becoming a runner

The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Runner

You’ve made the decision that you want to change your life. Becoming a runner can certainly do the trick. However, running is an intense sport. It comes with many physical and psychological rewards if you’re willing to put in the work.

If you’re just starting out and want to explore the possibilities, dreams, and challenges of running, congratulations! You’ve already made the first step, as much of running is a mental endeavor as much as it is physical.

When you’re ready to take the first step, this guide will help you get started.

Are You in Good Physical Condition to Run?

First, consider your overall physical condition. There are several underlying ailments that a doctor may advise against a running program.

Some of the conditions include the following:

  • You are sick with a respiratory illness such as the flu or COVID-19
  • You had a recent asthma flare-up
  • You have a concussion
  • You experience extreme and persistent fatigue
  • You have back problems
  • You have heart problems

As always, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Running is a strenuous activity no matter your age or physical condition.

Getting the Right Gear

Now that your health is in check, it’s time to lace up your sneakers and get started.

The first step is making sure you have the right gear for running. While you can slip on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, you have to beware that some clothing can cause chaffing and rashes.

When It comes to running clothes, shoes running gear that is specifically made for exercise. This can help reduce discomfort and chafing.

You also want to remember the type of socks you were wearing. Do not wear cotton socks when you were running, as they will cause blistering.

The secret is to wear socks that are made from polyester. A polyester and cotton blend will work well, too. Check to make sure it is a combination such as 80% polyester and 20% cotton. The higher amount of polyester, the better.

Choosing The Best Running Shoes

It’s extremely important to understand that not all running shoes are created equal. In fact, choosing the wrong running shoes can lead to injury and having you sign lied when you just are getting started.

The easiest approach to finding the right running shoes is visiting a specialty running store. This does not mean sports stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods. There are running stores that are dedicated to helping people find the right running shoes.

The reason why this is important it’s because they can study your gait. There are several types of gaits, including neutral, pronating, and overpronating.

Each gait should be fitted with the proper type of shoe. This will ensure that you are getting the correct amount of support when you run.

What happens if you choose the wrong running shoes? You can end up with blisters, muscle injuries, and more.

Some of the most popular running shoes include Brooks, Saucony, and ASICS. Remember that comfort and correct fit should be your focus, not the color of the shoe.

becoming a runner

Selecting a Running Program

Theoretically, you can step outside and just start running. This can work, but you might not get very far. This is especially true if you don’t have much of an athletic background.

To be successful at your new running adventure, it’s advisable to choose a running program. You can find many of these online for all kinds of experience levels in physical conditions.

One of the most popular running programs available today is the Couch to 5K program. This program is specifically designed to take new runners from sitting on the couch to running a 5K, which is equivalent to 3.1 miles without stopping.

The program begins by having you run for a 60-second interval. This is alternated by walking for a short period of time, around two minutes. You will continue this plan for a week and then the next week you will progress to more running and less walking time.

You are able to access the couch to 5K program by downloading an app on your phone. The app will talk to you as you run and tell you when to stop and start.

The other option is you can review the plan online and use a wristwatch to keep track of your time as you go. A Garmin or Apple Watch can track your pace. 

The entire program takes nine weeks to finish. If you don’t make it to 3.1 miles by the end, you should at least be able to run for 30 minutes straight without stopping. It all depends on your running pace.

What Is A Normal Running Pace?

This question varies significantly depending on your age in gender. Men tend to be slightly faster than women, but women can certainly be full of speed and agility.

Average mile times can come between 10 to 12 minutes. If you are faster or slower, there is really no need to overanalyze. The most important takeaway is that speed will come. You do not have to force yourself to reach a certain pace when you are becoming a runner. In fact, this is highly advised against doing.

How To Pace Yourself when Becoming a Runner 

When it comes to pacing yourself, a mistake that many people make is taking off at full speed at the beginning of the run. This is a recipe for disaster and burnout. 

The right approach is to begin your run with a slow and easy pace. You should be able to converse with a running partner, whether you actually have one or not.

If you cannot carry a conversation when you run, you are running too hard. As the run progresses, you can focus on improving your time. 

It’s recommended that you first focus on completing the distance and then worry about your speed. As you practice, you will become faster.

How Far Should You Run?

The distance of your first runs should be short. You cannot expect to walk out the door and complete a 5-mile run. 

With couch to 5K, you may complete around a mile and a half for the first run. This will continue for at least a week until you build up. The general rule is to increase your runs each week by 10%. This formula can help you prevent injury.

Eventually, you will build up to where 3 miles feels relatively easy. Once you reach this level, you will end up building a weekly mileage base that you can spring off of each week

Your weekly mileage base depends a lot on your goals and if you were training for any type of formal race. Generally, most people who plan to run a 5K race competitively will run 20 to 25 miles per week

Becoming a Runner: Running Long Distances

The number of miles considered as a long run is also subjective. Some people consider 5 miles a long run, while others say 20 miles is their long run.

There is no right answer, and no matter the distance you choose you must work up to it. You must be patient and consistent to reach the mileage amount that you desire.

If you have mastered the 5k distance and you are ready for a bigger challenge, the next logical step is a 10K. This is equal to 6.2 miles.

Not surprisingly, there are also apps that can help you train for a 10K beginning at a 5K level.

The 10K race creates the perfect bridge to the half marathon distance. A half marathon is a little over double the distance of a 10k at 13.1 miles.

You can then graduate to marathon level, which is 26.2 miles.

No matter the distance, you’ll want to train accordingly. This can make the experience more enjoyable and drastically reduce the potential of injury.

The Importance of Stretching & Other Tips for Becoming a Runner 

When you complete your run, you’ll want to make sure that you stretch. Static stretches are OK for the end of a run, but you don’t want to begin your run this way. If you wish to start your run with a stretch, do kinetic stretches instead.

Muscle groups that you’ll want to target include your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and hips. 

Another difference that can make an impact on the performance is hydration. Be sure to drink before you run as well as after. 

Keeping your nutrition on-point is also essential for performance. Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption, which can contribute to dehydration. Focus on eating clean and nutritious foods with plenty of protein. You’ll need it for muscle growth and building when you incorporate weight training into your routine.

As your personal trainer, my goal is to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals. Coming with a wide knowledge of fitness and nutrition disciplines, feel confident choosing a plan to help you become the best version of yourself!