How to Start Running Today and Not Next Monday

Everyone’s path to running is different.

I got into running in order to combat my depressive states, that was my way of staving them off. I’d hardly call those runs proper trainings now, though.

To my surprise, this actually helped me and eventually changed my entire lifestyle.

Everyone’s got their own reason for getting into running, but once they try, their attitudes are either “Running’s not for me” or “I’m actually beginning to enjoy this”.

In this post I’ll be sharing my personal experience and trying to give you as much information as possible on how to begin running so that your introduction to it ends up being a cool new discovery.


How do I start running?

How to start running
How do I start running?

If you want to get into running, you’ll need:

  • Expensive running shoes (for winter AND summer)
  • A decent sports watch for at least 150$
  • A chest heart rate monitor for at least 100$
  • The latest supertechnological wardrobe for at least 1000$ in total
  • A functional diagnostics test
  • A personal trainer

JUST KIDDING.

You’ve wasted your time reading this, you won’t be needing any of that on your first training.

Motivation is the most important aspect for any newbie. 

Running begins with energy.

As someone who already has a couple years of experience under his belt, I can motivate myself to go out for a run quite easily. Even at the end of a hard day at work, I know that I’ll feel much better after a run.

As for beginners, I would recommend running when you feel like you have enough energy. If you try and force yourself through your first trainings, you probably won’t be left with the best impression of the experience. I know people who claim they never have enough energy, but even they have their own peak time during the day.

When you get more accustomed to running, you’ll be able to determine your optimal state for running.

Make sure your inner procrastinator is silent and go out for a run!

Motivation

Marathon runners training for the Olympics in Athens (1896)
Marathon runners training for the Olympics in Athens (1896). This was the first Olympic marathon which was 34,5 km (21,4 miles)

You’re probably sick of this word at this point because of how overused it is. Nonetheless, endurance running is rarely anyone’s love at first sight.

I haven’t met anyone who went running for the first time and said: “Well, I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life!”. This is why you have to keep your desire to run alive.

Unfortunately, not everyone has leftover energy, which is why you will have to find it first.

A 9-5 job, bills, the daily bustle – it all even sounds boring. Your task is to find your own source of motivation: your desire to look fit, to be healthy and improve your endurance, to impress that girl/guy you see run by every once in a while; an inspiring YouTube video, the prospect of seeing a beautiful sunset during your run etc.

Many will find it easier to start running with someone. That’s ok, but I’d recommend alternating this kind of training with solo ones, because in my personal experience, running with other people can be quite distracting at times.

There are many running clubs which you can join for free if you want to dive headfirst into the running community.

I haven’t met anyone who went running for the first time and said: “Well, I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life!”

A great way of motivating yourself is registering for an official race.

Choose a distance based on your capabilities and general fitness and sign up!

I wouldn’t recommend signing up for a marathon if you only have 3 months left to prepare. Pick a distance which will be both realistic and challenging.

How I motivated myself (or how I quit smoking with the help of running)

When I first got into running, I was smoking a pack a day, barely controlled my eating habits, enjoyed a beer or two in the evening and didn’t really have any kind of schedule.

Let me clarify here: I’m not exactly a health nut and I don’t know how many calories are in my dinner. I still enjoy good food and an (occasional) drink.

In the beginning, every training seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

I could barely run 3 km with a couple of breathers at an incredibly slow pace (of course, I wasn’t tracking it at that time). Running seemed like a strange activity, which is why i preferred to go out for runs after dark. That soon changed after I tripped over a couple of unidentified objects. 

Now, smoking a cigarette after a run seems odd to me, but at that time it was totally fine for me. At some point I realized that there’s got to be more of one and less of the other and, since I had been a smoker for 6 years then, I thought I’d introduce something healthy to my life. That is how quitting smoking became my goal.

The more I ran, the less I smoked. In the beginning I only smoked a couple of hours before my training and didn’t smoke after, then I stopped smoking on my training days, which eventually led to just a couple of cigarettes a week. From a couple of cigarettes a week to zero – those are the two steps I made successfully.

