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How to Become a Runner: A Simple Method for Beginners

Beginning Runner

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I used to be a runner back in high school and college and then I got busy with career, living life, and starting a family. In recent years I was dedicated to brisk walking most days of the week, and sometimes I would even jog a little. But I was never able to get back into running.

Until recently. I made one simple change and it has made the difference between being a walker and, now, being a runner. (Well, jogger, at least!:)

So what did I do differently? I went from exercising for time to exercising for distance. In a nutshell, what I did was just start. (Right after I had my annual physical. ) I jogged as far as I could go on the first day, and then each day after that I went just a little bit further. After about a month, I’m now jogging 3 miles a day, 5-6 days per week. I feel great and I can already see my body changing for the better. I’ve also made some other changes that have made my health skyrocket if you’re interested.

How YOU Can Become a Runner

Mentally

1. Decide that you want to try jogging. Don’t over think it. You can always go back to walking tomorrow if you don’t like it.

2. Focus on the reasons why you want to become a runner or jogger. Some good reasons: improve your cholesterol, improve your body shape, lose weight, feel better, gain more energy for daily life, etc. Whatever your motivations are, write them down and post them where you will see them every day. This will be very helpful on the days that you don’t feel like running.

3. Fail-Proof it. Create a time in your schedule when you’ll be sure to have the ability to do this. For me it means mornings. If I wait until later in the day, then my energy is lower not to mention all the other activities competing for my attention.

Physically

1. Get the OK from your doctor. Have an annual checkup where they check your heart. Don’t skip this part. You don’t want to have a heart attack when you’re trying to become healthy. Find out what is an OK level of exercise for you. And while you’re at it, get your cholesterol tested so that in 4-6 months you can go back and see the wonderful improvements you will have made!

2. Just do it. Don’t wait to feel energy or to feel like you’re in the mood. Just put on your sneakers, bring your mp3 player (or not), and go!

3. Start slow. Try very slow. In track we used to call it the “Buffalo Shuffle.” Run at whatever pace that allows you to go the farthest distance possible. On day one, maybe this will only be a quarter or half mile. That’s totally OK. You will be so much more likely to stick with it if you start small and build a little bit each day.

4. Distance. Go as far as you can comfortably go and then turn around. Don’t pay too much attention to your watch. If you need to walk a little and then start jogging again, do that, but if you can keep going slowly, that’s what you should strive for.

5. Increase distance each day. Each day, pick a new landmark that is past where you went the day before. Use that as your turnaround point. And then the next day, go yet a little further.

Restoration & Support

1. Stretch after exercise. Take 10 – 15 minutes after jogging to stretch. Stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, hips, and upper body too. Check out this resource for some good yoga/stretching videos that I recommend which can instruct you on how to stretch.

2. Rest your body. Take at least one day off per week. Eat a super healthy diet that gives you the most energy while helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Get enough sleep each night so that your body can make the repairs and build the tissues that will make you stronger tomorrow. Find out more in Why Exercise is Good For You.

3. Buddy up for support. Find someone to run with or join a running group.

4. Advice for the tough days. There will be days where you really don’t want to run. Unless you’ve got an illness or an injury, do this: make a deal with yourself that you will run for at least 5 minutes. That’s about how long it takes for the endorphins to kick in. Once they do, it will be much easier to continue. And of course when you’re done with your run, you will feel so glad you did it!

5. Remember: You Can Do It! Repeat simple positive affirmations in your head even when they feel like they are not true. Over time they will become true. Some examples:

  • I can do this!
  • Everyday I get better at this!
  • Running becomes easier for me each day.
  • This is so healthy.
  • My body is becoming stronger with each step.

Resources

Please Share!

How has running changed your life? If you’re a beginner, what is your motivation? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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132 Responses to How to Become a Runner: A Simple Method for Beginners

  1. Boxing Equipment Guide December 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    @Thin I had similar problem and I’m just a bit younger than you (38). I found out that I try to catch up with all those years without physical activity but should do it gradually. Instead I was behaving like I’m 18 again thinking all these years without training did not affect me. Once I start slowing down I discovered I have much more fun and all problems disappeared.

