When most people start a beginner running program, it’s because they’re overweight and they want to lose the extra pounds. And fast. Yet, for many beginning runners, once the initial weight loss goal is achieved, they realize in fact they’ve adopted a lifelong passion for running. It can be a life-changing hobby that provides improved energy and positive mental health.
If you’re brand new to running and want to get started, the most important tip is to start s-l-o-w-l-y. The absolute worst thing you can do for your running career is run yourself into the ground when you’re just getting started. This is a sure-fire path to injury and you’ll most likely end up hating the activity. Give your body and mind a chance to settle into a beginner running program and you’ll find that you can enjoy running injury free for years to come.
Running is as old as the human race and studies have shown that our current anatomy evolved to help us run as a species. Early humans most definitely ran for safety, food and transportation – we sort of doubt they ran purely as a hobby, but who knows! What is known is that the structure of the human body – from the shock absorption capabilities of our spines to the shape of our feet – allow humans to run faster and greater distances than closely related species.
Although historians debate when the first competitive running race occurred, we do know that running (in fact a sprint race) was the first and only competition in early Olympic Games starting in 776 BC. The marathon didn’t come along until 1896 at the Athens games when runners started in the city of Marathon (northeast of Athens) and finished in the Olympic stadium – a race just over 26 miles.
Track and field competitions began to take shape in the United States in the latter 1800’s and have been a collegiate staple ever since. Recreational running gained momentum in the early 1970’s, in part by the 1972 Olympics, and in part by major shoe manufacturers bringing running shoes to the masses.
Running Tidbits – Did You Know?
- Women were first allowed to officially run in the Boston Marathon in 1972 and the Olympic marathon in 1984.
- The modern running shoe slowly evolved from early laced canvas shoes with rubber bottoms. These shoes were virtually silent to walk in and were a favorite of thieves; hence the name “sneakers“.
- According to Guinness World Records, the oldest woman to finish a marathon was Jenny Wood-Allen in 2002. Jenny was 90 years old at the time!
- The average life expectancy of a running shoe is 400 miles. So, if you run 20 miles per week you should replace your shoes about every 4 to 5 months.
Starting A Beginner Running Program
One of the great benefits of running is that it can be done most anywhere, at any time, and with very little equipment. The only thing you really need is comfortable clothing and a good pair of running shoes. A stopwatch is helpful but certainly not required. Other options to consider include a music player, a water bottle, and perhaps a heart rate monitor.
Shorts and loose fitting t-shirts are ideal. You can certainly start with cotton materials but you’ll soon discover the wicking joy and comfort of performance fabrics. But most importantly, you should get fitted for a good quality pair of shoes.
A good pair of running shoes is recommended for a beginner running program, as the shoes will provide the necessary support based on your pronation. Pronation is the way your foot rolls when it impacts the ground. A reputable running store can observe your running style and fit you with shoes that provide the appropriate level of stability and cushioning.
While you don’t want to break the bank with your beginning running program, you should probably budget about $200 for shoes, clothing and a basic watch.
Enjoying Your Beginner Running Program
Before you hit the track and trail you should always begin your runs with a proper warm-up. Contrary to popular belief, the initial warm-up shouldn’t involve any deep stretching. Stretching cold muscles can quickly lead to injury.
Instead, do warm up exercises that focus on loosening up your joints – primarily your ankles, knees, and hips. Once loose, get moving! Start your run with a brisk walk or very slow jog to get the muscles warm and your heart pumping. Over time, you’ll notice if you start slowly, you’ll actually have more energy throughout the course of your run.
The best way to get up to speed with running is to mix walking and running (some call this “wogging“. The running builds up strength and stamina, and the walking allows the body to recover enough to put an additional load on it.
The mix of running and walking will depend on your ability, but a good start would be a minute of running, and then a minute of walking. Over the course of your beginner running program, you’ll notice your strength and stamina increase. This is the time you will start adding more running time and less walking time. For example, you will eventually do 90 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking. This graduation continues until running can be comfortably done for at least 30 minutes.
Depending on your motivation, the goal is at least 30 minutes of running every other day. That will strengthen the circulatory and respiratory systems. For weight loss, more days per week and longer sessions will be required; for example, 60 to 90 minutes, 5 to 6 days per week. But keep in mind that this level of fitness requires several months of ramp-up for new runners. Never add more than 20% of distance per week while you are building up your stamina.
Finally, make sure to stretch thoroughly after all runs. With your muscles warm, stretching is an important part of your body’s recovery process. Additionally, as you stretch you elongate your muscles that, over time, can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with a lower risk of injury.
Beginner Running Tips And Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you get more out of your beginning running program…
- As stated earlier, the most important tip for new runners is to start slowly. Congratulate yourself by simply getting out the door. Add running time and distance slowly as your stamina increases.
- You should consider joining a local running club. You can usually find these clubs through your local running store. Clubs are a great way to meet other runners and participate in local group runs. As a member of a running club you’ll also often be provided with a discount at your local running store. You’ll be surprised how much the cost of running shoes and clothes starts to add up and any discount you can find will certainly help out.
- Find a friend to train with in your beginning running program. Having a running buddy makes it easier to stay motivated and you’ll be amazed how the time flies by when you’re running with a friend.
- If you plan to run in the dark, dawn or dusk, make sure to spend the money on reflective clothing and lighting. They make small lights that attach to your clothing that can be seen for up to a mile.
- And finally, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for your daily running victories. Running is hard work so take the time to pat yourself on the back. It makes getting out the next day so much easier when you’re your own best friend and running coach.
Taking Your Running To The Next Level
After your beginner running program, you may find yourself getting addicted to the sport. You may want to make it a bigger part of your life. Beyond weight loss, there are many benefits to running: increased energy, better sleep, and a more positive outlook.
- To take it to the next level, you should start to incorporate different running programs into your weekly fitness plan. For example, a week might include:
- Sunday: Leisure run
- Monday: Interval training
- Tuesday: Short run
- Wednesday: Long run
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Hills
- Saturday: Off
- You can also start to enter races. These can be quite fun and rewarding if you train properly. If you like to run short distances, run a 5k. If long distance is your thing, shoot for a half or full marathon. You’ll be nervous for your first race but your adrenaline in the running crowd will quickly dissolve your nerves.
- While not running, it’s always good to introduce other cardiovascular activities into your fitness schedule. In addition to helping prevent boredom and burnout, adding different activities can help strengthen other areas of the body. Consider adding a day of swimming and bicycling to your weekly fitness plan.
The following resources can help you get the most out of your running endeavors…
American Running Association – The ARA is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and supporting runners. The ARA provides useful suggestions and resources.
American Trail Running Association – The ATRA was formed to serve the trail and mountain running community and provides resources, support, and organization for trail runners.
Road Runner Sports – Road Runner Sports is a running store dedicated to all types of runners and walkers. They offer a VIP club that helps you save money on running merchandise. They’re a great company with terrific customer service – check them out!
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.