How to start running: 15 things you need to know

With more people wanting to lose weight or get in shape, running has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade with 42 million regular runners, according to a Runners USA report. Running is a great exercise with many benefits including weight loss, strengthening your cardiovascular system, and increased happiness by relieving stress.

Start running armed with these simple tips – you’ll take your run from minutes to miles, whether you’re a beginner or just getting back into shape.

Set realistic goals.

As a beginner, you should first write down some short-term goals that you can easily achieve. Post them on the fridge to remind you. They can be as simple as “Today I will exercise for five more minutes.” Take advantage of these small victories first to gain a sense of accomplishment before setting long-term goals. Later, as your career progresses, and to challenge yourself, set long-term goals that you can conquer. One day you may find yourself running a 5k, 10k, or 13.1 half marathon.

Start with the right shoes.

For a sport that relies on foot health, a quality pair of running shoes is the most important piece of equipment you’ll need. Deciding which shoe is right for you can seem daunting, but visit a running store where they have specialized staff trained to analyze your gait and recommend the best shoes for your style. A reasonable price for a good pair of running shoes will run anywhere from $75 to $100. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

Get the right clothes for running.

While you don’t have to break the bank to buy running clothes, it’s important to buy the right clothing. Cotton T-shirts and shorts will become heavy when wet with sweat, which can cause painful chafing on the skin. Invest in running gear made of 100% polyester or similar synthetic materials that wick away sweat and keep you more comfortable. Women should always wear a supportive sports bra to prevent permanent sagging of their breasts.

Feed your body.

Running will help you burn 400 calories or more per hour. But to get or keep a fit body, you have to replace them with healthy foods. “Your pre-run snack should spike your sugar, like a banana, energy bar or energy drink, says Coach Edwards. Running on an empty stomach isn’t good for your body or makes running fun.

Hydrate before running.

Beginners should pay attention to what and how much they drink before, during and after exercise. Staying hydrated is critical to your running performance and, more importantly, to preventing heat-related illnesses. Drink water often throughout the day. “The general rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 0.6 to determine the amount of water in ounces you should consume each day to keep your tissues healthy and free from injury,” says Trainer Edwards. Dehydration in runners can cause fatigue, headaches, decreased coordination, and muscle cramps.

Stretch before and after running.

Some research suggests that static stretching of cold muscles can cause injury. “Relax cold muscles with a light stretch to your quads, hamstrings, and calves to prevent shin splints, pulled hamstrings, and other common running injuries. Hold each stretch for 15 to 25 seconds. Add easy jumping jacks , a five-minute run, or a brisk walk,” says Elizabeth Edwards, a high school track coach and 9-time marathon runner. Cool down the same way to help maintain healthy range of motion in your joints and prevent muscles from tightening, which can cause inefficient form and injury.

Motivational music is cool.

While some runners find that music distracts them, many believe that music gives them an advantage when they liven up their tunes. “Research is mixed on the subject, but I use my music playlist to control my distance. One day a week I run without music to focus on my form,” says Coach Edwards. Other runners enjoy listening to books, podcasts, or motivational speeches to pass the time. Try what works best for you.

Start at a slow pace.

While you may feel like you can run a good distance pretty quickly, start with 20 to 30 minutes (your body will be surprised at how long that feels!). Don’t overdo it. Give your body a chance to adjust to this new activity. Gradually increase your distance with a walk-run plan until your stamina improves. Try to increase your running by 10 percent each week. You should be able to run and hold a conversation without getting out of breath. As you start to feel stronger, run more and walk less, the distance will naturally increase. Ultimately, this will help you feel better and stay injury free.

Think about your shape.

When starting out, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable during the first few weeks of racing, even if you’ve raced before and are starting over. Begin each running workout by thinking about good running form; make sure that:

– The head is balanced on the shoulders and focused forward.

– Shoulders are relaxed to allow your lungs to expand

– Arms are around 90 degrees and swing like a pendulum from your shoulders.

– Hands are relaxed and do not cross over the navel when the arms are swinging

– The hips are below the shoulders and stabilize the legs as they move under the body

– Feet land with short, light, quick strides under the hips

Decide where to run.

If you choose to run on a treadmill, your surface is stable and there are no worries about the weather. But, like many runners, you may need to head out the front door and run outside for a change of scenery. Running on sidewalks or roads is generally safe. But if you have to run on the highway, run facing traffic so you can react to distracted drivers. Wear bright or reflective clothing to improve visibility, especially before dawn or dusk. Drivers may not always see you, especially at night. School tracks are ideal places to start running, as they are flat, free of traffic, and four laps around most tracks equals one mile. Many tracks are available to the public at night or on weekends.

Running is safe.

Whether you’re racing near a police station or near a high-crime area, you should always think about safety first. You need to be confident in your runs, so that you are well enough to run another day. Take the necessary precautions by carrying a cell phone with you, carry identification with your name and phone number, and avoid dark or isolated areas. Remember to alter or vary your running routes to avoid stalkers. Be very careful when using headphones because you are less likely to hear a person approaching you. Consider running with a friend or a dog. The most important thing is to trust your intuition and avoid situations if you are not sure. If you think a situation doesn’t feel ‘right’, run in another direction.

Track your progress.

As you get stronger, start measuring your run by time and distance. There are easy-to-use running apps that track time, distance traveled, and calories burned. Tracking your run will help you stay motivated and see your progress.

Give it a break.

Now that you’re running, listen to your body. In most cases, expect some muscle aches and pains for a few days, especially in your quads and calves. Pain that persists or gets worse while walking or running are indicators that you may be pushing too hard. Back up a bit and you will continue to improve without injuring yourself. Rest is necessary for your muscles to repair and get stronger. “Depending on their fitness level, beginning runners should start resting every other day,” according to Edwards.

Reward your efforts.

After a week of workouts, reward yourself for all your hard work with your favorite food or drink, or purchase a racing-themed graphic tee to wear to your next race. It will motivate you for the next week.

Sign up for a race.

Once you feel better about your stamina, sign up for a 5K run. It’s a great way to add an extra boost of motivation while giving back to help raise money for the nonprofits of your choice. Registering is easy online.

Many people either love or hate running. Try running, it can change your life. Hopefully these running tips will get you started and make it fun. But the best advice is to fight the negative thoughts and move on. Once you get past that difficult barrier, the rewards will actually be more satisfying.

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