In some ways, it’s easy to “become” a runner. All a wannabe runner need is a will to try something new and commit to it. In other ways, it’s not as simple as suiting up and getting out there. Starting a running routine can be intimidating, discouraging and uncomfortable in ways you might not have imagined.
However, there’s something special that happens when you lace up your sneakers and start running regularly. Of course, the health benefits are undeniable, like a decreased mortality rate, upped self esteem, decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and better mood — all while torching calories in the process (a 150-pound person burns an estimated 680 calories running for 60 minutes at a casual pace). But then there’s the other things, like the feel-good vibes that carry you from the moment you’re done striding and an overwhelming sense of appreciation for all that hard work.
Here, we offer the just-get-started tips you need to make picking up the pace a part of your regular routine.
FOCUS ON TIME OVER MILEAGE OR SPEED
When I started running more than 10 years ago, I focused on running for the same amount of time every single day. It was only 15 minutes, and that 15 minutes felt like hell. However, that 15 minutes got easier and became something I looked forward to; my “me time.” You don’t have to run a certain distance to reap the better-health benefits, either. Research shows spending just 30 minutes running is enough to lift the mood of someone suffering from major depressive disorder.
FIND THE PROPER FOOTWEAR
“Starting a new program will already have it’s fair share of aches and pains as you adapt,” says Rich Velazquez, COO and coach at Mile High Run Club, a treadmill-based studio in New York City. “Minimize anything that can be extensive by ensuring you’re in the shoe that supports your movement the best.”
The question arises: How do I know that? You could go to a specialty run store to get fit for a new pair of sneakers. Typically they’ll analyze your gait (the way your fit hits the ground) to best-recommend a pair of kicks. Regardless, the shoes you find the most comfortable from the get-go may be the best when it comes to preventing injury, according to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
PRE-PLAN YOUR RUNNING ROUTES
There’s something special about heading out for a run without a plan, but sometimes it’s easier to motivate with a plan or route in mind. Otherwise, your run could become a quick jog around the block and to the couch for a Netflix marathon. “Minimize as many surprises as possible,” suggests Velazquez. “Know where water fountains, shared pathways, sidewalks, mass transit, will be just in case needed.”
No matter how much you start to enjoy running, it could be good to start with an every-other day approach at first. “This will help to combat the inevitable aches and pains that come with any new exercise,” says Velazquez. “Use those off days to strength train or do another activity you enjoy. This will help prevent things from getting mundane, too.”
Research shows that habit formation can vary from person to person, but, on average, ranges around 66 days (or just over two months) according to University College London research. The fact is, most people don’t pick up an entire new routine and fall in love right off the bat. Once running becomes something that feels natural to you, then you can mix up some more variables, like duration, speeds and inclines.
BRING A FRIEND ALONG
There’s nothing more unifying than conquering a task together, especially if it’s during what you would consider otherwise-dreadful miles. One University of Aberdeen study revealed that working out with a partner can make you exercise more often. Find a friend who you feel like has the same skill level as you, pound some pavement and then make plans afterward to grab smoothies and refuel. It’s a whole new kind of happy hour. If your friend is in another city, studies show virtual running partners help, too.