Doesn’t that title make you think of one of the “For Dummies” series books? I remember I had to do a lot of research on how to start running before I began my journey in 2010. I know that @momma2macy has also done a lot of research, including a bunch of reading on this blog. While I’ve compiled a bunch of it already, it’s never been in one handy, convenient, bookmarkable post. So here, for your perusal, is The Completely Self-Educated Runner’s Guide to Jogging and Running.
What’s inspiring you?
The first thing I want you to think about, before you start following any links or getting prepped, is what, or who, inspired you. Why are you starting to run? What made you consider it? I can tell you that I started to run for a few reasons. I knew that my 40th birthday was coming later that year, and I wanted to go into my 40s in better shape than I went into my 30s – and I certainly achieved that. I also wanted to just be more active, period. I refer to it as an “odometer-shaking” birthday, and it isn’t like it was a wake-up call, but I wanted to make changes.
So, think hard about what changes you want to make, and why. What’s driving you? Is it the societal pressure every year to try to get fit? Is it a major event that is coming up? Is it a beach vacation? No matter what it is, don’t lose that inspiration. Don’t lose that motivation. @momma2macy recommends keeping a reminder of it somewhere around you, that you will see every day, so that you can have a reminder when you need it most. There are lots of inspirational messages you can download and print off from the internet – find one that meets what you are thinking, and then you can go from there. It will help keep you motivated, but don’t worry – I’ll be touching on motivation in another post in a little bit, possible right when you need a kick in the pants!
The guide will be broken down into different sections:
- What to read before you start
- Goal setting (again!)
- Deciding to run indoors or outdoors – there is a difference!
- Your initial running program
- Keeping up your motivation, and realizing that this is for the rest of your life
- Completion of the program – congratulations
- What’s next?
What to read before you start
So where do you begin? Really, what resources are there? Well there are traditional books that you can read, but honestly, that will take time, and it’s one of those things where you promise yourself you will start “Once I have…”. Once you have what? “Once I have” is simply a justification to procrastinate, so I would recommend that if you get a book, find, but don’t commit to reading the whole thing before you start. (I do have a couple of books to read once running is an ingrained habit – check the links!) I would suggest reading online, at blogs like this one, but also reading the following articles:
- On running while carrying excess weight
- Running tips for complete beginners
- Breathing tips for new runners
- The Globe and Mail’s “You Probably Don’t Know How to Run properly“
Blogs that I recommend are:
If there are any blogs or websites that you think I should include in my links section, please let me know in the comments!
I don’t hate to harp on this. I like to harp on this. Set goals. Write them down. Keep it. If you need help with goal setting, I’ve done an entire post on it, and I encourage you to read through it. You need to set goals, you need to set a path for where you are going. Even if your goal is just to lose 10 pounds, it’s a goal. Don’t think of this as making a resolution, think of it as making a promise to yourself. And quit breaking those promises to yourself!
The main thing to tell you about goals is that they must be written down somewhere you can refer to. If you don’t have them written down, they are just wishes. Your Fairy Godmother won’t come through this time.
Opinion 1 – Outdoors rules, indoors drools (Big Man Big Loser)
This is a really big subject, and one that @momma2macy wanted to weigh in on. I’ve decided for the purposes of full disclosure to provide a complete view of this – pros and cons of running indoors, and pros and cons of running outdoors. So I will start off by saying this:
Nothing in the world makes me feel as fantastic as running outside. Plus, it helps me train for the Zombipocalypse.
When I first started, I wanted to avoid paying any more gym fees at all costs. I dislike gyms, as I’ve stated before (see “2. Do it on the Cheap”), and I decided I wanted to do something that allowed me to not incur gym fees, to use the equipment I already had (running shoes) and that I could start gradually. I had a friend who started the Couch to 5k program before I did, and I don’t know that he ever finished it, but the name stuck with me. I decided that would be it, and as I didn’t have a treadmill and refused to join a gym, I decided to run outside. In January. In Canada.
There were days when it was -20. There were days when it was -2. I still remember my first day running in just shorts and a t-shirt – it was on vacation in Florida, and I felt so free. I love running outside because you get to see things. You notice more, you feel like your senses are quite alive. And it’s a great way to learn about cities you are visiting. So far I’ve been lucky enough to run in Timmins, Belleville, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Burlington, Ontario; Burnaby, Vancouver, and Victoria B.C., Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; St. Petersberg and Islamorada, FL, and Redmond, Washington. I believe that is my total list, although I’m sure I’m missing a few, but this will do – at least for now.
