You’ve committed to changing your life, for the better, by running. Congratulations! There’s just one small problem.
How do you get started?
One strategy (not recommended) is going from zero running experience to going 4 or 5 miles as quickly as possible, with no plan in place, with the hope you will become a fit and healthy runner overnight.
Ease yourself into running gradually, following a plan
When starting anything new in life, it’s important to ease in gradually at a comfortable pace so you’re not overwhelmed and are likely to persist.
Don’t throw yourself in and crash
When you first learn to drive, you don’t just jump into the car without any knowledge of how the car works or experience with how to control it. That car’s going to crash.
Like beginner drivers, newbie runners should comfortably build up their confidence by following a planned routine well within their means to perform.
Whilst I’m a great believer of throwing yourself in the deep end to learn a new skill, such eagerness and ambition can sometimes risk more harm than good.
Runners – I included -are sometimes guilty of being overly confident in their ability, running too far, too quick. Often, the price to pay is injury, which knocks confidence and halts training for weeks, if not months. Not an ideal situation.
A planned, well-executed first week, within your means, is essential for building confidence, discipline and enjoyment for running.
Week 1: Running and walking to success
Here is a beginner’s plan for week 1 to get you started. Use these suggestions for inspiration and change them as appropriate for you.
The plan mixes running and walking to keep you comfortably active.
Yes, walking. Walking and running go hand in hand; they both make up an active lifestyle. On your days off, walking keeps your body ticking over and moving to make you fitter and healthier.
A running diary to monitor progress against your goals. For more information on the importance of a diary, read the blog post here…
Download the popular, social running app Strava to track and record your progress, and plan routes.
Running watch to track and monitor progress (optional).
Water/ Sports drink
Before the run
Stretch before and after every run to reduce your risk of injury, get the blood flowing and promote oxygen supply to the muscles.
Day 1- a 1.5-mile run
Begin with a slow walk over 100 M that gradually picks up the pace until you break out into a gentle jog. You should feel a slight burn, but not gasping for air unable to breathe.
Monitor and adjust your pace as needed. A good beginners pace is anywhere between 9 to 10 minutes per mile (you can track pace during your run using Strava).
Day 2- a 20-minute walk
Plan a 20-minute walk somewhere. A few laps around the block, to the shops, around a local park.
A pleasant walking pace is anywhere around 3mph, though feel free to exceed this if you’re able.
Day 3- a 1.5-mile run
Repeat the route of the first run, again starting with a 100 M walk into a run. You’ll now be familiar with the route not worrying where you’re going, so try increasing your pace slightly.
Day 4 – a 20-minute walk
Go for another walk. Try increasing your pace a little from the previous walk.
Day 5- 2 miles, fartlek intervals
Now you’re 2 runs in, it’s time to up the distance and add fartlek intervals. Your body will be more conditioned, so we can begin upping the ante.
A fartlek running exercise means adding short bursts of fast running in between periods of slower, relaxed running. About 0.5 miles in, repeat the following exercise 3 times. Run noticeably faster for 20 uninterrupted seconds, then return to a casual pace for 60 seconds to catch your breath.
Though tempting, try not to stop as you will break your rhythm and find it difficult to start again. if you’re feeling too out of breath, drop the 20-second intense runs to 10 seconds.
Fartlek exercises are great; they mix things up, increase your speed and endurance.
Day 6- a 25-minute walk
You might be a bit sore from the fartlek exercises, so take your time.
Day 7- 30-minute walk and reflection
Increase your walking distance to build endurance and use the time to reflect on your first week. What went well, what could be improved upon, what have you learnt? Use your memory and Strava data to think about how you’re doing and what could be improved moving forward.
The first week can be difficult because it will require discipline and willpower to change your usual routine.