Running is one of the easiest ways to start working out, as you don’t need specialized equipment or detailed how-to lessons before beginning. As a fast way to boost cardiovascular fitness, running also helps maintain or improve bone density as a weight-bearing exercise. And, if you are looking to lose weight, running can be one of the most efficient ways to burn calories.
On the other hand, starting a new exercise regimen can be daunting, even if it doesn’t require learning new rules or new techniques. Here are a few tips on what to do if you’re new to running as an exercise.
Invest in running shoes. Any old pair of sneakers won’t cut it if you plan on running consistently. Invest in footwear designed for running and has excellent impact absorption to help lessen the wear-and-tear on your joints. Salespeople at athletic footwear stores may be able to help guide you to shoes that will fit your arch, gait and pronation (which describes which side of your foot makes the most initial contact with the ground). Also, consider what substrate you will be running on mostly; concrete, track or treadmill—each has their own particular needs.
Start with a walk-run. Particularly true for those who have not been exercising at all, the best way to start running is to alternate walking with running. Instead of running for the entire duration of the work out or length of the distance, begin by walking, then build up to a jog. Drop back down to a walk for another few minutes, before ramping it back up to a jog. This way you’ll gradually build up the cardiovascular and muscle strength needed for continuous running.
With a good app or timer, this interval training can be achieved outdoors, but treadmill running would be easier as you can monitor and adjust your speed while easily keeping an eye on the time. Some treadmills come already calibrated with interval programs.
Additional benefits of this alternating method is that interval exercise has been demonstrated as a great way to torch calories. As you become more comfortable with running, you can continue to cycle running with sprints to keep the benefits of interval training.
Find a running buddy. As with most new exercise programs, finding like-minded people with similar goals is a great way to keep up your motivation. Setting up a schedule to meet and run will prevent you from simply dropping out as you are accountable to other people. Whether it’s outdoors through your neighborhood, in a park or on side-by-side on treadmills, it can be a great way to catch up with a friend or bond with a loved one.
Strength train and stretch. Strength training and stretching will help you prevent injuries while running. Building up leg, core, and upper body muscles will improve your performance and form. Stretching will improve your flexibility and range of motion.
Figure out what works for you. While tips on running form can help reduce injury and improve performance, you need to adjust according to what feels right for you. Everyone’s body is different, so watch videos on form and technique and then try it out for yourself. Generally, try to keep your body relaxed, and direct your motion forward and not up-and-down (like bouncing).
Find out what motivates you. If you hate working out inside, find a local park or a safe route through your neighborhood. If you have major allergies or live in an area without safe running routes, running on a treadmill might be a better option for you. Whatever you do, find the spark that keeps you running consistently.
Start slow, use these tips and be consistent in your running schedule and soon you’ll transition from a newbie runner to running races.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from Southern California whose writing covers a range of topics, including health and beauty, fitness and health and tech and gaming. In addition to managing her own business, she loves to live an active lifestyle and enjoys running in the California sun.