Steps To Becoming A Runner

9 Steps To Becoming A Runner: A Complete Guide

Looking to kickstart your running journey? You’re in good company since nearly 60 million Americans regularly embrace the road, trails, or treadmills, as per Statista research.

The perks are undoubtedly impressive too. Just a mere 10 minutes of easy running daily can potentially extend your life, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. If you need more convincing, some studies, like those published in ScienceDirect, even suggest that runners enjoy a full three extra years of life compared to non-runners. On top of that, the simple act of pounding the pavement can significantly boost your mood.

While running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, becoming a runner can be a bit more intricate than just tying your shoelaces and putting one foot in front of the other. (Unless you don’t mind dealing with breathlessness, sore legs, and shin splints, that is.)

Whether you’ve never completed a full mile, aspire to finish your inaugural 5k race, or have your sights set on training for a half-marathon, the training, nutrition, and injury-prevention advice offered here will transform you into a more accomplished runner than ever before, making each step an enjoyable experience.

1. Don’t hesitate to commence with walking

If you’re new to the idea of going for a run, consider easing into a consistent cardio routine by walking for approximately 20 minutes, three times each week.

Following this initial phase, transition your walks into run-walk interval workouts. A great starting point would be to allocate 20 minutes four times a week to these sessions, eventually extending them to 30 to 35 minutes.

Run-walk intervals are a smart way to reduce the risk of injury and make the process of starting out more pleasant and less intimidating. This means increasing both the number and duration of your running intervals in comparison to the walking intervals as you progress.

For instance, if you’re starting with 20-minute workouts, you can alternate between running for 30 seconds and walking for 90 seconds. As you grow more comfortable, you can adjust this pattern to alternate between 60 seconds of running and walking, ultimately working your way up to a continuous run.


2. Utilize your breath to discover your pace

While you may have the know-how to run, gauging the kind of pace you can sustain is an entirely different skill.

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New runners often begin by running too quickly, leading to early exhaustion. The key is to complete each run with a desire to do a bit more or go slightly faster next time. Even though you might commonly associate “running” with speed, granting yourself the freedom to slow down is essential.

To regulate your pace effectively, maintain a speed at which you can comfortably hold a conversation or even sing. If you find yourself gasping for breath, it’s a sign to ease off the pace. On the other hand, if you can easily belt out the chorus of a song from your playlist, consider picking up the pace.

The idea is to finish each run wanting to do a little bit more or go a little bit faster. This mindset not only makes future runs more appealing but also instills a sense of accomplishment.

Even if you adhere to these recommendations, be prepared for running to feel somewhat uncomfortable initially. Newbie runners should remember that, when they begin their run, their entire body needs to catch up, and it can be quite challenging during the first stretch. But it does get better!


3. Avoid daily running

While practice and repetition are undeniably vital for achieving fitness goals, it’s important to recognize that each run places significant stress on your muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments. This stress drives them to adapt, becoming stronger and more efficient over time.

However, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Running, with its high-impact and repetitive nature, carries the risk of increased injuries if taken to extremes.

The key is to strike a balance that allows you to run enough to stimulate positive changes while affording your body the necessary time to recuperate. It’s essential to find the right formula that suits your individual needs.

Start with three runs per week. Fewer runs may impede your progress, while more could hinder your recovery time.

After completing six weeks with a regimen of three weekly runs, you can consider adding a fourth day of running. This approach helps you maintain consistency without overwhelming your body.


4. Shift your focus from miles to minutes

You have the flexibility to choose how you measure your runs, but adopting a time-oriented approach rather than a distance-based one might be less intimidating.

When you aim to run for a specific duration, like 30 minutes, it allows for more room to accommodate an off day or a slower pace than setting a goal to cover a particular number of miles.

People who are just getting into running are better focusing on duration as opposed to mileage, unless they are training for a specific racing goal. Focusing on duration helps with consistency and avoids a focus on pace.

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The key is to ensure you keep coming back for your runs, without feeling discouraged or overburdened. Concentrating on time rather than miles permits you to prioritize feeling good throughout your run.


