How to Start Running
A Beginner's Guide
Welcome to IRUNONBEER's guide on How to Start Running! My hope is that this guide will give you quick and straightforward tips on how to start building a running routine as fast as possible. I RUN ON BEER was created to help grow the community of "Beer Runner's," and running is often the more challenging half of that. I hope this guide makes it a bit easier, so let me know what you think in the comments below!
Why Do You Want to Start Running
Setting a Goal
First and foremost, why are you running? I work in a field where we’re all about intentionality so I think it’s important to start every journey by asking yourself why. What’s your goal? It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking but by having a goal in mind, you’ll be able to continually remind yourself what you’re working for. Are you running to reach a certain distance? Achieve a certain pace? Are you running for health or weight loss? Maybe you’re running because you were so inspired by the I RUN ON BEER movement! Whatever your goal, take some time to write it down, quantify it. If you’re running for distance, how far? For weight loss, how much? Now when you start running, you can also measure progress which can help you stay motivated. When training gets tough, having an intentional goal will help you remind yourself why you started running in the first place!
Before You Start Running
Finding a Training Plan
So you’ve got a goal, but where do you start? Running is a relatively simplistic sport (simplistic in concept, not necessarily execution), but there are a few things to consider before you begin. Let’s start with planning. This part is easy because someone has already done most of the work for you. There are PLENTY of training plans available online, all you have to do is find one that fits your goal. A simple Google search will turn up plenty of results but I’ll list a few of my favorites.
Couch to 5k
One of the most popular plans, especially if you’re just starting out, is the Couch to 5k (C25k) app. C25k is exactly what it sounds like, the goal is to go from sitting on the couch to being able to run 3.1 miles. One of the nice aspects of the plan is that there's a lot of run/walking, in the beginning, to help ease you in. C25k isn’t just for absolute beginners though, you can also jump ahead in the program to match whatever your current level of fitness is.
The Run/Walk Method
Run/Walking is a popular way to get started because the truth is, running can be uncomfortable to get used to when you first start and can take its toll on your legs, the intermittent walking breaks will give you some time to catch your breath and give your legs a rest while also training your body to run farther and farther each time. The New York Times actually has a great article about run/walking and how you can use it in coordination with your preferred training plan. Similar to C25k, you gradually build overall distance while also shortening your walk breaks until you’re comfortably able to run your entire goal distance.
Hal Higdon Plans
The last resource and my personal favorite is Hal Higdon’s training website. This site is great because it has plans for every race distance you can think of, and then also breaks every distance down by skill level. I’ve only ever used the free plans available on the website but there are also companion apps you can download which offer additional support and motivation during training.
Apart from a training plan, you’re going to want to make stretching a part of your daily routine. Now I know there’s a lot of debate over the necessity of stretching, but in my personal experience, I’ve had far fewer issues with injury when I’ve incorporated stretching into my training. Shin splints and IT band syndrome are of particular concern for new runners so make sure you read up on preventive measures.
I use static stretches after a run, but as far as my daily routine, I prefer a more dynamic approach like morning yoga to get the blood flowing and to loosen up my legs. YouTube is full of countless videos for any skill level just a simple search for “running yoga” will turn up plenty of options. I personally have never even been able to touch my toes but can still manage to get through a 30-minute session with manageable discomfort. Here's an example of one of my favorites:
What Do You Need?
Choosing the Right Gear
I love this sport because you can start running without having to shell out much money for equipment. You don’t even technically need shoes but that’s a whole other discussion. My point is, it’s easy to get bogged down in buying all the popular gear, but I recommend starting with as little as possible. You can always buy more equipment later if you really get into the sport, but for now, just focus on the basics. Shoes are the one thing I would recommend you spend your money on because your feet and legs will be taking a beating they’re not used to and the proper footwear can really help alleviate some of that stress.
Get Fitted for Shoes
If you have a specialty running shop nearby, take the time to go and have your stride examined. Consulting a professional allows them to help point you towards shoes specifically focused on matching your natural stride. Another option is to look online at some of the most popular shoe brands. Brooks, for example, has an online “Shoe Finder” that will take you through a series of exercises to help you select one of their products.
