You can’t start a new year without talking about goals and resolutions, right? Whether it’s to get in shape or improve overall health, starting a running routine is always a popular New Year’s resolution. However, many people take on too much too soon and get injured or burnt out—and then end up not running at all. But that won’t be you! Follow this beginner’s guide to start running, avoid injury, achieve your goals, and enjoy your miles! There are no insider secrets, just a few simple strategies that can help anyone looking to get started.
1. Start with run-walk intervals
If running for 3 miles straight or even a mile straight sounds intimidating, there’s no need to worry. Run-walk intervals are a proven method for beginning a lifelong habit of running. Run-walk intervals are the best way to start running without causing injury or overtaxing your body so much that you quit before you get into a running routine.
Run-walk intervals also control the effort of your run. Running is hard, but each run doesn’t need to be (nor should be) a gut-busting effort. Walk breaks help you control your breathing and keep your pace under control, so you aren’t struggling to finish by the end.
Run-walk intervals are simple to do. Use your phone to track the time and divide a 20-30 minute run up into short repeats of running and walking. The length of the run intervals and walk intervals depends on your current level of fitness.
- Those new to exercise may start with 30-60 seconds running, 1-minute walking.
- People with a good fitness base from other sports or activities may start with 2-4 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking.
Every couple of weeks, increase the duration of your running intervals or shorten your walk interval until you are running continuously.
2. Keep your miles easy
Running doesn’t mean you have to sprint at your maximum effort. Running is most beneficial and enjoyable when done at a moderate intensity. While your effort will be higher than if you were walking, try to run at an effort where you can still talk if needed without gasping for breath. You want to finish feeling as if you could run for at least another few minutes.
Easy also applies to the frequency of your runs and the volume of your training. Start with 20-30 minutes of running or run-walk intervals three times per week. There’s no need to run every day, especially when you first start out!
3. Eat right before and after the run
Even if you are running to lose weight, you do not want to run on an empty stomach when you are first starting out. Running requires energy, which your body gets from both carbohydrates and fat. Without any food in the couple of hours before a run, your blood sugar may be low and cause you to feel sluggish or even light-headed during your workout.
It’s important to make sure you eat within an hour of completing your run as well. Your muscles are eager to replace the carbohydrates they burned, and by replenishing these stores, you help promote recovery and prepare your body for your next run. Protein is important after a run as well, since your muscles need it to repair. Plus, eating after a run will keep your appetite in check and prevent you from feeling ravenous later.
Aim for a small snack after your run, or run before a normal meal. Pick nutritious foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and lean protein.
There’s no need to eat during your runs when you begin running. Gels and other sports nutrition foods are unnecessary if you are running for less than 75-90 minutes. Your muscles store enough carbohydrates in the form of glycogen to fuel running for less than 90 minutes, especially if you are eating a nutritious diet with complex carbohydrates.
4. Keep a training log
You may have a running buddy or a coach to keep you accountable, but ultimately you need to be accountable to yourself.
A training log lets you track your progress and see how far you’ve come—which is why it’s a must-have for any new runner. When you can look back and see visible progress over the past months, you are more likely to keep running and pushing yourself a little bit more each week!
5. Build your foundation first
Focus on building your foundation before tackling races and long-distance running. This means you should wait until you have at least six months of running (or run-walking) as a base before you decide to train for a half marathon or marathon. There will always be time to race, but those first few months of running are critical for adapting your musculoskeletal system to the physiological demands of running.
By spending a few months developing your running form, strengthening your muscles and joints, and building your aerobic base, you’ll reduce your risk of injury later.
Here at SPIbelt, it's our mission to help you live your best active life. If you're starting a new running routine, check out The SPIbelt to keep your phone, keys, and ID/money safe while you're out!