How to start running, stick with it and enjoy it

Man and women jogging across a bridge

Running with a friend is great for motivation

Want to get fit but can’t afford a pricey monthly gym membership? Thought about running, but worried that you’re not cut out for it (and yes, we all get out of breath running for the bus)? If so, you’re not alone.

Let me dispel some common running myths:

  1. You don’t have to be super fit. I mean this is kind of the point – you run to get fit.
  2. You don’t need a fancy heart rate monitor/GPS watch/ iPhone tracking device. Really.
  3. Running is for super skinny people in tight lycra and skimpy vests. If that’s your thinking, then please watch this video.

Why run?

Running can be hard work. You will get out of breath, sweaty and yes, you’ll probably ache a bit afterwards. So why do it?

Well for a start, it’s free! No expensive gym memberships or fitness plans. It’s easy to fit into your life; you can run whenever, wherever you want. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds then it burns more calories per hour than most other sports. But the best benefit? It makes you feel great. Running gets all those happiness-inducing endorphins racing round your body, so chances are, if you head out on your run feeling grumpy and stressed, by the time you get back you’ll be feeling more positive and relaxed.

Raring to go, but not sure where to start? Here are some top tips to start running, stick with it and – most important of all – enjoy it.

Get kitted out

Running is one of the cheapest sports. The one essential item you shouldn’t skimp on is a decent pair of trainers. And yes, I know you can probably get them cheaper on the internet, but I would really recommend going into a specialist running shop for your first pair of trainers. They will look at your foot shape and gait (how you run) and will be able to recommend the right pair of trainers for you. Your joints will thank you for it.

Start slow

If you’ve never run before, please, please don’t set out determined to run for an hour the very first time you lace up your brand shiny-new trainers. It will not happen. You will get ten minutes in, feel like crap and slink off back to your sofa feeling depressed.

The best running motto on starting out is ‘keep it slow’. Which probably means that for your first few outings, you’ll do more walking than running.

A good way to start off is by doing intervals: jogging slowly for one minute, then walking for two to recover. Do ten sets of this and you have a thirty minute workout. If that’s too much for you, then cut the times down – run for thirty seconds and walk for a minute and a half. Remember, your goal at this stage is to build up the time you spend running, not to go as fast as possible. If you’re sprinting the running sections, slow down and jog for longer.

If this is the first exercise you’ve done since leaving school then don’t run every day. Treat your body gently and ease into it. Try to set aside time three days a week and then stick to it.

I’ll let you into a secret. The day after you’ve done your first run you will probably sit on the edge of your bed, (try and) stand up, and wince. The second day may be worse… It’s normal to feel some aching in your muscles after running (or any workout), particularly if you’re not used to it. That’s why stretching after you run is so important (check out this excellent guide to stretching for beginners). But if you start feeling real pain, then stop and go and talk to your doctor.

Set a running goal

The best way to make sure you stick with your new running regime is to book a race. Preferably one where you have to pay – there’s nothing like a bit of financial investment to keep up motivation! It could be a one mile fun-run in the local park or a 5km charity run (such as the popular Race for Life) – it doesn’t matter. The key is that you’ve committed to it.

Run with other people

Running is often seen as a solitary sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Running with a friend is a great way to keep motivation up. It comes back to that commitment thing – if you both agree to meet every Tuesday evening after work then it’s harder to slink off home because it’s too cold/dark/wet.

Running with other people can also be more enjoyable. The ideal running pace, particularly when you’re starting out is one where you can talk whilst you run. You can be catching up on the last gossip and before you know it, your run is over. Workout done.

Can’t persuade a friend to join in? Then find a running group. (No, not that group of runners in matching club vests you see bounding up the hills.) There are hundreds of formal and informal groups focused on helping and supporting beginner runners. Many of them are free and some even offer incentives, such as the Sweatshop Running Community.

Don’t give up

This is the hard part. Particularly when winter comes. However, the key to sticking with your running is actually quite simple:

  1. Persistence
  2. Routine

Schedule your running time into your diary and stick to it. If something comes up that’s really non-negotiable, then reschedule your session. Remember, running can be done anytime, anywhere. Everyone can make excuses. Don’t be one of those people.

Look back at all the progress you’ve made since that first hard and sweaty run. Remember how good you feel after those runs (and how good that cake tasted knowing you’ve deserved it). Then lace up those trainers and head out the door.

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