A Note About Newtons
I was lucky enough to find a run club in Boston one summer where shoe companies sponsored the weekly run and gave you the opportunity to test shoes. I started running with Newton running shoes because I got to test them on a few runs they felt great on my feet.I know plenty of people who have struggled with Newtons because of their unique design. There is no one “best” shoe, you need to find one that’s right for you. That’s why I always recommend going to a running store because they’ll usually let you test the shoes to see how they feel. I will say, if you want to give Newton a try, they have a 30 day return policy so if you try them out and don’t like the feel, you can always send them back, no questions asked (I’m in no way affiliated with Newton Running, I just really like their shoes). There are so many options for shoes out there so take the time to find the right fit for you.
As far as other clothes, you should probably invest in some basic athletic gear to avoid the dreaded chafing, but don’t go crazy buying everything. Any kind of moisture-wicking gear should suffice, a couple shirts and pairs of shorts are all you really need. For women, finding the right sports bra is also going to be a must. I don’t have any experience in that realm but Runner’s World has published a pretty comprehensive guide that I hope can help.
I’m also a sucker for gadgets but they’re by no means necessary when you first start running, I just thought I’d mention what I run with. I like to track my runs for a few reasons. I’ve never been able to keep a written run log but digitally tracking my runs is an easy way for me to track my shoe mileage and progress towards my current goal. There are plenty of apps available on phones to do this but I decided to get myself a GPS watch. I run with the Garmin VivoActive because it was cheaper than most other GPS watches on the market and I liked the way it looked. It syncs to my phone via BlueTooth which seamlessly transfers every run to its companion app so you can obsess over the data like me! They don't sell that model any more but Garmin has a lot of options for run gadgets on their website.
I also invested in a pair of Bluetooth headphones out of pure convenience. If you haven’t heard of AfterShokz, check them out because they’re GREAT quality headphones and especially great for runners. AfterShokz are bone-conducting headphones so they rest outside of your ear and don’t block out the sounds around you. What this means is that you’re more aware of your surroundings while you’re running. I was nervous at first about the sound quality but everything comes through crystal clear whether I’m listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. If you’re interested in my full review you can check it out here.
Ready to Run
Plan Your Route
Alright, you’ve got a goal, you’ve got a plan, and you’ve got your gear, now it’s time to run. The last piece of prep work you need before you start running is to plan out your route. If you’re going to run from home, the easiest thing to do to start is to just run half of your goal distance, turn around, and run back. You can either measure the distance with your car on your way home from work one day or just open up Google Maps. If you do use Google Maps to find a route, just make sure you check out the route ahead of time. This is something I’m not very good at and, on more than one occasion, have found myself in some sketchy spots and on some pretty tough terrain. Do yourself a favor and drive the route ahead of time just to make sure it’s a solid spot.
If you’re going to listen to music on your run, you can also take this time to make a sweet playlist to keep you motivated. Then, the last thing to do is set a start date. Don’t just pick a day to start either, look at your calendar and schedule the specific time of your run so you know you’ll be free. That will make it even harder to talk yourself out of.
Remove Any Barriers
If you’re worried about follow through, make it as easy as possible so you can’t find an excuse when the time comes to get out the door. Set your clothes out ahead of time, or, you can even get dressed ahead of time. When I’m running after work, the first thing I do when I get home is I change into my running clothes, same in the morning, as soon as I’m up I get dressed to run. Even if I’m not going on my run right away, I know I’m far less likely to bail on a run once I’m already dressed to go.
On the Run
Am I Doing it Right?
