How to Start Running for Beginners

Person running
Image by Zac Ong

If you’re thinking about becoming a runner, you’re not alone. I started running my freshman year of college, and I have never EVER been a runner. If you read my blogpost about what I’ve learned in twenty-three years, you’ll know that running was never something that came naturally to me.

Within four years I was able to run ten miles at a time. Crazy right? We all know running is incredible for our health, both mental and physical. What’s stopping you?

So if you’re like me five years ago and want to start running, let’s do this together.

Figure Out Why You Want To Run

I started running because I knew that I should exercise, and I loved the idea of being able to workout basically anywhere. Running is a great way to get fit because it works out your whole body and requires very little equipment.

Which is great, because I’m broke out of my mind right now. And you might be too. Even if you have the money to spend on a gym membership, running lets you explore your area, get some fresh air, and feel the breeze of stinky fish hit your face if you run by Echo Park in Los Angeles like I do.

The first step to becoming a runner is to figure out your motivation. Do you want to get fit? Do you want to run for a charity event? Are you tired of being passed by old ladies with walkers? Whatever your reason, remind yourself everyday.

Make a fun graphic or poster next to your bathroom mirror. Make a mantra and repeat it to yourself every morning.

Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra Running Guide
Finding Ultra by Rich Roll // Image from Amazon

A great resource for getting motivated to run is Rich Roll’s book Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself. He’s a student athlete turned middle-aged dad bod turned incredibly fit, crazy-distance runner.

Find your reason to run and make it the reason you DO run.

Find a Good App

Apps are a great way to stay on track and build routines. Below is a list of apps I’ve used at some point in my running career. All of them have helped me go from not doing any exercise at all to being able to run 5-6 times a week.

  • Couch to 5k (C25K) – beginning runner to 5K runner
  • Couch to 10k (C210K) – beginning runner to 10K runner
  • Map My Run by Underarmor – GPS tracks calories and distance
  • Charity Miles – earns your favorite charity money for each mile
  • RockMyRun – matches specific music to a running speed

I’ve also heard great things about Strava, which basically builds a community of other runners around you and tracks your data with precision and detail.

There are tons of great running apps out there. All you have to do is pick one and give it a try. Don’t give up. You can do it!

Dress In Your Running Clothes

This might seem silly, but one of the best ways to make sure you go on a run is to dress in your running clothes. Even if you end up sitting on the couch for another fifteen minutes scrolling through social media, in the back of your mind will be a little voice calling out, “Hey you look like you’re going to go running, are you gonna? Hey! HEY! Go running! You look like you’re going to exercise!”

On days when I really don’t want to run — and yes those days still come to me, I put on my running gear, including shoes and armband, and just wait for that voice to push me out the door.

Go First Thing In the Morning

Runners in  the morning
Run first thing in the morning // Image by Tomasz Wozniak

We have busy lives, and I often tell myself that I don’t have time to run. But running three miles, as I’m currently doing, can take only an extra thirty minutes of my time. So, in order to convince myself that I do have the time, I often go right in the morning.

Going right in the morning has a lot of benefits, the best one being it’s done with right away. It’s also great for boosting your metabolism, waking you up, and getting a morning meditation.

If your schedule is too crazy to run in the morning, or you’d have to wake up at 4 a.m. to run (it’s not fun, I know), don’t sweat it. The important thing is to pick a time and be consistent. Like having to take a medication at the same time every day, by setting a running schedule, you ensure that you have it down as part of your routine.

Remind Yourself How Good You’ll Feel After

One way to get me to go on a run is to remind myself about how great I feel after. I feel accomplished. I feel like I started my day off right. I feel like I can get on with my day without a constant nagging voice in my head telling me to get off my lazy butt.

Instead of telling yourself negative parts about your run, only remind yourself about the good parts. Have you been doing great with your goal hitting? Don’t stop now! Did you just hit your personal record (PR)? Keep running, and it might get even better.

