One of the great joys of running is its accessibility. Assuming that you have a safe place to run, as well as a couple of key pieces of equipment (namely, shoes), you're all set. Unlike many other sports, there isn’t some exclusive club to join, nor does running necessitate years of specialized training and instruction.
As long as you simply move your body in a forward motion and have an interest in running, you can definitively call yourself a runner.
Unsurprisingly, then, running is more popular now than ever before, even among those of us who don't get paid to do it for a living. From one-mile jogs to full marathons, there's a distance for everyone — and getting started is the first step.
If you're getting into running for the first time, or if you're considering it, please let me welcome you to our community. We have all been beginners at one point or another, and while it can be scary, it's also exhilarating because you don't know what your body is capable of. Running is great at providing feedback, and you'll begin to see progress right away as you work to safely increase your endurance and speed.
Below, you'll find some of my tips to begin your running journey, based on more than a decade of running anything from short races on the track all the way up to a 50 kilometer trail ultramarathon.
One of the most common beginner runner mistakes is doing too much, too soon, too quickly. That is, they run too many miles sooner and faster than their bodies are ready to run.
One of the misconceptions about becoming a strong runner is that you have to run at 100% of your top speed on every single run, regardless of the distance or how your body is feeling that day. In fact, the opposite is true. If you want to run for a long time and remain injury-free, you'll quickly learn to listen to your body, especially if you're having any aches, pains, or niggles. In fact, 90% of the time, your runs should be relatively slow and easy, at a conversational pace.
It’s counterintuitive, but think of it in these terms: pretend you're training to race a 10k as fast as you can. Every time you do a training run, you run at top speed— so, you're basically racing on every run. All that effort will tax your body. If you race daily, you aren’t giving your body adequate time for rest and recovery, and your injury likelihood skyrockets.
Save your super-speedy days for prescribed fast workouts and race days, but on most other days, take it easy.
Increase Your Volume Slowly And Deliberately
Runners love numbers, and we often get hung up on how many miles we post each week. When you're new to running, take heed to slowly and carefully add to your running volume week after week.
If your first run is a 20-minute run that combines running and walking into a 2:2 interval — that is, run for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes — don't expect to exclusively run 40 minutes at a time the following week. Many runners only increase their run volumes in 10% increments each week, which is a safe and conservative way to slowly add to your endurance base.
If you run 15 miles one week, for example, consider bumping your mileage for the subsequent week up to 17, but only if you're feeling well and recovered. Err on the side of caution when you start running. Gradually increasing your running volume will help you avoid injury.
Invest In A Running Watch
Running doesn't require specialized gear, but most runners love (and actually won't run without) their watches. The sky’s the limit in terms of how high tech your watch can be, but your best choices will be GPS-enabled, which make it easy to track your run without relying on your phone.
I personally have really liked Garmin products, specifically the Forerunner 220, as well as the old-school Timex Ironman watch. Many popular app choices, like Strava and Map My Run, are compatible with popular running watches like the Apple Watch.
Basically, which running watch is right for you depends on how many data points you want to gather from each run and how much money you want to spend. If you enjoy several sports (or think you will), you'll be more inclined toward buying a higher-tech and more costly wearable that you can use for virtually everything. (The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is a great choice.)
If you think you'll stay with running exclusively, then a basic and affordable device will fit the bill. Consider the Fitbit Charge HR as an entry-level model: it doesn’t have GPS, but it has a comfortable silicone strap and heart rate tracking in an easy-to-use app.
Connect With Other Runners
If you're new to the sport, it can be really encouraging to be mentored by someone more experienced. Take advantage of the wisdom you can glean a seasoned runner. Don't hesitate to ask questions, however silly they might seem to you.
We've all been new to something before, and we've all made mistakes, so please reach out to other runners you know for advice. Runners are generally very friendly people — and we all love to talk about running all the time, anyway.
With how popular running has become, it's no surprise that so many people are lacing up and registering for races for the first time. When you're first beginning your foray into running, remember to do so deliberately and cautiously to avoid injury and burnout. In due time, you'll find the inescapable joy that running brings, and you'll likely wonder why you didn't begin earlier.
About the author: Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan Chabert is an entrepreneur, husband, and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on RunnerClick.com, MonicasHealthMag.com, and NicerShoes.com, and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.