5. Progress gradually and prioritize safety

If you’re eyeing a race, particularly one as demanding as a half-marathon or longer, it’s essential to approach distance increase with caution.

To begin, assign one run per week as your long run, as suggested by Leivers. While you can gradually extend the distance of this run by an additional mile or two over time, maintain the distances of your other runs.

Two crucial rules you should follow: Firstly, augment your total weekly mileage every other week, but ensure it doesn’t exceed the number of days you run each week. For example, if you run three days a week, limit the mileage increase to three miles every other week.

Secondly, don’t let your long run surpass half of your total weekly mileage, as this helps prevent overexertion during a single run. Therefore, if your weekly mileage is 10 miles, ensure that your long run remains at five miles or less.


6. Diversify your runs

Once you can maintain a continuous 30-minute run, consider incorporating intervals into your routine. This addition will not only enhance your overall pace but also introduce a varied stimulus to your body.

Furthermore, introducing variety into your workouts can make your runs more enjoyable.

Here are two ways to experiment with intervals:

Hill strides: Run uphill for 20 to 30 seconds, then recover by jogging downhill or on flat terrain.

Speed intervals: Alternate between one minute of running at around 75-percent effort and one minute of easy jogging.

Sprint intervals: Alternate between one minute of an all-out sprint and five minutes of easy jogging.

You can also make use of checkpoints like mailboxes, trees, or houses as interval endpoints to maintain your interest during outdoor runs.


7. When uncertain, consider following a training program

If you’re embarking on a running journey with the ultimate objective of completing a race, the appropriate training program can be your guiding light.

For those who are entirely new to running, a couch-to-5K program is a great starting point.

Once you’ve identified a plan that aligns with your objectives, it’s advisable to tailor it to your everyday life. If you anticipate a hectic week with minimal running time, consider modifying the schedule for the following week to accommodate your needs.


8. Get ready for your running journey with the right gear

If there’s one item of gear essential for your successful transition into a runner, it’s a pair of comfortable running shoes.

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Individual preferences for running shoes can vary significantly—what works perfectly for one runner might lead to problems for another. To discover the ideal pair for you, consider visiting a nearby running store where you can test multiple running shoe options and determine which feels most comfortable for your feet.

While it’s crucial to select shoes that match your specific foot mechanics, comfort remains the foremost consideration.


9. Stay connected to your running purpose

Runners take to the streets, trails, or the treadmill for various reasons – some for fitness and well-being, others for the sense of mindfulness, social engagement, or the thrill of competition, as revealed in a survey conducted by Strava.

To sustain your passion for running, it’s important to hold on to what initially inspired you to start your running journey. As you gain more experience in running, your perception of running will evolve, and you will undergo transitions as a runner.

Whether you’re motivated to complete a 5k or 10k race, escape the pressures of work, or spend quality time with a friend, the joy of running springs from discovering your personal ‘why’ and pursuing it. Identify your motivation, and then hit the road!


Final Words – Steps To Becoming A Runner

In summary, embarking on your running journey is a step towards joining the ranks of nearly 60 million Americans who regularly embrace running. The potential benefits are considerable, with even just 10 minutes of easy running a day possibly adding years to your life. However, transitioning to a runner involves more than merely lacing up your shoes and hitting the road, as it can bring breathlessness, sore muscles, and potential injuries if not approached thoughtfully.

Whether you’re a novice looking to complete your first mile, an aspiring 5k finisher, or aiming for a half-marathon, the guidance on training, nutrition, and injury prevention provided here will help you become a more accomplished and satisfied runner.

Remember, don’t hesitate to start with walking, gradually transition to run-walk intervals, and focus on finding a pace that allows you to enjoy every step. Balancing your running frequency is crucial, and tracking time instead of miles can make the process less daunting. As you progress, take your distance increase seriously and consider incorporating intervals to keep things exciting. If you’re unsure how to structure your training, a well-suited plan can guide you.

Lastly, investing in comfortable running shoes is vital, and staying connected to your running purpose will help you sustain your love for the sport. So, define your motivation and get ready to hit the road, knowing that the rewards of running extend far beyond the physical aspects.

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