Running is an activity that humans have been doing since the beginning of time. In the past, it was a means of survival similar to animals out running predator’s. Today, running is considered as a means to get healthy and stay active. Regardless to why you do it, knowing how to start running is so important.
Many of us in our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, have forgotten how to run. Something that we used to do for fun on the school playground, and that our ancestors did daily in order to live, now fills us with dread and loathing at the mere thought of it. The phrase “Oh, I can’t run!” is one of the most common responses I hear when I tell someone that I am a runner.
Here’s the thing: Yes, you can run.
Of course you can run! Our bodies were built to do it. Your body has just gotten out of practice. In this article, I am going to coach you through how to start running again. Beginning with proper preparation all the way through to recovery afterwards. So let’s get running!
What Muscles Does Running Work?
This is a complex topic, so for now I’ll give you an overview so you know just how amazing it is for your body.
Muscles Worked When Running
- Abdominals (Abs)
- Hip flexors
- Glutes (aka your butt)
- Quadriceps (front of the thigh)
- Hamstrings (back of the thigh)
- Calf muscles
- Tibialis anterior (this muscle runs along the front of your shin)
- Pereoneals (these run down the sides of your shins)
- The back and shoulder muscles (from swinging your arms)
Not to mention your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, also known as your lungs and heart which also get an incredible workout! Running, just like all cardio exercise, helps to keep those systems strong and healthy.
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How To Start Running Again
I am deliberately using the word again here, because whether you haven’t run since the last time you were forced to in grade nine gym class or you participated in your company 5k two years ago and haven’t tried again since, you used to “know how to run”. I’m just here to remind you.
First of all, I highly suggest that you run outside as opposed to a treadmill. You will learn to run properly and develop the proper muscles better than on a moving belt that does some of the work for you. What’s more, is that running outside gives you better views and fresh air.
Secondly, check your shoes. You don’t need brand-new, top-of-the-line runners, but you don’t want to be running in sneakers that you’ve had for years, either. When buying new running shoes, your best option is to go to a running store (yes, they exist!) and ask someone who works there. They can assess your stride and recommend a shoe based on your body, your foot, and your running goals.
For more information on how to choose the best running shoes, click here.
How Often Should You Run?
The most important tip when starting to run again: Don’t do too much too soon.
If it has been months or years since the last time you ran, you can overdo it easily and end up injured, most likely shin splints. The easiest way to avoid this is taking things slowly and ensuring adequate rest. My suggestions for this include:
- Running less than you think you’re capable of, and
- Not running consecutive days
Running every other day, or three to four non consecutive days per week at the beginning, will allow your body to adjust, particularly your small muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They do a lot of work keeping you stable and take a huge amount of pounding when you are running, so give them the break they deserve. Once you have more experience, you can start adding additional days if you want to.
How Many Miles Should I Run a Week?
This is highly dependent on the person and what their baseline of fitness is. Some will be able to handle more than others, and that is perfectly okay. This is about you and your personal fitness journey.
That being said, not doing too much too soon is not just about the number of days you run, but also about how far you go each time. This is especially problematic for those who have a decent cardio base from other types of workouts. You may be physically capable of running 5k right off the bat, but it doesn’t mean that you should. As I said, you need to give your body a chance to get used to this new kind of activity.
Try going for time instead of distance, for example going out for a 20-minute run instead of a certain number of kilometers.
Once you have built up your endurance and are running steadily for 30 minutes or more, you can then consider adding more. Much of this magical number of miles is completely dependent on you, your goals, and your body. If you are training to run a 5k you will need to run less than if you are training for a marathon.
If entering races, particularly long ones, is something you aspire to do, then finding a running crew, coach, or online program is recommended to reach your goal.
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How To Build Running Endurance
At the beginning, you will want to take things slowly. The best way to do this is with a walk-run. This looks like this:
- Week-1: Run for two minutes, walk for four.
- Week-2: Run for three minutes, walk for three.
- Week-3: Run for four minutes, walk for two.
For each run, you start and end with five minutes of brisk walking. Walking/running for 30 minutes. You should fit about five rounds in each run, with the idea of getting to 30 minutes of non-stop running in just 10 weeks.
Click here for A 10-week run-walk plan for complete beginners. You know your own fitness level best, so you will know what you are capable of.
Once you are able to run for 30 minutes without stopping, you then want to increase your mileage by 5% per week, if running longer is your goal. This means you would run 31.5 to 32 minutes the following week. Then 33 minutes the next week, so-on and so forth. This seems conservative, however the goal is to avoid injury that could end up taking you back to square one.