The main thing about running outdoors is that it is cheap. However, there are other benefits, including the fact that the entire run is done under your own power. A dirty little secret about treadmills is that they help you – ever so slightly. You are forced to keep pace, and their momentum helps your momentum. Running outside is tougher, as the hills are less linear, there are dips and doodles in the roadway or sidewalk, and there is nothing helping your momentum except your own obdurate stubbornness. Many folks try to say that running outdoors, running on pavement or asphalt especially, is bad for your joints. I’m actually a believer that this isn’t the case, and that regular use strenghtens them. I’ve had people try to tell me that joints can’t be strengthened, but I encourage you to ask any physiotherapist that works to rehab ankle and knee problems – you can strengthen a joint through exercise and use. And further, if you read this article at Runner’s World, it appears that sedentary obese people are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees than runners are.I now use a treadmill as a necessary evil. I normally only use them when I travel, and don’t want to pack foul weather running gear (hello, Calgary in February!). I have ones that I use at my racquets club occasionally, when I’m doing weight training there, but even then I will normally park a few kms away, run over, train, and run back. It’s just a lot nicer, and here’s the big-ticket: it’s a lot less monotonous. Running inside is boring – I call it doing a “gerbil run” because it’s like running in a gerbil wheel. I will take a run outside, no matter the weather, any day. Plus, you get to choose multiple routes, you get to see different parts of where you live or where you are visiting, you get to just plain get out and see more stuff. It’s awesome.
Opinion 2 – Indoors is cool and outdoors for fools! (@momma2macy)
I love my treadmill. I have a completely different relationship with my treadmill than Martin does. If you are new to his blogs- I’ll tell you now, he hates them. It’s a means to the end for him, and that’s it. It will do when it’s too cold or rainy outside but it has to be pretty severe. He completed his c25k training in the middle of winter in Ontario and lives in the rainy cold West Coast so not much stops him from getting out there and getting a run in. For me it was completely different. I would not have started running if someone hadn’t given me their old treadmill. I started running in the comfort of my own basement, no judgment from passers-by, other runners, my neighbors watching out their windows. I could start my c25k without worrying about looking like a real runner. Once I had a few miles under my feet, once I was able to run for awhile without looking and feeling like a hippo giving birth, I was ready to run outside. I had the confidence built up in the privacy of my own home where I had my music plugged in to the built in speakers on my treadmill, my fan in the window, my water in it’s cute little built in cup holder. I could take my jacket off and drop it on the floor without missing a step. It was a perfect set up and I’m thankful I could start that way. I even watched movies the odd time much to Martin’s dismay.
Now, all that being said, I was in for a real shock the first time I ran outside. I had completed the c25k and on the comfort of my treadmill; I could run 30 minutes without stopping. I laced up my runners, started my usual playlist on my iPhone, plugged in my ear buds and took off… 2 minutes in and I thought I was going to die. You see, a treadmill paces you. When you run, you set the speed at a specific rate, a specific pace per hour. I had no idea how to run outside and had to relearn. I had hills (even though my treadmill was always set with a 2% incline), I had puddles, I had gravel, I was huffing and puffing. I called up Martin and gave him an earful about lying to me about how great running outside is. He recommended Podrunner’s “First Day to 5K” (see links) which plays at a specific beats per minute (bpm) to keep you in pace. Also check out my favorite running app Endomondo– this keeps track of your pace and gives you audio cues (editor: note that this app is available for all major smartphone platforms). You can set it to run 5K and it will tell you lap time, overall time, and estimated finish time to keep you at a proper pace. It gives you a history and you can find others you know and give shout outs of encouragement. Now I am a changed runner- I love both methods.
If you are going to run on a treadmill I would recommend a few things. Set it at a minimum 1% incline, don’t hold the handrails, and do at least one run a week outside. It’s a very different experience but if you want to be a competent runner, you need to learn how to do it. You get a different workout, wind resistance, hills, etc, but it also gives you a great boost of confidence. You feel like part of a community, an elite club of people who actually gets off their asses and gets out there… And one important thing I realized; no one knows if it’s your first 2 minutes, or your last. They don’t know if you have done 10 meters or 5 kilometers. I had a confidence issue and I had to get over that, and running has really helped me do it (not to mention the 25 lbs I’ve lost doing it). It’s a great feeling. Not to mention the cute running clothes I can now justify buying! Don’t let how you think others see you stop you from getting out there.