Running locations

Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Lavaredo Ultra Trail. 120 km (74,5 miles) of running through the Dolomites

I tried to run in circles on a stadium near my house. Nothing kills motivation as much as this. I like it when I see the picture change before my eyes, even better when the picture looks good.

How to Start Running Today and Not Next Monday 1

It’s much better if this place is not near an active road and if you can plan your route so that you can adapt it to any distance.

Does your route include a change from an asphalted pavement and go offroad? If so, even better! There’s a forest nearby? You’re in luck! Does it go uphill at some point? Great. Any kind of variety is good.

There’s a popular opinion in the running community that trail running is the best kind as opposed to running on concrete pavements. As I found out, there is no actual scientific proof of this whatsoever.

Running shoes and clothes

My first running shoes were about 10 years old when I first started running. They were Nike Dart 8’s which I bought for my PE classes in college.

I picked them for a very simple reason – their color allowed me not to wash them that often.

Nike Dart 8
My first running shoes, Nike Dart 8

I went on my first trainings and ran my first half-marathon in these sneakers. They had already been worn to death at that point which I only realized when I got myself a new pair.

I never really cared about the rest of my wardrobe until a certain point, only running mattered.

Not long after I bought myself a new pair of running shoes, I began to realize that I had been running practically barefoot up until that point and that there was actually no need to torture my own feet on a 15 kilometer run.

After that, I got a new technological t-shirt, then tights, running socks and so on. Once you try special technological clothes for running, you can’t just go back 🙂

Under Armour Horizon RTT GTX
I have a pair of sneakers specifially for running in winter, but that might not be necessary depending on how cold it gets in your area and where you run

How I dress for my trainings

20C+ (68F+, warm/hot weather):

  • Light sneakers
  • Synthetic shorts
  • T-shirt or a longsleeve (sometimes I run without a shirt, but only after dark)
  • Medium or short socks

10-20C (50-68F, cool weather):

  • Light sneakers
  • Synthetic leggings or shorts
  • Longsleeve
  • Light hoodie if needed
  • Medium socks
  • Hat if needed

0-10C (32-50F, really cool weather):

  • Light/trail sneakers
  • Synthetic leggings or cotton sweatpants
  • Longsleeve
  • Light hoodie 
  • Windbreaker if needed
  • Long socks
  • Hat
  • Gloves

0C (32F and lower, cold weather):

  • Trail sneakers
  • Cotton sweatpants
  • Compression baselayer shirt
  • Thick hoodie 
  • Windbreaker
  • Long thick socks
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff

The abovementioned wardrobe served me reasonably well in temperatures as low as -20C (-4F).

You can only find “your own” running clothes through practice

You shouldn’t sweat too much or be too cold during winter runs. Afterwards, you should hop into a shower and change into dry clothes.

Gadgets

How to Start Running Today and Not Next Monday 2
Chest HRM’s

Most likely, you won’t be needing any during your first training.

Of course, you might want to know the distance you ran and your tempo on said distance, but your phone will do the job well enough.

I wouldn’t recommend keeping the phone in your hand, so it’s better to at least keep it in your pocket.

If you have any kind of fitness bracelet – run with it, you may get some additional information which could interest you.

My ration before trainings

What I eat before I go out for a run
What I eat before I go out for a run

No ration can be applied to everyone universally, so I can only share what I eat before my trainings.

In the morning and before official races I eat porridge or cereal and I avoid heavy products such as meat. I wash it all down with black tea.

If I’m going for a run after work, I eat organic energy bars (nuts, fruits, chocolate, rice or oat flakes) and black tea to save time, or cereal with yogurt and black tea. I eat all that about 30 minutes to 1 hour before my training if I’m hungry. Depending on how much I eat, this gives me enough energy for an hour to 1 hour and a half of productive physical activity.

If we’re talking about full meals, I eat about 2-3 hours before the training, but that’s less dependent on time than the feeling that my stomach won’t get in the way of my training.

Try and find a ration that works for you

There are some things I noticed about myself with time. If I drink a cup of coffee a couple of hours before my training, I can feel a significant negative effect on my pulse and my endurance. That is why I only drink coffee way before the training or I don’t drink it that day at all.