You’re doing it, you're running, but how do you know if you’re doing it right? When you start running, run in a way that feels comfortable. Your form is important but you don’t want to be too uncomfortable. The few tips I’d mention to help you start on the right foot (pun intended) are these. Remember to stand tall, don’t slouch. Core strength plays an important role here. Run as if you’re running on eggshells, meaning you should land lightly on your feet, this will also help alleviate some of the stress on your legs. Ideally, you should aim for 180 steps per minute or 3 steps per second. Short quick steps have less of an impact on your muscles and joints. Check out some of these drills to help you nail the perfect form.
Run Based on Effort, Not Time
My last piece of advice, stay relaxed. Don’t get in your head, just do what feels comfortable. Don’t worry about your pace, just run based on effort. Especially as you first start out, run at a conversational pace by which I mean run at a pace that you would feel comfortable holding a conversation. That should be a simple way to make sure you’re not pushing too hard in the beginning.
After the Run
Cool Down and Stretch
After the run, you’ve definitely earned your rest but there are a few things to keep in mind before you kick back on the couch and turn on the TV. First, cool down. If you go from running to not moving without any kind of cool-down, there’s a better chance that your muscles are going to tighten up. Help ease the soreness before it sets in by taking the time to properly cool down. Go for a brisk walk and work in some stretches to stay loose. As I mentioned, this is where I like to do my static stretches, holding each for 20-30 seconds. I cycle through quads, hip flexors, groin, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
While you’re stretching, don’t forget to re-hydrate and refuel. Trust me, I’m all about the post-run brew but I always force myself to drink at least a full glass or two of water before I reach for the beer, it will also help prevent a hangover if you end up celebrating your accomplishment with a few too many. As far as refueling, a general rule of thumb is that you'll burn100 calories per mile you run. That’s approximately 1 light beer so remember not to overindulge, especially if you’re goal is health or weight related. You can learn more about the proper beer to run ratio HERE!
Share Your Achievement
Now that you’re done, share your run with us on Instagram or Twitter @IRUNONBEER and/or #IRUNONBEER. If you’re using a fitness app like Strava, you can even share your run and post-run brew in one awesome picture like the example below! It's probably one of my favorite Strava features.
Stick With It
Don't Give Up
Alright, now the hard part, keeping up with your plan. Once you start running, as with any physical activity, it will get easier I promise. Just remember to stay consistent, and stay relaxed, and continue to track your progress towards your goal. It’s easy to try to do too much too fast with running so remember to continue to ease into it. The general rule of thumb is to never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week. Not only that, but listen to your body, and trust what it’s telling you. Some discomfort is expected, so don’t pump the brakes at the first sign of soreness, but it’s important to know the difference between something that you can run through, or pain that requires time off to heal. A good indicator is if you experience any kind of pain that alters your form, that usually means you need some time off to let yourself heal. Like I said if you listen to your body and you’ll learn quickly what it needs.
If you’re looking for something to keep you extra motivated, register for a race. Once you’ve got something more tangible to train for it’s much easier to hold yourself accountable. Even better, find a buddy to run with! Especially if you continue to run at a conversational pace, having someone to run with can make those longer runs fly by. Not only that, but you’re much less likely to bail on a run if you have someone waiting for you.
I know that’s a lot of information but try to keep it simple, don’t overthink it. Just keep a few essentials in mind and you’re good to go!
Before You Run
Set a goal that is specific, measurable, and realistic
Find a training plan that compliments your fitness level
Get some gear (but don't overdo it!)
Plan out your running routes ahead of time
During Your Run
Stand tall and stay relaxed
Keep light on your feet like you're running on eggshells
Aim to hit 180 steps per minute or 3 steps per second
Remember to breathe!
After Your Run
Take the time to cool down
Stretch yourself out
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (with water first, then beer)
Share your accomplishment with @IRUNONBEER or #IRUNONBEER on Instagram and Twitter
If you decide to start running, let us know how it goes! Most importantly, don't give up! Running is definitely a challenge, especially in the beginning, but if you stick with it, I promise it's worth it. I've stopped and started back up plenty of times but each time gets a little easier. Keep this page bookmarked, that way if you ever feel discouraged you can come right back. Or, even better, connect with us on social media to share your progress!
Did we miss anything? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below!