  2. amanda January 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Just wondering Is pavement better or a tredmill? Why can I go father on a tredmill than a track? Is a tredmill easier?

    • AgentSully September 26, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      @Amanda – you got it. Treadmill is easier. The machine is doing some of the work for you. That’s why. As long as your shoes fit you properly, pavement is fine. If you have any joint or injuries, make sure your sneakers are properly supporting you, make sure you’re not running on a sloped road; try to find flat surface for running. Or you can always mix it up a little: run some on pavement, some on the track, some on trails. (Sorry for the late reply!) Hope your running is going well!

  3. stability running shoes February 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Hey there,

    Great tips for beginners on how to get started with runnning!

    Getting started can be a pain, but it is those few couple of steps that are so critical. The hardest part about getting into the
    mental attitude of running is actually taking those first couple of steps forward and doing it. The rest of the rewards follow.

  4. Rex February 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    Love your advice to start slow with the “Buffalo Shuffle”

  5. replica orologi March 13, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  6. E.T March 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Great tips! I have just recently started running because i have soccer tryouts coming up. I thouroughly enjoy running and it is the thing that keeps me going during my day at school! However i am not very experienced and i have a question: Is it better to run at a fast pace for a short distance and then walk , or is it better to run at a slower comfortable pace for a long distance without walking? Hope to hear back from somebody! Thanks so much (:

    • AgentSully March 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

      @ET – definitely run slower for longer at first. Once you can run comfortably for 20-30 minutes then you can start working on doing speed work. Wishing you lots of success!

  7. ET March 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you so much, thats really helpful! I’ll know my soccer tryout results tomorrow so im crossing my fingers! (: But running definetly helped me prepare!

    • AgentSully August 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      @ET – That’s awesome! I hope that it all went well!!

  8. Styxx April 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    I’m 16 and I joined track this year. I used to be really active when I was in jr high school but I moved and stopped doing sports. My sister who is in the military is a very avid runner and encouraged me to start looking online for ways to become a better runner. I’m overweight and I have found your advice very helpful and motivational. I’m very self conscious of the fact that I am overweight and running on the track team but I have noticed a very substantial increase in my ability to keep up with the rest of the team. I no longer am gasping for breath nor am I the last person to finish running and each day I notice I can go farther,longer. Thank you 🙂

    • AgentSully April 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      @Styxx – that is so awesome!!! And your story will inspire the next person! You should be so proud of yourself. It can be done. I was once that girl in last place back when I was in high school. And today, I’m a runner all over again. And I love it. It makes me feel so good!

  9. Bodybuilding Runner June 13, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I am a bodybuilder and just started running with my wife. I can keep up with her even though I only run once per week and she is running 5 days per week. Is there any advice I can give her on running and she gets upset sometimes that I can keep up even though I don’t run that often. Thanks!

    • AgentSully June 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      @bodybuilding – my advice to your wife is to not worry about her performance relative to yours, but to work on her progress relative to her own performance. With regard to her performance, if she wants to increase her speed, she would likely benefit from doing some speed workouts 1-2 times per week as week as some strength training. Hope that helps.

  10. Person July 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks for this blog. I am training for running cross country in high school and this post kept me motivated to stick with it. I realized that I’ve been too caught up in timing myself to really focus on distance. I also have only been running 2 times a week and now I’m going to try to increase that to 5 times.

    • AgentSully August 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

      Person – hope this is going well for you! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Ray August 3, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Thank you for the motivation! I’ll lace my running shoes on first thing in the morning– I finally feel like I can do this! 🙂

    • AgentSully August 3, 2011 at 6:34 am #

      Hey Ray! That’s awesome! Go for it! Report back and let us know how it goes! Take it slow and steady! Be patient with yourself always and you will get there!!!

