Running is one of the easiest ways to increase and maintain your cardiovascular fitness. However, if you've never run for fitness, starting a routine can feel overwhelming. This article will break the process of starting a running routine down into easy to complete steps. Start today and you’ll be a veteran runner in no time!
Step One – Shoe Selection
Your running routine will start with one step and will require millions of steps from that point forward. Before you start pounding the pavement, you’ll want to make sure to invest in a good pair of running shoes. When purchasing your first pair of kicks, visit a specialty running shoe store where you can have your feet and running form assessed. While this will be more expensive than going to a discount store or buying your shoes on-line, having proper running shoes will prevent needless injuries.
How will you know if the running shoe store salespeople know what they’re talking about? Your salesperson should ask you questions about the type of terrain you will be running on and intended weekly mileage. You can also expect to have the salesperson watch you run in a pair of shoes to check your form. If you have an old pair of walking shoes, wear these as the wear pattern of your old shoes can provide information on the type of shoe that will be best for your foot.
If you have time to do some extra work before your visit to the store, try to complete
a “wet test.” The wet test can help you identify the type of arch that you have. To complete this test, wet your feet and walk on pavement. If you can see your entire footprint after walking, you have what’s considered a “flat foot.” If your footprint barely shows any part of your arch and the wet impression has a large vertical indent, you have a “high arch.” If your footprint is somewhere between these two extremes, you have a “normal arch.” Knowing your arch type before you go shopping will help your salesperson pull shoes appropriate for your feet from the beginning.
Still not keen on shopping at a specialty store? These specialty shop employees are usually runners themselves. Shop at a store that is local to you and you can pick up some tips for running routes, road races, and even running clubs in your area.
Step Two – Assessing Your Current Fitness Level
Once you have your running shoes ready, assessing your current fitness level is a great way to help you track progress and make sure you’re not over training. While there are many fitness tests that you can complete, we’ll focus on two tests specific to your cardiovascular fitness: identifying your resting heart rate and completing a 1-mile fit test.
To calculate your resting heart rate, take your pulse for one minute right after you wake up in the morning. Sit still and find your pulse to begin. The two most common pulses to find are the radial and carotid pulse. The radial pulse is found on the side of your wrist near your thumb. Find it with the index and middle fingers of your opposite hand. The carotid pulse is found on your neck between your windpipe and the hollow of your neck. No matter which pulse you choose, find a stopwatch and let the time run for 1 minute while you count the beats. If you have a watch with an alarm, this will make the test a lot easier. Write down your resting heart rate and the date you tested it. Check your heart rate daily. If your heart rate is increasing, this is a sign of over training. With proper training, you can expect your resting heart rate to decrease by about 10 beats per minute (bpm)after 10-20 weeks of training.
In addition to identifying your resting heart rate, completing a 1-mile fit test is a great way to assess your current cardiovascular fitness level. All you need to do is complete a 1-mile walk, time the walk, and take your pulse for 10 seconds at the end of the test.
During the test, try to keep an even pace. If you use a track or treadmill you can check in with yourself at segments throughout the walk. As you cross the 1-mile mark, stop your stopwatch so you can record your time. Take a 10-second heart rate and record this value. Multiply your 10-second pulse by 6 to get your heart rate. The time it took for you to complete the test and your heart rate can be compared against other test-takers. More importantly, the test is something you can complete in the future to observe improvement in your cardiovascular fitness over time.
Step Three – Get Ready, Get Set, Run!
Now that you have the proper running equipment and a way to monitor progress in your routine, you’re ready to start running. All of your runs will have three parts: a warm-up, training segment, and a cool down. Your warm-up and cool-down will consist of 5-10 minutes of lower intensity activity. When you’re starting out, walking is a great way to warm-up and cool-down.
As your fitness level improves, you can exchange your walking warm-up and cool-down for jogging ones. Save static stretching for after your cool-down. Current research shows that stretching before working out is not beneficial and likely to cause injury.
With the general outline of a running session taken care of, let’s look into the training part of your routine. This segment will slowly increase in length and then speed as you work on your fitness level. Start with a training segment of 10-20 minutes. If you’re just starting out, you may need to jog one minute and walk one minute. That’s fine! Listen to your body and adjust accordingly with the ultimate goal of running for the entire training segment.
Beginners should complete their running sessions every other day for an average of 3-5 days a week for the first 4-6 weeks of training to develop a base. Record the details of your run so you can track progress and set goals. To progress a running program, first increase the time you spend running.
For example, work up to 15 minutes of running without stopping. Next, increase the distance you cover during a given time. Maybe your first 15-minute run covered 1.5 miles and your goal is to cover 1.75 miles in that time. Finally, add a resistance challenge. Instead of running on a track or treadmill with no incline, see if you can add some hill work to your run.
Some Final Thoughts
The biggest tip for beginning runners is to just get started! Don’t feel bad about alternating minutes of running with minutes of jogging. All runners start this way. Keep with your program and you’ll start to see results.
Are you an aspiring runner? Do you have some additional thoughts and concerns about running? Post a comment below to get some feedback. Found this article helpful? Share it with your friends and inspire them to join you on a run today!