If you’re thinking about getting into running, congratulations you’ve already taken a major first step. Whether considering this a fitness routine to lose weight, increase stamina or find a positive escapist activity, running is a transformative sport that can benefit the body and mind. In fact, a Harvard study found that running for 15 minutes a day can decrease the risk of depression by 26%. That may be reason enough to start jogging your way to better health.
For novice runners, getting started might be daunting. You may be asking, “What equipment do I need? How long do I run for? How do I set distance and pace goals?” Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start with the right equipment
As with any sport, your equipment is your lifeline. In running, it begins with your shoes. Finding the right shoe is a process. There are different shoes constructed for every type of foot, so be patient. The most important thing to understand is how your foot moves when you run. If you’re unsure, find a local running specialty store. “There they can stick you on a treadmill and actually record how you run. And, then, they can stick you in a shoe that’s personalized for you and your feet,” fitness vlogger Caty Culp shares in her video that has been viewed over 9 million times by newbie runners.
With the proper shoes on your feet, you’ll prevent injury and pain and improve performance, running faster and longer.
Find the right training program for you
The best way to start running is to get outside and do it. You can research training plans all day from the comfort of your chair, but it doesn’t make any difference if you don’t put it into practice. So, pick a program and go. Know that no matter which you choose, you’ll still build strength and endurance along the way.
With technology today, it’s easy to find an app that is easily integrated into your smartphone to work in conjunction with your music. With this kind of tool, you won’t have to worry about tracking time for each walk and jog—the app will do it for you. Some beginner favorites include Couch to 5k, Nike Run Club, Map My Run, and Runkeeper.
Set small, achievable goals, and often
Keep in mind that setting reasonable expectations and goals are key to success. Set small goals that you are confident you can achieve, surpass them and then set new goals. Small benchmarks will keep you from getting discouraged and help you stay focused with little victories along the way. So, if your goal is to run a 5k, maybe your first goal is getting through the first week of the training program you selected. Or, better yet, the first day.
Start slow, finish fast
Beginner runners should build toward longer runs by starting with a walk-run combination. Any beginner training program will start out this way, and even if the walking feels easy, go with it. The gradual build will condition your body more effectively and avoid the risk of injury.
Once you progress to longer running blocks, start at a slower pace and gradually increase the pace to finish fast. Progression running keeps the run fun and engaging while also optimizing fitness and improving stamina. The “start slow, finish fast” strategy is not just for beginners. Experienced runners often employ the same strategy for marathon training.
Be mindful of your form
Proper running form is about more than just pace and stride. It will reduce the risk of injury and equip you to run longer and at a higher intensity. Posture should be lifted with the chest broadened and core engaged. Avoid slumping your shoulders and tilting your head down as this will affect posture.
When it comes to feet on pavement, there are differing opinions about the strike pattern. Heel striking means that the heel is hitting the ground first, followed by the ball of the foot. A midfoot strike sees the heel and ball of the foot hit the pavement at the same time. A forefoot strike, preferred by sprinters, focuses on the ball of the foot without the heel touching ground. Despite beliefs that a heel strike can leave runners susceptible to injury, research suggests there is no benefit one way or another. This study, in particular, found there is no evidence that running on the front of your feet, versus heel striking, reduces injury or improves performance.
“Running toe-heel might help injuries at the knee, where loads are reduced. However, it may cause injuries to the feet and ankle, where loads are increased,” explained Dr. Christian Barton, an injury researcher, and physiotherapist from La Trobe University injury. Simply put, go with the strike that is most comfortable to you.