How To Start Running Faster
There is a quote you’ll hear many running veterans say about training to run faster:
“The only way to run fast is to run fast!”
Confusing, but if you really think about it, true. You can’t train to run a distance faster if you don’t spend time running fast! Many new runners just go out and try to push themselves to run their same neighborhood loop a little bit faster each time. While this will work for a little while, you will eventually plateau, and also get bored.
To run faster you need to do workouts. In the running world, workouts mean things like interval sessions, tempo runs, and fartleks.
These are similar to a fartlek run, however are typically somewhat more structured and involve standing rest as opposed to active or jogging rest. Often you will see people doing intervals on a track. This could look like five to six times 400m (one lap of a track) with one or two minutes rest between each interval.
A tempo run is a longer, sustained effort at a higher pace. Typically these runs are paced at ten to twenty seconds slower than your goal pace. If you want to run 5km in 30 minutes, then your pace per kilometer would be 6 minutes. This means for your tempo session, your pace would be 6:15-6:20 per kilometer. This could look like a 10 minute jog warm up, 20 minutes of tempo pace, followed by another 10 minutes of cool down jogging for a total of 40 minutes.
Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speedplay”. This is when you change up the pace during your run. For example, you start your run at a consistent speed for five or ten minutes, then you run faster for two, slower for one, faster for four, slower for two, and so on. You can make it up beforehand or make it up as you go. Sometimes you can use visual cues as well. This could be sprinting for the length of two telephone poles with one length jog in between, or running fast every other block of your neighborhood.
Another great type of training to help build power and speed are hill repeats. Just as they sound, they involve sprinting up a hill, jogging back down, and repeating.
All of these workouts would be part of a standard training plan, which will vary depending on your experience and your goals.
Proper Breathing While Running | How To
How To Breathe While Running
One of things that many people say when they first start trying to run is that they feel like they can’t breathe. It usually takes the first five to 15 minutes for you to regulate your breathing, depending on how fit you are. As you run more and improve your cardio, this will get easier.
In the beginning, remember is to relax: Focus on taking one or two deeper breaths every so often. Relax your shoulders and face. You are running, not dying. Your breathing will regulate after some time, and that will go faster if you aren’t panicking.
Breathing while running is not like breathing while weight lifting or doing yoga – you want to breathe to your full capacity, which may mean breathing in and out through your mouth. If you are trying to breathe in only through your nose, you will likely get a stitch in your rib cage area.
What To Eat After A Run
Everyone likes to make nutrition complicated, however just like Michael Pollan says:
- Eat food
- Mostly plants
- Not too much
Food Means Real Food
Think items you would find on the perimeter of the grocery store, or those with less than five ingredients listed.
This means just what you think it does – vegetables! Try to eat a variety of colours, especially dark, leafy greens. For more information, click here to read, Are You Eating Enough Colour?
Not Too Much
Do not over-eat. Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and stop when you are full (not when your plate is empty). If you are hungry again later you can eat more then.
Eat A Balanced Meal
- A protein source
- A carbohydrate
- Plenty of water
Whether it’s cold or hot out, you sweat when you run and you need to replace that lost water. The micronutrients in vegetables will help combat the oxidative stress your body is under when exercising.
The carbohydrates you take in will help to replace the glycogen stores you used while doing longer, sustained cardio. These are important for recovery, so that you can have energy for the rest of your daily activities and your next run.
Protein is important for rebuilding some of the muscle that you worked while running. This can be in the form of lean meats, beans and legumes, eggs, soy, or dairy products.
What To Wear Running
You are probably tired of me saying “it depends” but that’s the honest truth. Especially when it comes to the weather.
- Sunscreen (all seasons)
- A hat with a visor
- Lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers
From there you can change things up depending on your climate. You can add layers or take them away, as long as they are breathable and easy to run in. Avoid cotton for a base layer, as once it gets wet from your sweat you will get cold quickly in the cooler temperatures.
For the men out there, look for softer materials that won’t chafe your nipples. Also, those of us who want to wear shorts in the summer but deal with thigh chafing, put some vaseline in between your legs before heading out the door.
Beyond that the main point is that you are comfortable.
The Bottom Line On How To Start Running
We were all born to run and to move our bodies, you included. If you start slow and maintain a positive attitude, you’ll be amazed at how far your body can take you.