  12. Jeff August 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I started getting into running with my wife early this year and started loving it! Buy then I just found out I have a hernia, so the dr is recommending me no running for 8 weeks after surgery…there goes all my results!

    • AgentSully August 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

      @Jeff – it’s always tough to get a setback like that, but all will not be lost. You’ll be surprised to see how much you will keep even over 8 weeks. Wishing you all the best!

  13. Lane September 13, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    I’ve just been walking/jogging for about 4 weeks now. Nearly every day. I always take Sunday off and sometimes take another day off during the week. As much as I wanted to take off and run, I simply took it slowly. On my way to work one morning I measured out a 3.5 mile distance using my car – this is the route I currently take. I also marked a few shorter distances on days I feel less energetic or have a little discomfort from the previous day.
    Some days (like this morning) I only jog about half of it. My hips were bugging me a bit so I just told myself “it’s okay” and kept my stride strong walking all the way home. The hips and knees protested quite a lot in the beginning of this whole process but have become more and more accustomed. No big problem. I did some reading online and found that it is quite common for new joggers/walkers to have hip and knee discomfort as well as shin splints – apparently, the muscles respond fairly quickly to the new exercise but the connective tissues, tendons and ligaments take more time to loosen up. Just keep stretching!
    Somebody mentioned being self-conscious about getting out there and doing it – I was too. Still am to some degree I suppose. My solution was to get out early (I’m usually on the pavement by 5:30 am – sometimes a little earlier) while it’s still dark, it’s quiet, and almost nobody is out – except for the occasional runner and car going by. After a few weeks of getting used to it, you won’t care much anymore and soon you won’t care at all.
    I like the idea of pledging to at least get out and go for 5 minutes – that’s a great idea to get you moving. Somebody else here stated it best – the hardest part of the morning run is putting your shoes on. That’s no lie. I still have to talk myself out of bed most mornings, but once I’m out there breathing the cool morning air listening to the bugs and frogs, knowing I’m up early and getting this day started right – it’s all good.
    Just get out there and do what you can do, but it has to become a lifestyle change at some point and not ONLY about weight loss.
    I haven’t had the guts to sign up for my first 5K yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Maybe next year! Get out there and walk at first – you’ll start to like it, get energetic and before you know it you’ll WANT to jog/run.

    Good luck!!

    • AgentSully September 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      @Lane
      Wow! Good for you!! Thank you so much for sharing your story of success! How inspiring! Keep with it! It’s been about 3-4 years now for me and it has only gotten better and better. I had speed bumps along the way with sickness and injuries, but I just keep coming back to it.
      Thanks again!

  14. Marandie September 16, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Wow, you know u wrote a winning article/blog when 3 years later it is still being discussed and helPing people! I have always thought I could not be a runner/jogger, but always have this feeling inside like I just want yo be able to take off and run… When I indulge it lasts all of 30 seconds. Your article gas given me hope. Any advice for someone with plantar fasciitis?
    Thanks!

    • AgentSully September 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      @Marandie – You can do it! Get the right shoes – see a specialist if necessary. Always remember to stretch after running, gently. And when you have a flare-up, make sure to let it heal before going back to running. Use ice to get the swelling down.

  15. Steve October 7, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    I used to absolutely despise running. I have no idea what happened but about 5-6 years ago, I started to enjoy it. Love would be too strong of a word but now I view it as a challenge. I do love the air when I am all alone running down a road, I love seeing my breath when it’s cold out and I’m running in it. When I get tired I think 1) how may people would kill to be out here, free to run and 2) of pushing myself, asking myself “you can’t take one more step?” then before I know it I’m half a mile down the road.

    Steve

  16. Mark C Johnson October 13, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    This is a great article and so true! I’ve never been a long distance runner but in the past 6 months I’ve gone from sitting on the couch to being able to run for 2 hours straight. The hardest part is simply motivating myself to run, but once I do pure bliss. The first and most necessary step is putting on your shoes and walking out the door.

