as enjoyable as possible. If you’re out of breath, miserable and sore, you might just give up. Make your first few runs shorter than you think they should be— you want to finish feeling good, not exhausted.
And don’t be afraid of the walk-run method. You can begin with 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of running and as you progress, gradually increase the amount of time you spend running. For more information on the walk-run method, download the Couch to 5K mobile app.
Once you’ve started running, call in your support network to keep you accountable. Chat up running store employees for gear advice, ask a friend to join you for a run or post your progress on social media; making your goal public can help you stay on track.
Plan for Setbacks and RewardsBad weather, sore muscles and hectic schedules can sideline even the most dedicated runners, so it’s best to prepare in advance for these inevitable hurdles. If it’s pouring rain when you plan to run, can you move your run to the treadmill? Or perhaps just embrace what Mother Nature throws your way—running through puddles can be a ton of fun! And if you experience any unusual aches and pains, consider resting or cross-training in lieu of your scheduled miles. A missed run now is better than a more serious injury later.
Running endorphins are an incentive of their own, but sometimes you need something a little more enticing. Consider rewarding yourself for meeting your running goals. Maybe it’s a massage after completing your first race or perhaps it’s an ice cream cone after your longest run yet—having something to look forward can be a great motivator.
Developing a running routine takes work, but it does get easier. If you can make it through those first couple of runs, you’ll be well on your way to creating a long-term, sustainable habit. And remember: Runners comes in all shapes, sizes, and speeds, so as long as you run, you can call yourself a runner.
Find your next race.