Weight loss, increased bone density, stress relief, stronger legs and an improved cardiovascular system are just some of the benefits you’ll gain by running. And if you’re not already a weekend warrior, fall is the best time to start. With its crisp air and colorful canvas, it’s a runner’s paradise. Plus, it’s the heart of racing season, so there will be plenty of 5Ks to give you something to work toward.
In case you need any more reasons to hit the road, we’ve created this running for beginner’s guide that includes an eight-week running plan. It doesn’t get any better than that!
The biggest investment you’ll make is in a good pair of running shoes. Sorry, but “tennis shoes” won’t work for this sport. Go to a local running-shoe-specific store and have their knowledgeable staff properly fit you for shoes. They may even put you on a treadmill to watch your stride and better assess your needs.
While you’re there and have their attention, ask about socks. Socks are just as important, as they can create friction. Friction leads to blisters. This can easily be avoided, though, with a pair of socks that fit your new shoes. You’ll know they’re the perfect match if they provide cushion and actually prevent irritation.
Ladies, you’ll definitely need a few sports bras if you don’t already own one. A sports bra for running should be supportive and made with fabric that wicks away sweat to keep you dry.
A basic digital sports watch is practical if you plan on running intervals and just want to time yourself. However, a GPS-enabled watch will track your time, pace and distance – and display all of those stats on one screen. Initially, you’ll just be focused on running or time and increase the duration of your running workouts week by week. Once you’re feeling strong enough, you’ll start setting mileage goals. That’s when you’ll need a GPS-enabled runner’s watch.
Now that you’re all geared it, you’re ready to run! Remember, this is a new activity, which means your body will need a little time to adjust. So resist the urge to head out and just start running. As excited as you are, this should be a gradual buildup to help prevent the onset of injury. Here’s what we suggest:
Begin with a 20- to 30-minute run/walk program on three, non-consecutive days a week, and then work up to five days.
Before each workout, do a five-minute walk to warm up. Once your muscles feel warm and loose, run at an easy pace and alternate with a steady walk. After your run/walk session, cool down for at least five minutes. Never make a hard stop when you finish a heart-pumping workout. Let your heart rate come down slowly.
Running for Beginners: An 8-Week Workout Schedule
Week 1: run 2 minutes/walk 3 minutes and repeat 6 times
Week 2: run 3 minutes/walk 2 minutes and repeat 6 times
Week 3: run 4 minutes/walk 2 minutes and repeat 5 times
Week 4: run 5 minutes/walk 3 minutes and repeat 5 times
Week 5: run 7 minutes/walk 3 minutes and repeat 3 times
Week 6: run 8 minutes/walk 2 minutes and repeat 3 times
Weeks 7 & 8: run 9 minutes/walk 1 minute and repeat 3 times
Watch your running form
Good form while running is just as important as having good form in the gym. This will help you prevent injury and get the most out of your workout. So be sure you’re checking in with yourself during your run and make sure you’re following these guidelines:
- Shoulders are relaxed, head and chin are up and eyes are looking straight ahead
- Torso is upright as if you’re trying to stick out your chest; in other words, run “proper”
- Elbows are relaxed and close to your body at a 90-degree angle; hands stay relaxed, like you’re holding a hard-boiled egg – no clenched fists!
- Feet land lightly with quick, short strides; strike the ground with your midfoot and push off with the ball of your foot
Treat common running ailments
Side stitches are common with all runners – beginners and veterans, alike. That said, you can help prevent them by avoiding solid foods before your run and always staying hydrated. If a side stitch still happens, slow down your pace and exhale long and hard.
Beginner runners are vulnerable to muscle cramps, especially if you haven’t established a healthy hydration balance. Make sure you’re getting the right vitamins for leg cramps through smart snacks and electrolytes.
Expect your body to feel sore after starting a new exercise regimen. Your quads and calves will be a little sore in the beginning, but this can easily be treated with stretching and post-workout recovery supplements. Make sure to incorporate hip flexor, quad, hamstring and calf stretches, plus foam rolling. Drinking a protein shake that includes branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) can also help repair and replenish muscle tissue.
Bonus running tips
- Find a local 5K race and set a realistic finish time for yourself.
- Recruit a friend as a running partner. It’s fun to run with someone and keeps you accountable.
- Add hill runs after a few weeks of training.
- For safety, run AGAINST the flow of traffic when you’re on the road.