    Once again it was a great read!

    Best,

    Mark C Johnson

  17. mr.Lou October 13, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    I like that you are encouraging people to get active, but my experience with your suggested training method of distance-focus over time-focus is that this will lead to faster plateauing, burnout and potential injury. Running continuously for a selected time, like 30 minutes, in the beginning will increase stamina and body efficiency quicker than running long and slow. To reap the benefits, one needs to push the VO2 level and improve their pacing and form. It is also important that new runners not push themselves to run more than every other day in the beginning because this allows for the muscles to heal and rebuild. I realize our opinions may differ on this matter, and I merely wanted to express another point of view for new runners, but I sincerely wish you continued success in motivating people to get out and get active. Sincerely, mr.Lou of intentionally-human.com

    • AgentSully November 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

      thanks Mr Lou. That sounds like a good approach too. I think if a strategy to become a runner works – as in no injuries and you keep making progress- then it is good. There’s many ways to skin that cat. Thanks for sharing yours!

  18. Lee Ann October 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I was looking for help on how to start running. I was a runner over ten years ago, then a smoker for 10 years. I quit a year ago, and have tried every kind of excersize there is to be healthy and lose weight, but the truth is I know my body and it will never be at it’s best until I get back into running. Cardio has always been a ‘chore’ for me and I don’t like it at all. But I need it, I was looking for help and found your blog. You make it sound so achievable, I love it! I’m motivated (mostly) and am going to take your advice. Thank you!

    Lee Ann

    • AgentSully November 22, 2011 at 7:05 am #

      Thanks Lee Ann!
      Please let me know how your progress goes!!!! Wishing you success! You can do it!!
      Slow and steady wins the race!! The race of life and health that is!

  19. Lane November 22, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Hey LeeAnn,
    I was never a “runner”, I was a smoker too and quit a few years ago. Get yourself some awesome music and a cheap little used iPod shuffle (I recommend the 2nd generation version) off eBay and just get out there and start walking!
    That’s pretty much how I started. I got up nearly every morning (pretty early) and started walking with my music. After a few days I was adding more time and my walks became more energetic and stronger. And then at some point I felt so good about it I just started to run a little – then walk a little – then run a little more.
    I’m now up 4 days a week and go for 3.5 – 4 miles and after a walking warm-up I run about 75% of it, varying my speed and intensity as I go.
    I did notice that when I first started to run I felt kind of heavy, clunky, and a bit awkward. After having done it for a while that has changed. Now, when I start I feel a lot lighter on my feet and a bit more agile/balanced. Be patient with yourself on your intensity but just get out there an go! Please don’t wait to get started! You’ll only regret it when another year goes by and you haven’t begun. Believe me on this! 🙂
    I used to be one of those people who thought that all the conditions had to be perfect for me to start something (and continue it) but I’ve worked to change that. I always had to have the “right gear” or the perfect conditions but I’m learning that the perfect conditions are created from within and not from without. Although I will add that a pair of good shoes is essential. You’ve got to protect your feet. They work hard!!
    The entry by MrLou about avoiding entries is great too – becoming injured will halt your progress for a while, so don’t push TOO hard. At least not until you build some strength and endurance. And just know you can do this.

    Now, get out there!

    • AgentSully November 24, 2011 at 7:56 am #

      Thanks for the helpful comment! Really appreciate you sharing your story!

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  1. Tips for Beginners to Get Started Running | START RUNNING FOR BEGINNERS - December 16, 2010

    […] How to Become a Runner: A Simple Method for Beginners – Beginning Runner photo by ceiling. I used to be a runner back in high school and college and then I got busy with career, living life, and starting a family. In recent years I was dedicated to brisk walking most days of the week, … […]

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  1. […] How to Become a Runner: A Simple Method for Beginners – Beginning Runner photo by ceiling. I used to be a runner back in high school and college and then I got busy with career, living life, and starting a family. In recent years I was dedicated to brisk walking most days of the week, … […]

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