A positive attitude is key with running, as starting off can be pretty discouraging. Keep your chin up and remind yourself that each day you’re improving a little more.

Make It Non-negotiable: Running Schedules

A running schedule is key to ensure you stay on track. Whether you run every other day or certain days like Monday-Wednesday, it’s important to actually nail down when you’re going to run.

If your schedule is all loosely-goosey, you run the risk of a cop-out. I’m sure you’ve said, “Oh, I’ll run tomorrow.” And then tomorrow comes, and you end up saying the same thing. I’ve done it more often than I care to admit.

Schedule it on your phone or write it on a physical calendar. Tell yourself that you have an important meeting that can’t be missed between you, your running shoes, and the rest of the world.

Set Small, Achievable Goals

Starting out with the goal of running ten miles after a month or running seven days a week is probably not going to work for you. Most apps will have programs with stepping-stone goals. Usually it’s around three times a week with increases in the amount you run each day.

Person taking steps while running
Take steps to achieve your running goals // Image by Bruno Nascimento

It’s good to have your own goals too. Add a couple lines to your reason to run or mantra. What do you want to do this week? This month?

Another great way to add practical goals is to sign up for a 5K or 10K pretty far in advance. Consider signing up for a run that’s relaxed, themed, or for a charity you love. There’s color runs, zombie runs, Batman runs. Google charity runs in your area or in a city nearby. Just make sure you have enough time to train, and make sure you stay on track with your training.

Signing up for an official run can push your motivation. Most people don’t need to be 100% ready for the race either, because the race-day jitters carry them the rest of the way. I’ve found it’s usually good to be at least 70% ready for the race.

Once you hit your goal, make more goals. Push yourself to see how far you can actually go. I never thought I would be able to run 10-milers, but with consistent training I was able to make it happen.

Make a Bomb Playlist

Music is a great way to take your runs to the next level. I’m sure you have a couple (or a lot) of songs that just make you want to dance. Those are the songs that will get you the best results on your run.

Song remixes are also a great thing to add to your running playlist as they’re usually faster and have harder beats.

Make a special playlist on Spotify with all of your favorite music so running is actually a fun jam session. Make a bunch of different playlists for each day you plan on running. Make stylized playlists based off different genres for each run. Just don’t get carried away and forget the actual running part!

My friend Caitlyn and I used to go running together when we were in college. We would listen to our own playlists, but I loved to look over and see her basically dancing as she ran. Of course, then I started laughing and couldn’t breath — so don’t do that.

If you’d like to just listen to a pre-made playlist, I’ve created a great, upbeat Indie setlist for running. It includes tons of Pop artists, remixes, and Indie Rock musicians too.

Take Rest Days

Resting in the forests
Take a rest day // Image by Spring Fed Images

When I was in my third year of running, I started to get really crazy. I was doing seven days a week, 5 mile runs while I was still in college and working thirty hours a week. You might be like me and want to keep training and running all week long. Let me tell you why I stopped. One word: injuries.

Luckily, I didn’t get injured to the point of no return, which a lot of runners face after a lifelong career of running. I also introduced Yoga to my schedule which helped stretch out my weary legs and work out kinks I didn’t even realize were there.

Rest days don’t mean you have to sit on the couch all day. They just mean you take a break from running. Try doing some Yoga, going on a hike or walk. Spend the time you would be running on a new experience.

Take rest days. Even if it feels like you can’t. Even if it feels weird or wrong. Take. Rest. Days. Your body will thank you. And your mind will thank you too. You don’t have to become a crazy adrenaline addict to become a great runner. You just have to be consistent and keep going.

Rest days don’t have to mean lazy days.

You CAN Do It

Just remember that many people — me included — have been where you are now. Find a community of runners or a friend to tag along. Read books on other runners. Follow some running blogs or podcasts.

Tell yourself each day that you are a runner.

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