You’ve probably seen them before — those people, running down the side of the road, a smile on their face and a skip in their step.
And maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “How in the world do they do it? How is it possible to actually enjoy running?”
It’s an understandable emotion. For many of us, the only time we run is when someone is chasing us. The idea of actually doing it for exercise is cringe-worthy.
But here’s the thing — it’s actually the quickest, most effective way to torch calories, shed pounds and keep our hearts healthy.
And if you’re willing to take the leap, it’s worth it. That’s why we put together 10 seamless steps to becoming a real runner…and maybe even watching those pounds come off even faster.
Step 1: Visit your medical provider.
If you’re new to any type of exercise, it’s crucial that you talk to a doctor or nurse practitioner to clear yourself physically first. This is especially true when it comes to running, which requires more exertion than most other fitness routines. Get cleared medically before you start.
Step 2: Get your running gear.
Once your doctor gives you the green light, get your running gear together. This is the fun part. Head to a retail store specializing in running and pick out a fun, matching outfit and some new shoes. Most stores have staff who will fit you with shoes attuned to your individual stride and posture. (Kelly, author of the running blog Run, Selfie, Repeat has a great list of 10 must-haves for first-time runners.)
Step 2: Build a schedule.
Running is like anything else — to stick with it (and get better), you’ll need to devote a certain amount of time to it each week. The key to making sure that happens is to block out 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week to devote to your running. If you’re a morning person, go with that. If you’re more of an evening person, set aside time after work. Whatever your preference, just make sure it’s as important to you as, say, a big work meeting, and make it happen.
Step 3: Build a playlist.
There’s a reason you often see runners with headphones stuck in their ears. Music is the ultimate running companion. A good, strong playlist will release endorphins and make the run more enjoyable and go by more quickly. There are also several great apps that combine heart-pumping music with personalized coaching — Aaptivand Fitstar, to name a couple.
Step 4: Start small.
You’re not going to start running day one and go for a mile. And that’s more than okay. Start by jogging slowly for a minute. Then walk for two. Then jog for a minute. Then walk for two. You get the idea. Do this for each of the 30-minute slots for the first week. (Runner’s World offers a downloadable 8-week beginner’s guide.)
Step 5: Keep a journal.
It’s a good idea to start tracking your running to get an idea of how you’re improving, and what you’re capable of. This is also a great way to stay motivated. When it’s written down, it’s beyond exciting to see how far you’ve come. Plus, there are some great apps (MapMyRun, RunKeeper) that make it easy.
Step 6: Take it easy in between.
You’re going to feel a bit sore at first. This WILL subside with consistency. To help alleviate it, be sure to take rest days in between that include stretching. If, at any point, you feel acute pain anywhere, take a few days off and rest to prevent injury.
Step 7: Get through it.
The first week’s always the most difficult. Yes, you’ll probably be out of breath. Use the “talk test.” You should be able to hold a conversation while running. If you can’t, you’re pushing too hard. And remember, there will be bad days, days where you feel like giving up. Keep going. Once you get through that first week, you’ll gradually find running gets easier and easier. The shortness of breath will subside, and you’ll quickly get to a point where it’s not so tough.
Step 8: Ramp it up.
After the first week or two, try switching it up. Run for two minutes, walk for one. Repeat that throughout the fitness routine. Then try running for three, walking for one, and so on. Again, it DOES get easier, and you’ll find the runs, and your ability to get through them, more enjoyable as you go along.
Step 9: Compete.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, signing up for a 5K or other race can help you take your running to the next level. Training for a race is some of the best motivation out there, and there’s literally no better feeling than the day you cross the finish line.
Step 10: Celebrate!
When you inevitably get to that point where you can actually run for 30 minutes straight without stopping, it’s a feeling of total exuberance. Seriously, don’t be surprised if you actually get the “runner’s high.” Hang onto that feeling. Then, celebrate by buying yourself something, getting a massage, getting a pedicure or something else that doesn’t involve food. (Need an idea? Check out one of our 25 Fantastic Non-Food Rewards.) If you’ve made it this far, you deserve it.
What are some ways you get through a run or fitness routine? Share in the comments below!
Author: Caitlin Hendee
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.