How Beginners Can Make Running a Healthy Habit

Beginning a running program? Preparing for your first race? Here's how to safely start and maintain your running program.

The most common resolutions made each year are to exercise, lose weight, and get in shape. Whether the resolution is made on January 1 or when we think of warm weather and swim suits, the result is often the same. We start with good intentions and within a few weeks we are back to our old routine, and have stopped running.

It takes us about six to eight weeks to form a habit, regardless of whether it is a healthy habit or one that's not so noble. And while we are forming that new, healthy habit, many folks sabotage themselves by being too aggressive in training, selecting the wrong training program, or not developing a plan to maintain an exercise program.

More: Is Your Running Plan Right for You?

Here are some pointers to help start and maintain an exercise program. These are dedicated to new runners or runners who have taken a considerable amount of time off from running.

Before the First Step of a Beginner's Running Program

When building a house, we start with blueprints and a solid foundation, not by putting on the roof and painting the walls. Beginning a run training program is the same. Crossing the finish line of your first race starts before taking the first step in training—you need a solid foundation first. 

More: Why All Runners Need a Base-Building Phase

First, visit your physician for a check-up. Be sure your body is ready for exercise, especially if you haven't exercised in a long time. Some of us have latent conditions which need to be addressed before starting an exercise program.

Second, figure out where you are. Like setting the GPS in your car, before setting the course on your destination, you need to know where you begin the journey. Don't compare yourself to a friend, significant other, co-worker or even the "you" you were 20 years ago when you ran in high school. Don't compare yourself to the runner you will be, or want to be, in six months. Rather, honestly assess how much exercise you have had in the last six months to a year. Recent athletic activity is a precursor for selecting a proper training program.