On the other hand, Nike’s official website recommends coffee lovers not to add any sugar and drink it with milk.

All you have to do is try things out and find a ration that works for you.

The beginning of your run

How to Start Running Today and Not Next Monday 3
“I’m very fast. I’m like Forrest Gump”

First runs aren’t easy for most people, not just because your body isn’t prepared, but also because of self-consciousness. I solved that problem a long time ago – I pretty much faked it until I made it by trying to look much more experienced than I actually was and went for runs when there were fewer people outside. I don’t think anyone actually cared enough to notice me, but I felt more comfortable that way.

If you’re embarrassed by other people in the beginning – don’t worry, almost everyone is.

Warming up

I warm up my joints intuitively for about 5 minutes and start the training off by power-walking. You don’t have to spend a set amount of time on your warm up, it’s enough for me to warm up all of my joints from top (neck) to bottom (feet)

Some runners claim that you don’t really need to warm up before a light run, but a warm-down is necessary.

Pace

There’s a famous rule: run at a pace which allows you to talk normally. Don’t get ahead of yourself, start out very slow.

"Slow runners make fast runners look good. You're welcome!"
“Slow runners make fast runners look good. You’re welcome!”

If jogging proves to be too difficult, switch to a power walk. You have your own pace and the main goal is to keep physical activity fun. A couple of power walking trainings will help your body adapt and you’ll be running in no time.

Your current training should motivate you to go for the next one. Have fun!

Pulse

When I first started running, my only point of reference about my pulse were my own feelings. This led me to getting into high pulse zones, which caused fatigue and occasional headaches after my trainings. Thankfully, this didn’t have any lasting negative impacts on my health but it certainly wasn’t helping me either.

I only began making steady progress when I started tracking my pulse and I wrote an entire article about that.

I recommend going slow on your first trainings. Start with a power walk and then switch to jogging.

Remember: the point isn’t to be as fast or faster than others. Too difficult? Walk. Too easy? Try running a couple of kilometers, get used to your pace, and after a few trainings you can try and improve it.

Running form

Running form is quite a controversial topic in the running community. There are two main forms: heel strike and forefoot strike. The first one is commonly thought of as wrong, but that’s not entirely true.

You don’t need to pay attention to that on your first trainings, run as it comes naturally to you. There are a few recommendations that are useful to keep in mind, but there’s no point concentrating on them on your first trainings.

Running Form Infographic
Running Form

What seems important to me: watch how tense your muscles are and relax them. My trapezius used to get really tense during long runs and my shoulders would rise up.

Running should be as conservative as possible, in the sense that you should use the minimal possible amount of energy on each step and find movements that will amortize every step

Well-being

Do not forget to monitor the overall well-being of your body. I felt different pains all over my body during my first runs and simply ignored it.

Lowering your pace will help you get rid of the pain almost in every case: be it in your sides, your calves, shins or feet. Slow down to a walking pace, and as soon as the pain goes away, stay in that pace or speed up a little. Your body needs to get used to being strained.

Don’t run in spite of sharp pain or the kind of pain that doesn’t go away once you slow down.

If you have any traumas or illnesses that might get in the way of your running, you should see a sports physician.

Running after illness is a different subject altogether. I once got pneumonia which lasted for about a month. It took me 4 weeks to fully recover and run 10 km in a pace I was used to. Keep in mind that no illness goes without its consequences and you will need some time to get back in the saddle; you might feel like you’re trying to start running again after years of inactivity. Don’t worry, this won’t last forever.

Running programs

Before you go for your first run, I suggest you get familiar with the most popular running program so that you understand the logic behind trainings. I’m not saying you should follow it to a T on your fist runs, but I do recommend familiarizing yourself with the logic of basic running programs.

I structured my trainings according to how I felt until I reached a proverbial ceiling. Sometimes you can’t trust those feelings, which is why I recommend at least following this basic rule: increase the strain gradually.

Pre-made programs help you be more confident in what you’re doing and represent the correct structure of trainings which won’t harm you and will, perhaps, help you reach your goals.

