Whether you used to be a runner and fell off track or are new to running, the best time to start running is today. Seriously, you’ve got this!
I can say this confidently because I chose to start running at 40 without never having gone any further than from my front door to the mailbox to grab a freshly delivered Amazon package.
I hope you find the encouragement you need to get started in this post; because motivation will come after you actually do it. All it takes is lacing up your sneakers and putting one foot after the other. Easy, right?
You might have landed in this post because you want to start running to relieve stress, get a dose of those endorphins everyone talks about, or maybe aid in weight loss.
Implementing a consistent running routine can help reduce your risk for heart disease, strengthen your joints, burn calories, and more.
The best part about running is that you don’t need a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment to get started. As long as you have a pair of running shoes and clothes you can sweat in, you can get started.
The only regret I have about running is not starting sooner. For years, doctors advised me to not run because of my severe scoliosis; and as it turns out, I have no pain!
While I love the health benefits running provides, there’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of a “runner’s high” when you’re finished. So, today I’m sharing how you can get started running right away.
How to Start Running as a Beginner
If you’re a beginner or getting back into running after years of being on a hiatus, the most important part is that you start slow. Even if you’ve been an active person in recent years at the gym (spinning, weight lifting, kickboxing) or walk a lot; it’s important to start running at a slower pace and short amounts of time.
While running is a pretty simple task, there are a few steps to take to help you get started.
1. Start Slow. Before you start at a full sprint, be sure to warm up. You don’t want to wear yourself out right away, and you could injure yourself if your muscles aren’t ready to go.
Start with a fast-paced walk or slow jog, and implement some dynamic exercises such as leg swings or walking lunges.
Starting slowly also means starting at a slow jogging pace (feels like you’re shuffling more than anything) or even a power walk. There are many ligaments and tiny joints on your feet that have to get used to this new sport.
Starting slow will reduce your chances of getting injured -something I know about quite well- and trust me, it’s worth the incremental start.
I’ve written a whole article on the differences between running and jogging here if you want to learn more.
2. Stretch or do a Warm-up. It pays off to warm up before you go on a run. There are many active warm-ups and stretches you can do that only takes 5 minutes and will get you going.
Adding a quick warm-up before I go on a run has helped me tremendously stick with a running routine. By the time I start running, I’m mentally ready to go.
Here is a simple warm-up you can do before you head out on your run by my friend Amanda from Run to the Finish.
3. Cross Train. This means doing other exercises besides running to help you gain strength, mobility, and endurance. These will help you with your running and prevent injuries.
Running is only part of the formula. If you want to incorporate running as a long-term activity, sooner or later your body will ask you to incorporate other forms of exercise to help you continue; either by fatigue, soreness, or injury.
Strength training helps build muscles and strengthen your ligaments which will help you protect against injury.
While your legs will get stronger by running, your hips, glutes, core, and upper body also need to be incorporated into your exercise routine.
Add strength training 2x week for injury prevention, stability, and overall health.
4. Recover. Once you get the hang of running, it can be tempting to run every day; and while this is an incredible goal to have, it’s not recommended when you start running.
Recovery, both in the form of sleep and taking a day or two off from exercise can be very beneficial and it’s necessary.
If you’re running 2-3x per week, doing strength training 2 days per week, that leaves you with 2 days to recover. You can also do “active recovery” which means doing something very low impact like yoga or walks.
Your muscles and joints need time to rebuild and repair themselves. Don’t be afraid to take a day off, and remember to do a slow cool-down jog to let your muscles relax post-run.
5. Make it Fun! Whether you decide to start running with a friend, joining a runners club, or choose to make running your “me time”; the best way to stick with running long term is to make it fun.
I highly suggest listening to an audiobook, a podcast, or mixing up your playlists to keep you entertained and have a great time.
How Often to Run as a Beginner
Beginners should not run more than 2 or 3 times a week. To ease yourself into it, start with 20 to 30-minute runs for the first month.
The best way to run as a beginner and not get injured is the Run/Walk method. This is where you alternate between running and walking consistently to build up endurance and strength in your feet and joints.
The run/walk method is not about running until you’re tired, walk until you catch your breath, and run again. The run/walk method is about running for a set time (minutes) and walking for a set time (minutes) and alternating between the two.
The easiest way to do this automatically without looking at your watch or phone is to download an interval timer app.
Below are some incremental run/walk times you can use to build up your running endurance when you’re getting started. Once you can complete a 20-minute “run” without feeling winded or out of breath, move on to the next increment below.
Run / Walk Increments for Beginners
|1 min||2 min|
|1 min||1 min|
|2 min||2 min|
|2 min||1 min|
|3 min||3 min|
|3 min||2 min|
|3 min||1 min|
|4 min||2 min|
|4 min||1 min|
I often use this run/walk technique when I am getting back into running after taking a break and when I am recovering from an injury (which happens) and need to build up endurance again.
What Equipment Do You Need to Start Running?
One of the best things about running is that you don’t need any special equipment to get started. That said, the most important thing you can do is to get fitted for a good pair of running shoes at your local running store.
The sneakers you’re wearing at the gym are not made to run on. A good pair of sneakers will set you back about $100-$120 and I’m here to tell you that they are worth every penny. They will not only make running more comfortable, but they are the first step towards injury prevention.
Other than running shoes here are my essentials:
- workout clothes
- running belt to hold your phone
Can You Become a Faster Runner in Your 40s?
Yes, you can become a faster runner in your 40s with consistency in training and adding strength into your routine.
Try to focus on micro improvements (shaving a few seconds here and there) instead of big chunks of time.
I also found that when I ignore the clock and focused on having fun in my run, my times improved tremendously. You can not only improve your running time in your 40s but also score some new PRs.
The most important part is to listen to your body. Take more time to recover, focus on strength training and stretching, eat good food, and stay consistent! Ultimately, what you do when you’re not running affects your speed more than the actual running!
How to Start Running Again
If it has been a few years (or decades) since you last ran, remember to start slow in both time and duration of your running workouts.
Jumping back into running too aggressively from a hiatus will increase your chances of getting injured which can quickly lead to taking a break -again.
Start running again by finding joy in being a beginner again and having fun with the process.
Three months after I started running I found myself suffering from “runner’s knee” and being really down on myself. “But it was going so well!” I told myself…. whomp whomp.
If you’re thinking of starting running again, grab a copy of the book Run to the Finish. It was the best purchase, outside of a good pair of running shoes, I made after I injured myself.
Treat your running routine like you’re a beginner, and you’ll be back to hitting high speeds before you know it.
How to Start Running When You’re out of Shape
If you’re out of shape and are just getting started, start slow. I can’t emphasize this enough! Forget about running, at first, and just get walking.
If you’re out of shape both physically and endurance-wise, there’s no point in doing something that will be so tough you’ll feel miserable. We’ve all heard stories of people that say “running is so hard at first, I just wanted to puke!” Ummm, no.
Running is simple and hard at the same time. And if you’re body is out of shape, give yourself grace and the opportunity to succeed by walking. There’s no shame in walking at first, building your endurance, and adding a little jog/run to your 20-minute outing.