In the end, whichever method you choose, just do it. Get out and run! And when your legs hurt and you want to quit, just keep remembering- your mind will give in long before your body will. Think about that carefully. Your mind will give in long before. The difference to stop or keep running is all in your head. Just keep going.
Your gym coach told you about the importance of stretching. So did the coach for any extra-curricular activity you undertook, like football or figure skating. And generally they were “tell but don’t do” type of coaches. Respect my badminton coach though I may, I never saw him do more than a half-hearted stretch – ever. Stretching before and after is vital, but also quite personal depending on what part of your body is tight. I will make the recommendation that everyone do a couple of stretches for their hamstrings, and some for their quads as well. Some resources for stretching can be found at the resources below.
- Runaddicts.net has a great article for stretches for new runners.
- The abc of fitness site has a decent overall stretching guide.
- Coolrunning has a good article on stretching for runners.
- Runner’s World has a whole section devoted to stretching, which aggregates all of their articles on the topic.
There are really two options here, and I don’t care which one you choose, but I’m a helpful proponent of one of them.
- You can take one of the beginning runner clinics at The Running Room (for those in North America, there is a store near you). This is a fantastic Canadian company that started life in Edmonton, Alberta. These courses now run $70.
- You can do the same program for free, on your own, without others around, using fantastic web-based resources like this blog. (A good friend of mine always said “More is good. Free is better.”)I would recommend the following two things:
- The Coolrunnings C25K program. Everything you need to get started. If you want to inspire a friend, you can even email them the program.
- The Podrunner First Day to 5K set of interval training music. These manage to map directly to the C25K program. Imagine that! They give audio cues of when to start you walk and when to start your run, and pace the walking and running music appropriately – so you don’t have to fumble with a timer or stopwatch, especially in the dark.
Motivation is so hard. The first few weeks you will blast out of the blocks, and you will start to see results. But, if they slow down, or if you buckle to some unseen pressure, you may lose your resolve. You may start to slow. You may need help staying motivated. Normally, this happens at about the 6 week point so be sure to watch for it. Here is what I can say about being motivated:
Remember your goal. Stay focused on why you started. Be open with the people in your life about your hopes and dreams and goals for your fitness. Let that goal drive and inspire you. If you’ve been focused on it, you won’t let it out of your grasp!
As you progress, and as you keep up your motivation, you are likely going to have a true epiphany. You are going to think I’m crazy on this point, but it’s true. This happened to me – week three, day two. It’s happened to everyone I know that has started as a runner. All of a sudden, half way through a run, I thought “well, I’m going to be doing this type of run the rest of my life”. Actually I’m doing a very different, longer, faster run now, but the point remained – I knew then that I would do this for life. I knew that this was in fact a lifestyle choice, and something that I could continue to do anytime, anywhere, so long as I was smart and careful about injury. I’ve been running now for 3 straight years, and have racked over 2500 kilometers in that time – counting from kilometer #1. But it was when I was only in the first couple of hundred kilometers that I knew I would keep running forever. Now my goal is 1000km this year.
Come back here and pop a note in the comments when you need an extra push for motivation. Please be sure to come back when it hits you that you will be running forever – it’s a great feeling and one that you will want to share. It only takes three or four weeks to happen, and will ensure you stay motivated.
Wow. Well done – you finished your intro course. You can probably run 5k now, or at least run for between 20 and 30 minutes with no break. That’s awesome. Totally amazing. You never thought you could do it and it only took you 9 weeks!
Do yourself a favour. Bask in it. Keep staring at the shiny check mark beside your completed goal! Be proud and be loud! Keep running that distance, that time, for a month. Don’t push. Your body has done a lot of adjusting and it will keep doing it. I the distance I ran in week 10 for the remaining 42 weeks of that year, changing the route up just a little, extending out to 35 or so minutes, and about 5.5k. Right now, that’s what you need.
Well, what will you do with yourself now? The glow has worn off? Next is this. You start training. You’re in training for the rest of your life. That’s what I’m training for – whatever is coming next. I’ll be ready, and now so will you. You have to keep running, you have to keep striving. Soon you can push further – maybe you want to run a 10k race! I never did, so I’ve only ever done a few runs to 10k. Good for you if that’s what you want! Me? I’m content running between 7 and 9km three times a week. It keeps me active, and puts me well ahead of most people as far as activity goes. Now, you may choose a different path and good for you – pick something and go for it! You know I’m behind you all the way!