Nonetheless, there’s no need to follow a given program to the tiniest details, you can adjust it for your own preferences and abilities.

C25K

A running program for those who still aren’t sure if this whole thing is a good idea.

As the name suggests, this program will show you how to start training for a 5k distance (3.1 miles) or 30 minutes of running and get results in 9 weeks. Three trainings a week for 2,5 months. That’s a great time frame to achieve noticeable progress and increase running distance for beginners.

You can find the plan here, but I’ll put it here for convenience’s sake:

WeekWorkout 1Workout 2Workout 3
1Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Same as Workout 1 of this weekSame as Workout 1 of this week
2Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.Same as Workout 1 of this weekSame as Workout 1 of this week
3Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
Jog 200 metres
(or 90 seconds)
Walk 200 metres
(or 90 seconds)
Jog 400 metres
(or 3 minutes)
Walk 400 metres
(or three minutes)
Same as Workout 1 of this weekSame as Workout 1 of this week
4Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
Jog 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Walk 200m
(or 90 seconds)
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Walk 400m
(or 2-1/2 minutes)
Jog 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Walk 200m
(or 90 seconds)
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Same as Workout 1 of this weekSame as Workout 1 of this week
5Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Walk 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Walk 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
Jog 1.2km
(or 8 minutes)
Walk 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Jog 1.2km
(or 8 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3.2km (or 20 minutes) with no walking.
6Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Walk 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Jog 1.2km
(or 8 minutes)
Walk 400m
(or 3 minutes)
Jog 800m
(or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
Jog 1.6km
(or 10 minutes)
Walk 400m or 3 minutes)
Jog 1.6km
(or 10 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3.6km (or 25 minutes) with no walking.
7Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4km (or 25 minutes).Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4km (or 25 minutes).
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4km (or 25 minutes).
8Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4.5km
(or 28 minutes).
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4.5km
(or 28 minutes).
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 4.5km
(or 28 minutes).
9Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 5km (or 30 minutes).Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 5km (or 30 minutes).The final workout! Congratulations! Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 5km (or 30 minutes).

The main advantage of this program is the fact that it doesn’t just throw the hard stuff at you right away and it helps you develop your own running routine.

If you start feeling like it’s too easy for you, try and rework the program so that you can run a longer distance in 2,5 months.

The logic is quite simple: you alternate between running and walking and gradually increase how much you run vs how much you walk

If it’s too difficult for you, adjust it for your abilities as well.

Running apps

Running app for beginners
Running app for beginners

If you’re just trying to get into running, what you need is motivation, not raw data about your pace, the angle of the climb and mileage.

In short, I’d recommend:

  • Zombie’s Run – This is not just an app, but a whole game you play while running;
  • Adidas Running – Running app from Adidas. I’m testing the premium version which I’m using to start training for a half marathon;
  • Garmin Connect – a really nice app, even if you don’t have any gadgets from Garmin itself;
  • Strava – running, cycling, swimming – the most popular running app in the world, but it’s not without its faults;
  • Nike Running App – a ton of brilliant ideas, but it’s poorly optimized for iOS which is why I’m not using it anymore.

Conclusion

  1. You should go on your fist trainings when you have enough energy
  2. Find something that will motivate you not to give up running before you even start having fun with it
  3. Find a place you like near to you where you can run
  4. Don’t pay too much attention to gear such as clothes and sneakers on your first training. If you can afford it, though, look for running gear specifically.
  5. Just your phone will be enough for the first couple of trainings so that you can see your mileage. But, again, if you can afford it, pick a nice gadget.
  6. Don’t overeat before your trainings and find a ration that works for you
  7. Warming up your joints will do you a world of good
  8. Find your own pace, don’t try to be faster than anyone
  9. Keep your pulse low by starting with walking and switch to a jog which is slightly faster than a power walk
  10.  Get familiar with the basics of the running form, but don’t concentrate on that too much and run as it comes naturally
  11.  Most of you will start getting pains in the most unexpected body parts. Lower your pace and then build it up again. Don’t run through sharp pain
  12.  Check out a couple of running programs for beginners and try training with them if it helps you.
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